Sunflowervillager's Blog

Growing into community

Treasured iterations February 10, 2017

Filed under: geography,Southern Vermont — Saera @ 9:59 pm

I had a lovely snow day yesterday, and after a gorgeous wander in the white-crested woods of Southern Vermont, I came back ready to do some work. Sometimes I forget just how long Sunflower Village has been my dream, how much it’s infused my life. I finally unboxed my notebooks from the last 12 years today. In flipping through them, even briefly, I found thoughts and ideas about it infused throughout everything else. Working with Joy to make sure she has access to work I’ve done so far, I’m rediscovering things that I created along the way that I had forgotten about. Not all of the things I made will show up in this iteration of Sunflower Village, but all of them helped get me to this point. It’s kind of amazing to me to see how much I have grown and how much my ideas and understanding have evolved. It’s also amusing… one of the original ideas for a name, back in 2006 was “The Vibrant Order of Passionate Action”. Was I a young idealistic hippie with a love of fantasy or what? Oh wait….

winter-in-dummerston

 

 

New Perspectives January 24, 2017

Filed under: geography,nonprofit development,organization — Saera @ 11:03 pm

I haven’t posted for far too long. Shortly after my last post, a lot changed in my life. Throughout the autumn of 2015, there were long conversations and rounds of trying to figure out things before I parted ways with a former long-term partner that December. I found an awesome new job as a development coordinator at a local nonprofit in November 2015, which has given me a host of new skills and opportunities. It also has resulted in a much deeper understanding of how non-profits work. As I have grown personally and professionally and held dialogues with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances over the last year and a half, the core ideals of Sunflower Village have remained steady, while my understanding about how to manifest this dream into reality have been refined, clarified, and re-imagined.

One of the critical developments has been my learning about the roles of boards of directors in non-profits. During the discussion groups of 2015, I imagined that the board could simply be comprised of all of the villagers. There are three reasons I have moved away from this:

  • 1)The role of the board is more extensive and ongoing than I previously understood.
  • 2) I realized that some residents may not have the capacity or enthusiasm that is critical for an engaged, working board
  • 3) Sunflower VIllage needs the perspectives and expertise of non-residents who are passionate about the mission

As I have come to better understand how boards work, I have somewhat redesigned the organizational structure that the group created in 2015. I also further worked out detail on sharing labor and money.

Another shift is the decision to base Sunflower Village in southern Vermont. This region is conducive to the creation/development of this kind of intentional community for multiple reasons: the relative affordability of land in the quantities desirable, the cultural values of the region, the agricultural climate, the abundance of natural resources (such as land, fresh water, firewood), and legal policies and practices conducive to a community of tiny houses.

Vermont is a predominantly rural, low-population state, which still has a tradition of small-scale agriculture and gardening. Many of the towns are small, and like so many rural areas, are experiencing challenges of a shrinking and aging population as young people seek education and opportunities that rural areas presently struggle to offer. While being somewhat removed from large urban centers such as Boston & NYC, can access both of these centers via the I-91 highway, meaning it is only about 2 ½ -3 hours to Boston and 3 ½ -4 hours to NYC.

A third major development has been the addition of Joy Auciello to the Triad. I met Joy as a fellow student at Marlboro College. Many people have contributed to Sunflower Village over the last 10 years. Joy is one of the few to take her own initiative in furthering its manifestation, as she is presently doing through her research and projects in as she completes her MBA in Managing for Sustainability at Marlboro College’s later this spring. I am very excited to have her working with me. Joy does a lot to deepen and expand my thinking, and we are getting practical things done to get things going.

I am starting to reconnect to people to share the present vision for Sunflower Village, understand what concerns and interests people, and how people want to become involved, whether as Board Members, founding resident Villagers, or Supporters (who don’t presently wish to live at Sunflower Village, but are otherwise interested. Feel free to share here what you think at this point!

Thanks for reading!

 

Answers February 25, 2010

Filed under: anthropology,geography,Ikeda,redetermination,risk — Saera @ 1:14 am

Wow, this makes me feel like I’m getting in rhythm, especially given yesterdays’ events.

“Let’s continue to meet,
converse and establish
heart-to-heart bonds with
as many people as possible.
Our efforts to expand dialogue
is a struggle to spread trust and
friendship in society.”
– Daisaku Ikeda.

Similarly, I opened up the March-April Living Buddhism this morning and Sensei’s writing heard my soul’s cry!

 

Broadening Horizons and Education Considerations January 11, 2010

Filed under: anthropology,geography,school,social investment,wage — Saera @ 2:08 am

Hello all, I apologize for my long absence from posting. The end of the semester was pretty busy for me, and then I was gone for a few weeks to visit my family. One of the things that I got to do before I left was to meet with some people who I have been discussing the possibility of some kind of land trust with. We still haven’t come to any conclusions about what form that might take, but we’re getting closer and coming to know each other better as we go along.

I have been considering the village from a broader perspective lately. Part of this is due to the Economic Geography class I had last semester. Another influence is my desire to study abroad, probably India, but perhaps Brazil. What I’m finding in my search for the right study abroad program is that my interests lie mostly in Sustainable Development and studies which connect Sustainability to surrounding cultures. Also, I have been considering my personal situation. I find that myself and many friends I know are uncomfortable with the options for developing what are often considered reliable or strong finances. This is because some of those options are based on the exploitation of other peoples and conformity to societal norms which discourage so much inspiration, self-fulfillment, and compassion. However, what happens is that a lot of these people, including me, find themselves at low level, low paying jobs, in little position to take the kind of action capable of shifting where things are going on the broad societal level. At first when I decided to focus on Anthropology and Geography and to continue to grad school, my primary consideration was to establish the knowledge and credentials to support the development of the village. But now my thoughts also include how to support myself, possibly earning more than I need to live to create savings towards the village. It now includes a stronger desire to be a vibrant force to contribute to the international intentional communities movement, and to the broader issues of Sustainable Development and the kind of work that Anthropology is capable of supporting.

Towards this, my goals for the next couple of years are looking something like this: Study Abroad in India (or perhaps Brazil), Graduate from Umass, and be accepted to SIT (School for International Training) for their one year’s Graduate program in Sustainable Development. I might also consider Goddard, which I think has a program in Sustainable Communities. After that, I’m not sure whether I’ll pursue more education or concentrate on finding a long term work position. I know that one of the things that has also occurred to me is getting my teaching certificate, and I am considering becoming a professor.

 

“Visions of Utopia” documentaries on intentional communities around US December 3, 2009

Filed under: economy,existing communities,geography — Saera @ 10:27 pm

Watching  the “Visions of Utopia” DVDs is an educational and inspiring experience for anyone interested in intentional community and sustainable social movements. One of the things that I found most eye opening was the incredible diversity of intentional community styles. While I knew from reading and study that intentional communities could be very diverse, it was quite a different experience to hear about the development of the communities, to witness some of the physical culture of the communities, and to hear the perspectives and experiences of a variety of community members. A special treat for me was the inclusion of Twin Oaks. I first encountered Twin Oaks while researching sustainable living and intentional communities at the Boston Public Library. I discovered Twin Oaks, a Walden Two Experiment, which is an accounting of the first five years of the Twin Oaks community. I was very inspired by the history and practices I found. Later, I was delighted to discover that the community still exists, now with a membership of 85 adults and 15 children. I have occasionally visited the Twin Oaks website. To see the place and some of its inhabitants in the “Visions of Utopia” documentary was very exciting. In watching the videos, I came to better appreciate the cohousing model. Still, I am most excited about the intentional communities which have a sustainability focus, particularly those which incorporate gardening and other sustainable, self-sufficiency supporting practices. I thought it was interesting that in some communities, founding members were initially primarily interested in the practicality of sharing material resources, but found that one of the most important resources were social, revolving around the deep emotional bonds that formed from sharing high proportions of activities and people’s lives. The multi-generational aspect of all the intentional communities portrayed is an important indicator that this kind of approach to living is something that does not just function for people in any one age group. I am glad that the documentary allowed space for children and young people to talk about their experiences growing up or living in these intentional communities. It demonstrated their appreciation for this lifestyle. All the children appeared healthy and happy, and those who were interviewed had glowing, healthy countenances, and spoke clearly and intelligently. They seemed to share an appreciation for access to many different adults and for the diversity that surrounded them. Parents valued the sense that children were safe in the community, even if they did not watch them every moment. Many people also commented on the value of sharing responsibility for raising children. Some communities do have a low proportions of youth, but they are generally aware of this and taking steps to enable the intentional community to pass to following generations.

 

Taking Action October 13, 2009

As I mentioned before, Julie Graham started a Wiki for my Economic Geography class. I’ve just made a contribution to the section I’ll be studying for the rest of the semester. You can see it here: Diverse Economy activities of Intentional Communities in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York.
Doing the research for that felt really productive. I love how absolutely relevant this class is. But it does make me wonder a bit about why I have such a hard time doing this kind of research and writing on my own. I do love it. I think maybe it has something to do with dreaming hard and feeling like there are possibilities but they’re so far away all the time. But not learning about them doesn’t bring them any closer. So I’m glad that this class is getting me moving.

I fantasize about living in space I have control over all the time. It’s something I’ll have to drop off and on as school keeps me on it’s schedule, but I’m going to start looking at architecture again. I am going to just listen to Goethe more: Whatever you can dream, begin it; for there is magic and power in it. It’s alright to have halting starts and half-finished things… they are all part of the building of dreams, of taking action. And action lets me get somewhere, let’s me see and others see that these are no mere pipe dreams or infantile wishes. A better world is possible. Some people are already making it better, and I am learning to be one of them.

 

Diverse Economy October 10, 2009

Filed under: economy,geography,school — Saera @ 4:10 am

I’ve been wanting to sit down and write a thorough blog post this week, but I’ve been a bit distracted with my personal struggles. Now I’m back on track and school and heroes like Jenny are feeding me all sorts of sources for things to write about. Most useful, unsurprisingly, is my Economic Geography class. Julie has collected all kinds of great resources for us to better understand the diverse economy. Additionally, she and Leo (our TA) have created a wiki for our class, so we’re basically creating a wiki on diverse economy for us all to work on and share with the world. You can see it here: http://geo360.pbworks.com/

Due to the video she had us watch by Hans Rosling, I’m now super-excited about TED.org

Whoops, worktime.