Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sorry For The Inconvenience

For several months now I've had a picture from the front page of one of our local newspapers posted on my fridge for inspiration.

It's of an Idle No More demonstration held in downtown Nanaimo on a cold day in January this year, attended by hundreds of people.

What inspires me about it is the look on the faces of the people - proud, defiant, resolute, and happy.

Central to the photo is a young woman with her son, holding a sign that says, "Sorry for The Inconvenience - We Are Trying To Change The World".

And to me, that says it all. It speaks to my values, and to those in our cohousing community of Pacific Gardens.

It is inconvenient living in cohousing sometimes, but that inconvenience changes you, and in doing so, changes the community, both here and in the larger world.

I've written here before about the rock-polisher effect of living in cohousing - how rubbing up against other people and their views wears down your sharp edges.

That can be uncomfortable, especially when it forces you to learn things about yourself that you didn't know before. But it makes you grow.

The biggest sharp-edged rock we keep bumping up against at Pacific Gardens is the difficulty of doing what's best for the common good.

We've all been brought up in a society that tells us we should have what we want when we want it, even if it's at the expense of the well-being of others.

So often conflicts arise because although we want to change the world, we don't want to change ourselves, because it's too inconvenient and uncomfortable.

And that's why I keep looking at that photo, so I'll be inspired to change my own world, even if it is inconvenient.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our Community Veggie Bowl Over-Floweth!

It's the season of harvest on Vancouver Island, and with our abundant gardens, there's loads to share.  It's hard to leave a friend's house without having to take a zucchini!

Even local businesses will have a box of squashes - and the ever-prolific zucchinis - outside their door, with a "Free to a good home" sign on it.

At Pacific Gardens, we all share in the bounty - lettuces, cucumbers, zucchinis, squash, berries of all kinds - with beets and tomatoes soon to come.

One of our young Mums, Tanis, recently sent this message out to us all.  I just love it, because it so beautifully illustrates what our community is like.

"Hello Neighbours,
I've left my giant steel salad bowl on the dining room table and labelled it the "Community Veggie Bowl" to share with everyone. Most of the veggies are coming out of the Community Garden. I have to thank all the fine folks who are working hard in the community garden who continue to work hard up for everyone to share, and most especially thank Carla for her patience and understanding that I am indeed a half-assed gardener.....hahaha, ;) 

Carla is my garden hero who waters all the plants to make sure they grow big and strong so we can harvest our veggies for all to share.  I barely water my own garden, so thank you Carla, you make those squashes grow big!!! 

Please check the big bowl for goodies from the garden, I try to share the surplus every few days, and if you have any surplus to share from your garden (are we tired of zucchini and cucumbers yet? teeheehee!) please add it to the bowl to share! :)

Has anyone tried the mystery squash yet? have we decided what it is? or is it some funky hybrid? There are many more growing so I hope they're edible! :)

Thanks all, it's a huge pleasure spending time in the garden, sharing growing tips, laughing, and inspiring one another with seeds and dreams of next years harvest. I feel so fortunate!

Best wishes


Verily, our community veggie bowl over-floweth at Pacific Gardens!


Monday, August 19, 2013

In the Wedding Tent at Sooke Harbour House

Last week I spent a whole day in the wedding tent at Sooke Harbour House.  No, I wasn't getting married (the supply of 60-something women far exceeds the demand).

I was learning about meeting facilitation in cohousing communities.

Now, to some of you, that may seem about as exciting as watching paint dry, but when Diana Leafe Christian is the one leading the workshop, it's never dull.

Christian, or DLC as she's known in cohousing circles, travels the world giving workshops on how to create community, and there's a reason for that.

She's really good.  And what makes her so good is that she is down-to-earth, pragmatic, and principled, as well as very, very funny.

But while she poked fun at some of the more obstructionist folks she has encountered at community meetings, she was also compassionate.

She pointed out that when people block proposals, it can sometimes come from a place of fear, and we should remember that.

There's so much I could say about what I did learn, but it would take at least four or five blog postings, and that might be a bit much!

I certainly acquired skills that will be useful in any meeting, such as how to tactfully handle someone who speaks too long, or is disruptive.

Most of all, I learned how important the role of the facilitator is to good meetings, and how critical it is that they be a servant of the group.

I'm now hoping to try my hand at being a facilitator, which will be a stretch for this impatient cohouser.

I'll let you know how this latest rock-polishing development works!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Keeping Safe in a Friendly Place

When we first envisioned what kind of community Pacific Gardens would be, we wanted it to be open, welcoming and inclusive.

Many of us were condo refugees, wanting to escape the gated community mentality of developments where security was more important than neighbourliness.

So when we moved into Pacific Gardens, we expected to be able to sit back and relax in our new, comfortable environment. Keeping our home safe and secure would be no problem.

Alas, our ideals have come up against the realities of modern-day life, and it's been a struggle for us to come to terms with our need to keep safe while still being a friendly place.

There have been two incidents in recent months that brought this home to us.  The first involved someone we all liked and trusted, who took advantage of our openness to take what didn't belong to him.

The second was a more simple but equally fraught example.  A person showed up on our property looking for another resident, but unbeknownst to us, was a stalker.

We dealt with these in two ways.  First, we held two community circles to help us process our feelings about the betrayal of our trust by the resident who had been our friend, but stole from us.

Second, we initiated new security procedures and reinforced ones we already had, such as not letting in someone you don't know and not leaving outside doors propped open.

We also changed locks and security codes, put up notices asking that doors not be left open, and asked that people clear it with residents before letting in uninvited guests.

So how are we any different from other condos then, if this is what we have to do?  Well, plenty.  For starters, everyone was kept informed, so the rumour-mill didn't go into over-drive.

Second, we had an opportunity to talk about how we felt, and work through our feelings of fear, anger and hurt, which went a long way towards healing the community.

And finally, we took practical steps to remedy the problem, with input from the relevant committees and the community.

And that's the difference with cohousing communities. It's not that bad things don't happen here - they do.

But we come together as a community to deal with them, and that makes us all stronger - and safer.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Adventures in Recycling at Pacific Gardens

When I first arrived at Pacific Gardens, I thought I knew everything there was to know about recycling. I was wrong.

I soon learned from our indefatigable recycling team, Mia and Gloria, that there is an art as well as a science to recycling, about which you never stop learning.

It's not enough that you separate your recyclables, crush your cardboard boxes, wash out your soy and dairy containers, and rinse your refundables.

You have to put the right item in the right box, and figuring that out can sometimes be a puzzle, even for the most dedicated.

For example, last week we had the mystery of the fertilizer bags.  Someone had put the bags in the bin for soft plastics, but had not emptied them out.

I was delegated to send out an e-mail to try and discover the culprit.  This caused great consternation amongst the garden group, as we don't use chemical fertilizers - ever.

Who could have been using that stuff on our gardens? Well, it turned out that the bags had been full of ordinary garden dirt and mulch, so no worries as to the contents, at least.

Then Roz e-mailed me. She had put them in the garbage first, but then Mia, who hates putting anything in the garbage if there's any chance it can be recycled, rescued them and put them in the recycling.

The mystery was solved. I told Roz I would give her the golden garbage bag award for rightly putting the bags where they belonged!