Long term friend and frequent Twin Oaks guest Joan Mazza writes poetry about her experiences here. [Jan 11, 2003.]
At Twin Oaks Community Again
by Joan Mazza
Early morning when the treetops burn yellow, I walk the graveled
paths downhill from Nashoba, in the wind. Too cold for April, I hug
myself, move swiftly noting first blooms of Johnny jump-ups, lamb's
ears, and iris, the last of daffodils. I pass Kaweah and Zhankoye,
downhill through curled brown leaves, thick beneath red oak, sweet
gum, maple. The trees speak to me, but I'm still learning their
dialect of wood creaks, leaf ruffles.
Past tractors, mowers, the hay baler, past Modern Times with its
racks of rusted bicycles, past George's meditation garden and its hum
of bees. I stop for three breaths at the single wooden bench and
tiny goldfish pond. Downhill, past Jerseys and Dutch Belted milkers,
the volleyball court of sawdust from cut oak stretchers. Stop again
at the pond seeded by wading birds with fish eggs clinging to their
feet, where members cool in summer and skate in winter, where
children grow into their bodies without fear of their skin.
On the way to the courtyard and hammock shop, I pass Hildegaard in
her frayed denim apron, wide straw hat, wielding her scythe between
yellow flowers I can't name.
In the kitchen of the original farmhouse before it was Twin Oaks
Community, where most know my name, tell me they're glad I've
returned, how much they missed me when I was too afraid to fly after
9/11, I am more at home than home, fully present. Amid the birch,
black oak, hickory, cedar, tulip poplar, on a carpet of leaves, I
happen upon hanging chairs and hammocks-made here, eat tofu-made
here, enjoy unpasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt-made here, leaf
lettuce, carrots, beets, asparagus-grown here.
The hammock shop smells of melted polypro, burnt coffee, linseed oil,
days' old spice cake. I close my eyes to hear the familiar bonk of
tested stretcher bars, creaking casters on the tile floor, muffled
music through individual headphones, where thousands of members and
visitors have learned to make hammocks, where conversation and
romance is woven and unraveled across the jigs, warmed by wood-
burning stoves, the room where this community hangs suspended.
Members are Pagans, Wiccans, Quakers, Buddhists, Agnostics,
Christians, Jews, Marxists, and anarchists. They come from Los
Angeles, Portugal, Brooklyn, Germany, Ohio, from farms and cities,
kibbutzim, apartments, ranch houses and orphanages. They have lived
in communities before: Dandelion, East Wind, Sandhill, Dancing
Rabbit, and Shannon Farm. Here, they rename themselves to shed
gender's confinement: Coyote, Shakti, Sequoia, River, Keenan, and
call their children Sage, Tynan, Sassafras, Willow, Sky Blue, and
Members have worked as hostesses, au pairs, mail carriers, in soup
kitchens, rape crisis centers, animal shelters, have taught sign
language, midwifery, built yurts and hay bale houses, barns, sweat
lodges, bred ostriches, harvested sorghum, inseminated cows, raised
chickens, installed solar panels, marked first moon and weaning with
rituals of placenta planting, prayers, songs, and poems, have been
arrested for their activism and protests. Here, they have known home
births, breast feeding, where socks don't match, without concern for
manicures or hair dye, no need for tweezing, shaving, electrolysis,
where they acknowledge the wisdom of crones.
Here, I listen to squirrels climb trees overhead instead of the roar
of jet planes or the Goodyear blimp, feel the temperature drop along
with the sun, where traffic sounds are absent, where I can think my
thoughts without the c onstant barrage of advertising signs, flyers
on my door, spam faxes, telephone solicitations.
Here, I read magazines that poke fun at Ashcroft, consider the
struggles of those in foreign countries, suggest ways to live more
simply and gently, offer family games instead of TV, markets where
food is free of pesticides.
Here, I might mix colors before my sight fades, shape clay before my
knuckles stiffen, hike and dance while my knees allow, shed tight
clothing along with beliefs that I need plastic surgery, have to hold
in my belly or need to hire a fashion consultant.
Here, I can doubt my patriotism, suspect the government, dislike my
upbringing, speak ill of the dead, distrust capitalism, the FDA, FBI,
CIA, and militarism. Here, I can desire a man twenty years younger,
embrace androgyny, wear my natural face, make my own hours, sleep
ten, show my sadness and fears, be social or solitary, choose
celibacy or lust.
Here, a woman tells me she has always listened to spirits, is out of
the broom closet, while another sings as she works in the garden.
Men meet once a week to support each other in learning to express
their fears and frustrations. The couples group does the same, and
another group meets over handwork of quilting, crochet, knitting,
embroidery, tatting-their art displayed in the dining hall.
Twice-yearly, I return to balance my middle class American city ways
and offer counseling. Asking questions of others who seek to
understand themselves, I see myself anew, ponder my priorities,
partners, and plans, ask myself the same questions and know my
answers are right for right now. Here, where I can ask for a hug or a
massage, walk the paths at any hour without fear of attack, speak my
truth and receive a thoughtful response.
Here, I first learned about polyamory and polyfidelity, Blessing
Ways, active listening and heart sharing, tax resisters, co-
parenting, income-sharing, permaculture, consensus, and mud pits,
where people refuse to label their sexual orientation, where men
might wear skirts and women can shave their heads and sleep with
other women, but might still couple with men, and every building
calls me to its library.
In these hills of communal land of many shades of green, I
contemplate my real life, all my possessions at home that mark my
success as they own me. Here, I can challenge myself to stop
traveling the path my parents designed, break out of the cage I've
built for myself.
Right here, where I sit quietly, sipping coffee with brown sugar and
unpasteurized cream that was inside a cow yesterday, where the pale
centers of cut logs glow with inner fire, reminding me that Twin Oaks
is my post graduate school.