Before I left Lost Valley at the end of the month, I planned a few excursions in the area and around Portland, Oregon.
There was a SquareOne Villagetiny house community, Emerald Village Eugene, grand opening for the public in Eugene, and I was really looking forward to seeing it! Most of the houses onsite were finished in terms of their exteriors, and several already had residents living in them. It was great to see a city supported, experimental community for the chronically homeless. The model they operated on was that after a rigorous interview process for residency, community members were given a fully furnished space and were required to pay a percentage of their personal income to cover costs. Many of the current residents relied on bicycles and public transportation for travel to their jobs, and some of them were married and dual incomes that helped them financially afford to get back on their feet.
It was with much thought and deliberation, but I decided to leave Lost Valley and put in my notice after living onsite for about seven months. There were various reasons that influenced my decision, but what it essentially boiled down to was wanting to explore the world of sustainability and community outside of Lost Valley, and have more opportunities to learn and practice permaculture.
But before I left Oregon and returned to Texas to figure out my next moves, I packed this month with final adventures and finished some projects!
For Christmas, I gave Avery a coupon for ‘one project of her choice’ (which didn’t require money and was approved by the community). It took some time for her to think about what she wanted as her project, but she came up with a great idea – a living willow structure! We talked about what she wanted and where she wanted to put it, and decided to build her a small amphitheater by the offices/classrooms where her mom was working as the new site manager and it could also be used as an outdoor classroom space. Ashley came to visit one day this month from her work-trade at Dharmalaya, and volunteered to help me build the structure for Avery. We spent several hours planting and weaving willow into a large semi-circle dome, and used zip-ties for additional support, which would eventually breakoff once the willow structure grew bigger and matured.
My birthday month started off with another ecstatic dance. I had gotten to the point where I was comfortable with the people attending the dances and familiar with the experience, but I still was very uncomfortable actually participating in the dances myself. However, I usually enjoyed the morning after sessions for the people that stayed the night. This session was about spiritual connection with the self, and in turn, how the self interacts with others on various levels, like physical touch and emotional connection.
Spending time with family for the holidays was nice, especially since I hadn’t seen then in over 5 months. But I was ready to get back to Lost Valley and continue my adventures away from the life I left behind in Dallas, TX.
In preparation of going back to Texas for Christmas and the New Year, I had the brilliant idea to make tie-dyed bandanas for the family for this year’s gifts. This idea also inspired Rich and Avery to tag along and make colorful Christmas gifts of their own too.
With the end of the Holistic Sustainability Semester program, many of the students left and went on their own separate journeys, and a handful of us stayed. I made the decision to stay and pursue residency to see community from a different perspective while serving as the marketing manager/outreach coordinator, and for the opportunity to practice permaculture and communitybuilding.
Saying goodbye to the other students wasn’t easy, as most of us became good friends having bonded through the program and extra-curricular adventures. And as they left, the community decreased in size and some of the energy left with them too. But that didn’t stop me from going head-first into this new chapter of life!