My husband, Frank, and I are new residents here at Heartwood—into our seventh month as happy homeowners. I’m a writer by trade and happy to be your new correspondent for Heartwood Happenings. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Heartwood with any questions you might have about our neighborhood nestled in the woods and mountains of Southwest Colorado.
Yours in Community,
One of the many benefits of living in community is the freedom to practice—and share—your hobbies, your creative side(s), your passions and interests. Not only do cohousing communities generally offer a large Common House (Heartwood’s is 4,000-square feet) for activities, but you often find specialized and dedicated spaces generated through one or more members’ efforts and interest.
Here at Heartwood, we’re an inspired bunch, if we don’t say so ourselves. And one person’s idea of fun can be infectious, bringing us together to share in the fun as well as in the organizing effort. That’s what happened with the case of our first-rate woodworking shop. We’re talking a craftsman’s oasis here, complete with state-of-the-art table saw, planer, jointer, miter saw, drill press, shaper, and band saw. The shop was the inspiration of a few of our residents who had a lot of tools and decided to share them with others who were properly trained or ready to learn. Soon, the building was up and a woodworking guild created. Are you a fix-it person? A DIY-er? Then, this is for you. One of our residents, for example, uses the shop each November to create massive pine-bough Christmas wreaths for local businesses.
Some of us stretch ourselves in other ways—literally. Our morning Yoga group in the Common House is taught by a respected local instructor from Durango who provides hands-on attention to each individual, ensuring prevention of injury and appropriate challenge. Another of our Heartwood neighbors heads up a regional organization called Seniors Outdoors, convening seniors from the region for weekly outdoor activities such as hikes, snowshoeing and skiing.
Each of us at Heartwood have our own unique networks, and we love to share a good find with our neighbors. We have a Ukulele teacher teaching once a month and various experts who share their presentations with us over dinner. Hearing about the local library’s book sale/fundraiser drive, our neighbors Becky and Gay thought of holding a community-wide yard sale and donating the proceeds, as just one example. And how about our llama-packing folks? They live here along with the furry friends housed in the pastures south of our cluster of homes, and they regularly take packing trips into the spectacular wilderness areas all around us -- some of the largest in the country.
If you have an idea, you’ll likely find a receptive audience here at Heartwood. From book clubs to fire circles, from raising chickens to building a soccer field for the kids, our neighbors have seeded Heartwood with their skills, and the results are pretty fabulous.
Two weeks ago today we were just wrapping up our annual retreat. For me each year, it is one of our sweetest times of coming together. Some years we focus more on community visioning, other years on sharing and getting to know each other better, and this year we focused on learning to own our reactions to events and people in our lives and in the process improve our relationships and become happier.
That may sound pretty intense, but it's interwoven with having fun and sharing meals. We kicked off our retreat with a potluck on Friday evening followed by the 2018 Heartwood Movie, which is a compilation of fun community photos and video clips from the prior year. It always feels good to look back and savor the good times together.
On Saturday night, as is our custom, we held our zany Gong Show. Members performed skits, music, dance, poetry, parody, jokes – you name it. So much laughter and fun.
Our retreats are kind of a work hard, play hard weekend together. They never fail to bring me closer to my neighbors, more knowledgeable about myself, and just generally feeling good about being here in community at Heartwood.
Members reflect on the retreat...
"I loved all the educational pieces and the experiential learning."
"I like that one of the main focuses of the retreat was about each of us taking personal responsibility for our stories, thoughts, and actions. I found that empowering."
"I liked that it was another confirmation of what a wonderful, caring community we have."
"My favorite was the Victim, Blamer, Rescuer exercise. I'm a kinesthetic learner and get impatient with too much talking. I got the most from it in the doing!"
"Curiosity is the key to managing anger and fear. You have a choice in the moment of heat — so, how are you going to stop, make space for yourself to make the choice how to behave?”
"I liked how much emphasis the facilitator placed on personal responsibility for our own individual experience. And I liked how many different dyads we used to learn new skills. I loved all the skill building."
"I love our Heartwood Retreats. Many people say to me it's really not a retreat if you don’t go anywhere, but to me, it is clearly a retreat. We retreat into ourselves, our community. The purpose is always to find ways to more deeply connect. I love that so many of our members respect this time and come together. I often have more hope after spending time with my neighbors. This year was a good example of that.
Yours in Community,
I can't remember another 75 year-old with as much energy as my neighbor Gail. She is the president of the Durango Seniors Outdoors Club. In her own words, she's full of the dickens, 24/7. So when, following some bone graft dental work in her jaw, she suddenly found herself with zero energy, not even enough energy to read a book or watch Netflix, she was scared. She described it as the fear of her aging body giving out and not being able to handle the dental work and who knows what else. To me it seemed like the ultimate core fear of mortality.
Word quickly got out in the neighborhood. As Gail says, "When somebody's in need here, the grapevine is fast and strong." Before she knew it, she had people coming over with all sorts of soup, especially chicken soup, and it was all delicious. Someone created a daily sign-up sheet for bringing meals, but because everyone tended to bring much more than Gail could eat in one day, she ended up with a freezer full of soup that lasted a month past when she had recovered.
Listening to Gail talk about it, I could hear the joy in her voice. She said that of course she enjoyed the delicious meals, but much more than that, she feels gratitude. Gratitude for how the community rallied. Gratitude that as a single, older woman, she has neighbors who love her for who she is and are there to take care of her. Gratitude in knowing that it's OK to ask for and receive help. Gratitude for the genuine gifts with no expectations of being paid back. Gratitude for a sense of belonging.
Gail has four adult sons with whom she is very close, but who live far away. She told me, "I have four boys who are so happy that I live in this community because they know their mom is loved and cared for in a friendship loving way. They don't have to worry about me eating dinner alone. They know I'm safe and cared for, emotionally and physically, in a really neighborly, friendly way, that's not that common in our culture anymore."
Yours in Community,
The neighborhood has quieted down this week with the kids back in school and the adults back at work. Before I get caught up in all the activity that a long break and a new year brings, I wanted to share with you some of the Heartwood holiday events from the past few weeks.
Heartwood embraces the celebration of all spiritual beliefs so, as you can imagine, there was lots of celebrating around here during the holiday season. The season usually kicks off in mid-December with the lighting of a menora at a common meal to celebrate Hanukkah.
Throughout the year we hold sacred fire circles. The Winter Solstice Fire Circle is one of my favorites.
Then on Christmas Eve is our big Posada celebration, a holiday theme loosely borrowed from Latin America. Our Posada is a progressive party during which we roam from house to house enjoying drinks and appetizers and finally end up at the common house for dessert and caroling.
Christmas Day is for small gatherings. Our family, with all our kids back from college, spent the day together at home and taking a walk on the land. Many smaller households got together for shared Christmas dinners at someone's home.
We got some big snow storms over the holidays, which we love. Not only is it great for skiing and snowshoeing, it also replenishes our water table. A big herd of elk took up residence in our pasture for a couple of days during one of the storms.
The final event of our holiday season was our big New Years Eve party at the common house. We had a nice dinner and then turned on the party lights, cranked up the music, and danced until midnight – well, some of the younger ones did; some of us others snuck away a bit early.
Yours in Community,
Our local newspaper, the Durango Herald, just published a nice little article about Phase 2. Click here to read the article.
Yours in Community,
When we discovered that the main timbers of our kids play structure, the SS Ponderosa, were badly rotting out, we weren't sure if we could pull together the money and work hours needed to get her rebuilt. Through the years the SS Ponderosa has been incredibly popular with the Heartwood kids so we were committed to seeing her sail again.
Long story, short, after hundreds of volunteer work hours and thousands of dollars, we recently celebrated the rebirth of the SS Ponderosa.
It was a story of renewal. In today's throwaway culture, it felt great to reuse many of the materials from the original SS Ponderosa, clean them up, give them a fresh coat of paint, and incorporate them into the new SS Ponderosa.
And it was a story of working together. Some community members put in just a few hours and others put in hundreds. Some folks are skilled carpenters and others no-so-much, but no matter, everyone found a place and made a significant contribution. Not one of us could have done it alone, but we were able to do it together.
Mostly rebuilding our SS Ponderosa was a story about investing in our kids. We value our kids being able to play outdoors. A beautiful new SS Ponderosa draws kids away from their screens for fresh air, exercise, and Colorado sunshine with their friends.
Yours in Community,