by Zoe Curzi
When my partner Varvara and I arrived at Heartwood on March 1st this year, we expected to spend four weeks on a work/housing exchange feeding llamas and cows, hanging out in Number 4 while its inhabitants went on vacation, and maybe taking a dip or two in the hot tub before jaunting off to Europe for the warm season.
You might be able to predict that our plans were disrupted.
Neither my partner nor I currently have a stable home. She and I are (between us) filmmakers, actors, writers, musicians, and travelers. We came to Heartwood because I mentioned to a friend that I was craving nature and animals, and he knew a guy who knew a guy. We live frugally, shrug a lot, and take what comes.
As the world began shutting down in late March and our departure date approached, we didn’t quite know what we would do with ourselves. My twenty-seventh birthday saw me serving cake with a mask and gloves to one person at a time on the porch as folks hurried home again, full of regrets at our inability to party (and, amazingly, though they’d only known me for three weeks at this point, flowers, cards, and small gifts).
But within a week of this, the Heartwood community had mobilized to propose an exchange for our continued stay as Heartwood’s very own pandemic refugees; we would continue caretaking Jack and Ronda’s llamas and cattle where necessary, contribute our youthful vigor to the individuals’ gardens and community work days of Heartwood, and, in exchange, stay in the guest room, doing our best to keep the Common House sanitized for whatever minimal community use it still might hold.
The degree of exchange that has actually happened, given the simplicity of this arrangement, is pretty amazing to me.
We found ourselves rapidly involved in the community here, participating regularly in llama packing training, irrigating the pastures, watering the high tunnel’s wonderful vegetable gardens, and work parties and odd jobs for different community members.
I came here after a tough couple years in a fairly toxic community, and it’s not an understatement to say Heartwood renewed my faith in humans. Between the sacred Fire Circles Tom holds, early morning Wisdom Circles, and surprise in-depth encounters in the mailroom, I found myself engaged in a stream of amazingly meaningful and thought-provoking conversations. The energy, spirituality, practicality, generosity and wisdom of the community completely took my breath away. Not to mention that encountering such healthy, engaged, awake older adults—seventy- and eighty-year-olds pondering “what is next in my life?” just like I am-- is relieving and somehow wonderful.
I was gratified to see traces of the work – both practical/logistical and interpersonal/intrapersonal – that undergirds a place of such flourishing and intention. These people are people, just like people everywhere – but they are people with an unusual commitment to working out conflict, discussing power structures, navigating complex systems in order to accomplish ambitious tasks, and above all, manifesting what they want. I’m sure, like in any community, folks have their gripes and struggles. But I’m not sure those at Heartwood are even totally aware of how unusual and astonishing it is for a group of people to commit and succeed with such a broad set of variables – social, physical, environmental, individual, spiritual, and so on.
It’s turned out to be healing and delightful to stay at Heartwood, and to watch the community adapt to these bizarre times. I’m looking forward to the next few months before we finally do push off on our next adventure, and am already anticipating wonderful visits in the future.
Covid and Heartwood's Plans to Reopen
Like everyone else, we've sadly had to curtail most of our social activities because of Covid. But we are now beginning to plan our staged reopening. We are currently receiving daytime visitors, but no overnight guests in the common house. Our community meals are suspended, but outdoor social gatherings with physical distancing are happening. We hope to begin welcoming use of our guest rooms in July. In the meantime, you can find accommodations in Durango and Bayfield if you'd like to visit before our guest rooms reopen. Because this is all so fluid, please contact us and/or see our Plan a Visit page for the latest updates.
Two months ago, our last newsletter ended with this quote:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
- Marcel Proust
Little did we know, that we would get the chance to practice just that within a few weeks of this post. When news of the coronavirus became more and more serious and its progression across the country and into our quiet corner of Colorado not only likely but a sure thing, Heartwood Community made the decision to cease all gatherings in the Common House. Following the guidelines suggested by health officials to keep a 6 foot distance between everyone not belonging to the same household went without saying. Shortly after that, on March 25th, Governor Polis announced the “shelter-at-home” order for Coloradans. By then many of us had already restricted travel into town to cover only the essential needs of every day life.
So how does life look and feel like in these strange times in a cohousing community, where people live in order to be in close proximity with others, share laughter, food, hugs and so much more?
We get creative!
It is no big surprise that one of our monthly “Work Parties” during which we take care of projects on the land, drew many more out of their homes than usual, despite the cold temperatures. It was so wonderful to be able to see each other not only in passing! And we discovered that the Common House porch is big enough to host quite a few of us - at 6 feet apart!
Without being able to attend meetings in person we are getting familiar with Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts and what not. Together with the rest of the world we try and stay connected and get work done - from our living rooms. Admittedly, it feels awkward to meet with a next door neighbor on a screen. But even during a pandemic there are decisions to be made in a cohousing community and there are lots of practical things to communicate about. So we meet online. But hey, we were also able to attend one of our famous Friday Happy Hours, usually held in the Common House, via ZOOM. A great time was had by all, good conversations and plenty of laughter!
A great turn out also received the recent first meeting of the parties enlisted in the planned expansion of Heartwood, Phase 2. Thanks to Zoom, those eager to move forward with joining the Heartwood community were able to connect with each other across the country, talk about details regarding the building of new homes here and have questions answered. Yeah, technology!
This has been going around the internet lately:
Introverts, please take care of your extrovert friends during these strange times. They don’t know how to do this!
People drawn to cohousing often identify themselves as introverts. So for many of us the invitation to spend more time at home has not been much of a hardship, but a continuation of what we have been doing all along already! But with the many new opportunities we discover to connect, we hope our friends, the extroverts among us, feel also taken care of, as we continue to try and stay safe by following the orders to “shelter-at-home”. Even with physical distancing being the norm now, we are "in touch" never the less and are not "socially" distancing. We share resources via email about free streaming of theater, museums, etc, gather lists of recommended movies for each other, pick up items at the grocery store for others and share hand sanitizer and even, yes, toilet paper! And not to forget the Happy Hours on the paths between the houses. We truly feel blessed to live in community, especially at a time like this!
In addition to sharing resources with each other we are also able to offer shelter to two guests who joined us just before the outbreak of the pandemic, only to find themselves stranded when their continuing traveling plans got canceled. Fortunate indeed for all of us, V and Zoe help out wherever they can now and we are grateful too!
In the meantime, we are glad to say that all here at Heartwood are healthy. We can walk the 7 miles of trails we have access to right from our front doors, alone or with a friend, 6 feet apart of course. We might even look “with new eyes” as we pass the many familiar landmarks of our beautiful Southwestern landscape. We tend to our gardens, we sit in the sun with cups of tea and listen to the birds singing their songs, as beautiful as ever.
We hope this newsletter finds you in good health and can't wait to be able to open our doors to visitors again in the future!
We hope everyone had a happy holiday season out there. Heartwoodians (aka Heartwoodies) celebrated near and far with the usual flair--some traveled to family and friends, while others stayed put in the pines, sipping a nog or two. The year's end is a time for celebration, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, or something else.
At Heartwood, one of our most anticipated events is the Posada when we travel from house to house for one dish of the holiday meal: the appetizer, the main meal, and the dessert. The "kids" are home from school or jobs, guests have come to visit, and it's a time to dress up, give out hugs, and be grateful for food, home, good neighbors, and loved ones.
Neighbors enjoying the Christmas Eve Posada's first stop: appetizers and cocktails. Next up is the entree of chili and cornbread, served just across the pathway. Not a bad commute, eh?
We capped the Posada evening at the Common House, with the dessert course. Neighbors brought their cakes, pies, cookies, and candies for a potluck of delicacies to meet every dietary consideration. Gluten-free? No problem? Not eating sugar? Not a big deal. Thank you, amazing high-altitude cooks and bakers at Heartwood.
For Solstice, one of our neighbors led a meditative class in the magical setting of the yurt. Solstice fires of sweet-smelling pinion and oak blazed at Raven's Ridge circle and in the woodstoves of our homes as Heartwoodians visited with old and new friends, their paths lit by colorful holiday lights strung on the homes. If only we could capture and share with you an image of our December starry nights--but some things are best seen in person. (That's a hint.)
New Year's Eve saw many of our neighbors celebrating afar with friends and family, so this year we held our parties in individual homes, managing to shake a leg or two, play a game or three, and, of course, nosh on goodies. When more of us are at home, we hold New Year dance parties at the Common House. Such a versatile space! We party, we exercise, we eat, we meet--she's got open arms, that building does, for anything we dream up.
So now we're ready to turn another page in the day planner to February. The sun is elbowing the darkness out of his way and Heartwood is preparing for the annual community retreat, scheduled for the end of this leap-year month. And, there's something special to focus on this year: we celebrate the twentieth year of our community's inception. Twenty years ago a core group of folks at Heartwood put their vision into action, searching for the right property across the Southwest and finding it here, amid the hills, forests, and grasslands of La Plata County that we call home. We've sustained and matured and kept celebrating the victories.
One of those achievements is the growing realization of Heartwood's Phase 2 -- the addition of some 14 new homes. In April, we'll host our future neighbors who have already signed up to join our community. So excited to meet everyone!
As always, our guest rooms await any of you who wish to visit us, and we hope you will. In the meantime, may the new year and decade bring you and yours dreams come true.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
What's Currently Available at Heartwood?
From time to time homes become available for sale or rent here at Heartwood. Right now, units 10, 17, 18, and 21 are for sale. Visit the Heartwood Cohousing website for more information about what is for sale and rent.
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Bayfield, CO 81122
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One week plus some change until Thanksgiving—are you ready? Here at Heartwood, families are preparing for their holidays: some are traveling to join loved ones; some are staying home to welcome loved ones; and others still are joining with neighbors and guests at the spectacular Heartwood Common House dinner, a perfectly orchestrated potluck of delicious fare, often featuring our very own home-raised/grown produce and meat.
Thankful thoughts are top-of-mind just now, and certainly we have much to be grateful for at Heartwood: a caring community, breathtaking natural beauty, cozy and charming homes, and truly great neighbors in Bayfield. What a gift it is to know your neighbors, to be part of a community like Bayfield, “where the stars shine bright.”
This fall we celebrated at two events with our extended neighbors. At Halloween, a friend to the east, invited all of Heartwood to his home situated high on the ridge overlooking the Los Pinos River. It was a great Halloween bash. We met more Bayfield folks and got to show off our costume-designing skills. (Woot!)
In October, Heartwood threw a BBQ bash for the firemen and women of the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, in thanks for their service to this corner of the U.S. Southwest we get to call home. Led by Chief Bruce Evans, the fire-protection crews arrived in (naturally) the red fire truck and emergency rescue vehicles. They were welcomed by the aroma of Heartwood burgers on the grill (supplied by our resident ranchers Ronda Ramsier and Jack McGroder (thanks, R&J). Inside the Common House, a few of us had channeled our inner Girl Scout to create tissue-paper “campfires” as table centerpieces, while many more prepared enough side dishes and salads to feed a few more fire districts. What a buffet of plenty!
Chief Evans explains the intricacies of mitigating natural forests like Heartwood's.
We also had a fine bar set-up, but our fire protectors in blue and white were on duty, so they enjoyed the fresh apple cider being pressed outside on the village green. Now, if you’ve never pressed cider before, you’re in for a treat if you’re lucky enough to visit Heartwood in autumn. We used Heartwood apples, of course, picked fresh from the orchard down at “the hub” on Heartwood Lane and also from trees in our backyards.
The press requires solid physical labor in a team effort, and the results are fantastic—some say it’s the best cider they’ve tasted, and that’s the word even from a few Midwest-bred folks, a good testament, you have to admit.
Neighbors pitch in for cider pressing.
And now it’s time to say thanks to you for your interest in and support of Heartwood across the years and the miles. Harvest season is over, and it’s time to enjoy the goods with people you care about. From our houses and hearths to yours: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Every close of summer at Heartwood is bountiful, but there's bounty and then there's BOUNTY: 2019 was deliciously productive! Our two youngest farmers created a luscious vegetable garden in the high tunnel, located in the area known as The Farm, south of the 24-home cluster, on Heartwood Lane. One look at Sarah's happy face and her armload of produce tells you it was a good season, especially wonderful because it was Sarah and Pat's first "go" at farming. Well done, neighbors!
Further north, the Greenhouse and Garden team didn't let the grass grow under their feet (or in the raised beds), as winter delicacies such as tatsoi and kale moved aside to make space for tomatoes, lettuce, basil, cucumbers, green peppers, and more inside the grow dome. And then there were grapes! Every year, we wait for the melt-in-your-mouth grapes growing on the vine that weaves her way across the upper reaches of the grow dome.
The outside beds, between the dome and the hen palace, thrived this year, thanks to plenty of moisture and a secure deer fence. We harvested zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, beans, carrots, cabbage, eggplant, and peppers--and we're still growing more! With all that produce finding its way to family tables, the team decided it was time to build a new set of compost bins, keeping up our tradition of full-circle sustainability at Heartwood. Here's a snap of our new 3-bin composting system! And, scraps and produce that don't make their way to the bins are delivered to our chickens, ducks, pigs, llamas, cows, (and Missy the horse) who enjoy the fruits of our labor right along with us, munching on garden treats mixed in with their feed.
Most of Heartwood's homes feature fruit trees--apricots, plums, peaches, and apples. Here, Beth takes advantage of the community's solar dehydrator at the common house to preserve her apricot harvest for colder days ahead. Soon, the community will be lining up at the cider press, loading up fall apples and capturing the juice in jugs.
We're still savoring our Colorado sunny days, but the temps are chilling in the mornings and evenings. The kids are back in school, and before too long, it will be time to turn under the veggie beds. In the meantime, there's plenty of picking, preserving and pickling to do. Autumn is a glorious time to visit us...and, if you do, bring your cider jug.
With Warm Wishes to You and Yours!
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,
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