Jon & Joline
Kai and Ryan
In 2009 our family moved to Belfast in search of people who want to live close to the land and to each other, and we're delighted to report we've found them planting bulbs and building treehouses in the plowfields behind Edgecomb Road! Joining Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage was the natural progression of our family's previous experiments in collective action, from inner-city cooperatives to online communities to cross-cultural partnerships.
Of course, a back-to-the-land rural setting may seem a surprising culmination of research for two professors in the University of Maine's New Media Department. And it's true, Joline returned to her home state of Maine in 2002 from New York City, where she had been a writer and NYU professor and Jon an artist and Guggenheim curator. Yet the Still Water lab that we run builds networks that foster trust in both high-tech electronic and low-tech earthly spaces. The Internet is certainly full of shallow relationships, but even the online environments we build aim to establish deeper connections among creators than the superficial "friendsters" of most social networks.
These networks extend beyond the screen and into the soil. Our entire family has been greatly educated in building systems to strengthen social ties by what we learn from our Wabanaki neighbors, whose experience with sustainable lifeways predates the latest wave of green entrepreneurs by tens of thousands of years. Through an initiative called LongGreenHouse, Joline has brought together experts in networked culture, Native culture, and permaculture--to live, quite literally, under one roof. LongGreenHouse has woven the Wabanaki Longhouse, permaculture gardens, and networked collaboration together in a hybrid "communiversity", in partnership with UMaine, Wassookeag school, and eco-village networks in Maine. Other projects include RFC: Request for Ceremony, a call for re-investing quotidian life with ceremony; and the Cross-Cultural Partnership, a legal framework for developing trust networks with indigenous peoples.
Our daughter Ryan and son Kai have played important roles in many of these endeavors: tending to the rabbits and ducks that fertilize our garden; mentoring younger children at the Wassookeag school; learning how to live with a wood cooking stove and compost toilet. They have also played an important role in helping us take a mindful approach to technologies, examining them one by one to determine the effects they have on our lives rather than blithely assuming every new gizmo is going to be good for our family. Like many other families, we've questioned the role of TV and video games in our family, and as a result these are not features of our children's daily lives. The care Kai and Ryan exhibit toward other children and critters of all species help remind their parents of the true place of children in a community: not just as students, but also as teachers.
All four of us are excited to share what we have learned and gain the benefit of others' experience and company at BC&E.