Outside the Dome.
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Imagine having a unique vantage point for a close up look at Windmill Co-op, Eugene and Cascadia in the year 2040. Elder Naj will show you where he lives, explain how Cascadia came into being and what its like fifteen years into Recovery. You will hear about the actions people took at home, in the neighborhood and community, 30 and 40 years before, that were critical for surviving the Transition and taking on the challenges for creating a new, healthy and green economy and culture.
The New Cluster
italics is Naj talking
bold is Naj thinking, narrating, sharing his thoughts or in a strange trance
regular font is others speaking
If a permaculture enthusiast had arrived for the first time at Windmill Co-op, in the dark, and the following early morning, took a stroll in the gathering light, they would have seen the fourteen suburban houses and green space between them. That person might have thought this is permaculture heaven.
All the houses had passive solar retrofits like sun rooms and additional glass on south facing walls. There were well kept gardens, fruit and nut trees, trellises, cozy green places, a play ground, water features combined with native plant habitats for small wildlife, like Mockingbirds. Outdoor art here and there, like a rusted barrel hoop hanging from a trellis, rotating slowly and hanging by almost invisible fishing line so from a short distance, the hoop looked like it was floating in space.
This livingscape was love made visible. Love for each other, love for oneself. Love for the natural world. Everyone in the co-op felt they deserved a beautiful place to live. With far fewer distractions and limited geographic mobility compared to BT, what could be better than taking care of important needs close to home with friends and neighbors? The livingscape enhanced economic, social, health, security and spiritual well being, all at the same time.
Survival, adjusting to the Transition, required a fundamental recalibration of lifestyles and what people did with their time. Cascadia had been adjusting for close to fifteen years. Children had never known fast food. They had never been the target of slick product branding.
River Road counted over 40 co-ops. Some had a lot of art, some were spiritual, some were a bit rough. A couple had only men. Several had had only women. Some were religious, some were spiritual. There were elder co-ops with younger members to look after them. Co-ops had different themes and personalities. They were mostly in the southern part of the neighborhood where the older houses with larger yards were found.
Some co-ops were next to each other, some were surrounded by abandoned overgrown homes nobody wanted. A sort of suburban triage has taken place in the past 20 years. During the Transition, 80 per cent of the properties were abandoned. Partly because many houses just didn't have the physical attributes needed to support a viable place to live - not enough space to grow food, poor solar access, too much shade, buildings made of cheap materials that were not durable. Fewer houses were needed AT - After Transition - because more people were living in each house.
Triage happened also because of population loss. The great majority of people, before the Transition, simply were not thinking much about the prospects of social and economic mayhem, much less, how it would affect them and even less, what they should do about it. Even in comparatively forward thinking Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia, the Transition still witnessed an 80% mortality rate.
The mortality rate was much higher in the rest of the country. Only a hand full of places in the former USA had managed to regain a level of social and economic complexity similar to Cascadia. Other areas of relative prosperity were mostly located on lakes which provided relatively easy transportation of goods, services and ideas. Lakes were also sources of water.
Here and there on the Great Lakes, there were settlements that could trade with each other. Lake Champlain in up state former New York, as well. Even larger artificial lakes supported a modest level of organization like Lake Texoma on what was the Oklahoma and Texas border.
We had heard from a ham radio operator in a place called Elk Rapids in the former Michigan. This was on the northwest coast on Lake Michigan. The ham guy talked about local agriculture and fishing. There are about 300 people living there in what might be called a town. Their social and economic structure sounded similar to Cascadia. There were clusters and co-ops for housing and some more or less central coordination.
The ham guy described a young woman who came back home from the West Coast in the late 'teens who became a local icon for helping organize people with what she knew about permaculture. That was at a point with just enough time to prepare for the Transition.
She started the first cluster in a big old house she bought near the lake shore. She and her cluster reworked the house and put in gardens and fruit trees all around. Just in time. Lucky for the locals who followed her lead.
A number of settlements on large artificial lakes that had hydro power, had taken care to preserve their lake's electricity production and re arranged power lines to provide electricity to nearby settlements. The natural lakes also benefited from the recovery of fishing. The Great Lakes were large enough for lake effect winds along the shoreline that gave wind electricity a big boost.
Andrea, one of Eugene's resettlement coordinator and I met in front of the Dome and waited for the new cluster to arrive with Don, another community resettlement person.
"Nice to see you Naj."
"Likewise, Andrea. Very interesting circumstance here. Have you met the cluster?
"No. I have only seen the reports. Not so often we have a group like this. I don't know a lot more than you do. They should be here soon. Don is pretty good about being on time."
How is life over at the Dorms?'
"Always interesting. You know, I went to college at UO and studied landscape architecture. I never would have thought I would end up redesigning so much of the campus where I went to school. You know, we only occupy maybe ten percent of the buildings. But turning a medium sized university into an eco village with almost a thousand residents has been quite a process. Its been quite a jolt. We have a great team, many of us knew each other before all this change, We had so much to work with like kitchens, infirmary, residential space, meeting space, out door areas to be converted to food production."
"How do the sports facilities look these days? I went to a few football games."
Interesting, the huge state of the art multi use building that could seat 20,000 people for basketball and concerts, that cost over a hundred million is so big and complicated, we just had to let it go. It doesn't offer much to us now. Same the football stadium. It has no value to us although we do have several windmills up on the stadium lights. Some people are actually trying to live in the corporate boxes. Who cares? Its falling apart and becoming covered with plants. Seems crazy what all used to happen there."
"The Ducks had some great football teams. Seems a long time ago and hard to relate to."
"You know Harday Field, where all the big track meets and Olympic Trials, its falling apart. Just amazing so much money devoted to so many buildings that had such limited use."
"Yeah. I went to one Olympic Trial. It was amazing, javelin, triple jump, pole vault, 800 meters. It was a spectacle. The contestants were amazing.The 2016 Olympics did take place but 2020 did not turn out so well."
"More recently, we are starting to catch salmon at the rapids at the footbridge. Baker Park provides more space for agriculture and part of it is pretty wild now. All those trees and shrubs planted to restore the riparian habitat makes the area right along the river very wooded. There is even talk of doing controlled burns, just like the Kalapuya. We are already replanting camas."
"You should come over to campus some time, Naj. You would like to see all kinds of projects. We have mill race producing electricity again. We remodeled the student union building into our primary living area. Just about all the former outdoor open spaces with decent sunlight are gardens and orchards now. We did take out some of the larger trees to make room for edibles. But we did keep the outer space tree."
Overall, we are doing pretty well. Of course, many students and faculty ended up living on campus. So we still have lots of classes discussions. Still a very academic vibe."
Ok, great report. I love to hear updates and good news. Here they come."
It was Don from Hospitality and the new cluster.
"Welcome. Great to see you Elder Jan and Andrea. Let me introduce you to Jen, Steve, Bevin, Joe and Glenn."
Jen, Glenn and Steve looked relaxed while Bevin and Joe seemed a bit apprehensive. No doubt, they knew this was an important first meeting and no doubt, thier lives have been greatly rearranged since crossing the border. Not to mention months being on the road with constant uncertainty for their personal safety. Yes, its true, Glenn is a Black guy.
They all looked to be in their later twenties or early thirties except Glenn who looked more like early twenties. All very fit, tanned, except for Glenn, perhaps all looking like they were more than ready for a rest.
We shook hands all around. Good solid handshakes.
"Welcome to Eugene and welcome to Windmill Co-op. We are eager to help you settle in."
Jen replied,"We are blessed to be here and we intend to make the best of our opportunities. You should know we have been well taken care of. This has been and continues to be a tremendous adjustment and we want to make the most of Windmill Co-op's good will and being in Cascadia."
Andrea replied, reassuringly, "We are very happy to welcome you. You are here for a reason. You all have much to offer us as well."
Bevin and Joe looked at each other, exhaled and visibly relaxed.
Don, spoke. "Here is the brief summary. Jen, Steve, Bevin, Glenn and Joe and two kids came across the border three months ago at Field. They stayed at Malhuer Transition Center for two months. They are all from what was Arkansas. Seems there are still some pockets of habitation and stability down there, particularly in the Ozark area."
Hmm. I thought. We will follow up on this.
Barber spoke."Yes, there is a degree of civility in the Ozarks. May I say, we have a variety of skills, most of them survival. Among us, we know a good deal of mechanics, hunting and some agriculture. We did live in the Ozarks for most of our lives. It can be on the rugged side both in geographical and social terms. There is a lengthy culture of independence. Even a bit of culture."
"We all chuckled at the light comment. Nice."
"Did you all live in the same place?" I asked.
"We did." It was Jen. "Our numbers stayed at about 60 or 70 and we habitated mostly in a small valley in one of the most rugged parts of the Ozarks. There were other groups around us. Our outer borders would overlap but by agreement, we stayed within a given zone for raising food, hunting and extracting what wee needed from the forests. Of course, now and then there were disputes and at times there were fights, particularly during the first few years of the Great Changes.
"But after a number of years, stability was helped a great deal by someone who came to known as the Traveller. We don't know exactly where she came from. We can tell you more later, if you like but this person gained trust and respect all over the Ozarks. She had a great deal of positive blessing in bringing a much greater level of peace and security. She had some kind of ability, its hard to explain. Maybe charisma, wisdom. I had spoken with her on several occasions. She left quite an impression with little more than simplicity, graciousness and common sense.
"Glenn actually became a learner. He can tell you about that. I will say, she had quite an affect on Glenn. In a good way. I've said enough."
"Our boundaries were ridges. High places, almost never a stream or river. Usually, there was either a natural or cultural feature that drew a population together."
It was Glenn. It was the first time he spoke.
"And you spent time with this Traveller?"
"Yes. It was a blessing. I did travel with her for over two years. She was elderly. I am amazed she was able to move so well. She had an enormous spirit and those with her were totally blessed. She asked for nothing, had no particular message or philosophy other than forgiveness and compassion. There were several younger people who moved with her. She was a healer, a sage. A story teller and peace keeper, very intuitive."
She never said anything about her past. She seemed at ease every place we travelled. We would stay in places for several weeks, maybe a month. In our talks, we sometimes wondered what had happened to other parts of the country. We knew the Northwest fared somewhat better than most other places. She told me she knew someone who lived in Cascadia.
Over the time I was with her, I repeatedly asked her to tell me more. She said an old friend. If I really wanted to know, I should go satisfy my curiosity. If I did make to Cascadia, she said I would find this person. She said nothing else about it. It seemed almost like a challenge. I felt compelled to make this journey. My friends here were eager to join me."
Joe spoke. "We have all known each other for years. We were motivated by curiosity. What would we find? And now being here in Eugene and Windmill. Its a lot to take in."
Don spoke. "Fascinating. I think a lot of people will want to hear your adventures. Over time, you will also learn about what has happened here in Cascadia. I am thinking, you all are ready for some peace and quiet. Let's tale a short walk to where you will be staying.
Here is Aleta, our co-op president.
Hello, hello. I am Aleta and so pleased to meet you!
Don made introductions, "This is Jen, Steve, Bevin, Joe and Glenn. We have been hearing a bit about life in the Ozarks."
Aleta. "Welcome to Windmill. Yes, I will save questions for another time. Let's take you to where you will be staying. I am sure after all these months, you are ready to relax."
That was Aleta, always sensitive to others.
"Thank you for the welcome, Aleta." It was Bevin. "Yes, we are looking forward to sharing our adventures but even more, starting this new one here in Cascadia."
Ok. "Great! please follow me."
Our welcome group left the Dome and meandered its way along the pathways to the new residence.
Aleta. "What you are seeing here is the results of 15 years of reworking these properties. This was a typical suburban neighborhood with fences. Elder Naj lives just back there. He started transforming his property 40 years ago. Several other properties started doing this permaculture transformation by the early 20's. You will learn about how Windmill came in being by and by.
Joe spoke. This is really beautiful! Yes, we know about Permaculture. There were places in Fayetteville that promoted Permaculture. One location a fellow bought land in town that was surrounded by suburban houses. He turned the property into a teaching center. Last I heard, that place was still surviving, with maybe 30 or 40 people living around the huge garden. The last time I was in Fayetteville 3 years ago, they were one of the few groups in town to survive I know about. I visited and it looked a bit like this."
Aleta. "We would love to hear what you all know about other places. Be prepared for a lot of questions. You know, next week we have story night. That's when we meet in the Dome and tell stories. Its totally informal. Here is a nice gazebo. We combine form and function a lot here. We love the artistic landscape. Its good for the spirit and the body. Just about every plant you see here has some kind of practical use. And here we are."
We walked under a grape pergola and approached a house on the south side. There was a sun room and various shrubs and small trees. Some with fruit. This was a house that was located near the north east corner of Windmill Co-op. It had been reasonably kept up in anticipation of a new cluster.
Just as we were arriving to the property, the kids arrived with Carol and Eddie, two other hospitality volunteers, also members of Windmill co-op. The two youngsters ran up to Joe and Bevin and they all hugged.
Perfect timing! Everyone, please meet Beech and Ponca.
A short mental replay pause. What!? Beech and Ponca?!
Beach and Ponca. Please meet Elder Naj and Aleta. Elder Naj and Aleta live here in this little village called Windmill Co-op. We will be staying here. Do you remember Don? You met him two days ago.
Beech and Ponca appeared to be ten or so and were a bit shy but, impressively, took the initiative to shake hands, and made eye contact. "We had such a fun time with Carol and Eddie and met some other kids. Hi Elder Naj and Aleta. Is this where we're gonna stay."
It was Bevin. "Yes, we will be here for a while, maybe longer. Thank you very much Carol and Eddie. Its great Ponca and Beech had a chance to play with other kids. We feel so blessed."
Carol. "You are very welcome. We had fun, too. You have great kids."
"OK." Aleta. "Let's have a little look around here to see the kitchen, bed rooms, bathroom. Just about everything you need is here. I can show our new cluster the place here. Thanks."
Andrea. "Ok. Let's leave these guys to Aleta and finally, some quiet time. Its great to see you all together, under one roof where you will be for some time."
Thank you again, Don, Elder Naj.
Don. "You are all very welcome. We will be seeing you soon."
Yes. "Good idea. You all need some space. We will certainly want to hear more about the Ozarks and your travel. We do have story night coming up. Aleta can orient you. One final question, Bevin and Joe. Just curious. How did you choose the names for your kids?"
Joe. "Sure. The short story, Ponca was the name of a small town near where we lived and Beech was the name of a creek that ran through the valley where we lived. Its such a beautiful place."
I see. Is there a long story? But wait. That's good for now. Let's continue our conversation when we can. You are in good hands with Aleta. Please feel at home, relax. Its been quite an adventure for you all."
Glen had the final word. He made strong eye contact with every one as he spoke.
"We appreciate the welcome to Cascadia, the warmth from Don, Andrea, Carol and Eddie and finally, here at Windmill Co-op from Elder Naj and Aleta. We left the Ozarks with no certainty what would happen and now we are so gifted to have this chance to become part of your wonderful community. For all this, we are deeply grateful and blessed."
Andrea and Naj return to the Dome for a semi spontaneous group dinner, whoever showed up.
"So what did you think of that?" Andrea queried. "I didn't know you lived in the Ozarks. Now I understand why you had follow up questions and are really interested to continue the conversation. You seemed a bit withstrained"
"My past, all 88 years of it, covers a lot of ground. You can't imagine all the question I have. Yes, I was withstrained. I could have asked questions for hours."
We were in time to help with dinner at the dome. If you didn't cook anything for the potluck, you could always help put something together in the kitchen. Somebody was in the Dome with an informal shared meal every night. Like most co-ops, it was easy to be social. There were maybe 15 people in the Dome kitchen."
"Well who do we have here? Looks like Misty."
"Elder Jan, so nice to see you! Yes I did and its wonderful to be over here. This is my first meal with you all. And you can help. Where are you coming from?"
"Andrea and I just met the new cluster. Does everyone know Andrea? She is a hospitality volunteer who lives downtown and has helped orient the new cluster. We walked with them to their new place. Aleta is settling them in."
Intros all around. I could see nearby ears turned to hear.
"It was a cordial and brief meeting. Can you imagine, this will be the first time they can feel some stability. They still have more integration to go through if they are to be permanent. They said they have been treated well and are making a lot of adjustments. From the short conversation, we heard a bit of life in the Ozarks, Very intriguing. Sounds a bit tribal. Hunting is an important part of their food sourcing. They mentioned a person called the Traveler who was a sort of shaman, peace keeper, healer, story teller and was a very important local, even regional icon who seems to have been revered by the various groups or tribes in the Ozarks. She seems to have been greatly appreciated for keeping the different groups from attacking each other."
It was Otter, slicing broccoli. He lived in Nasturtiam Cluster, along Horn Lane, a two minute walk from the Dome. Otter was known for his keen interest in culture and social organization both ancient and up to the present. He was always eager to meet people from outside
"Tribal, peace keeping, healer, peace keeper. That sounds something on the primitive side."
"I cant wait to hear what they have to say."
It was Misty.
"Given conditions all over the former United States like geographic setting, previous economy, access to transportation, migration patterns, local intangibles, climate; the potential for variety of Recovery are nearly infinite. There's a reason the Ozarks have turned out the way they did. And this Traveler. I want to know more."
Several of us looked at each other. This was a 17 year old talking like a college grad student. We would be seeing and hearing more from her. And the new cluster, I thought, this looks like a particularly interesting period for Windmill Co-op.