Notes from Windward: #68


Second Impressions

Andrew revisits his first impressions of Windward

     When I first arrived at Windward I was a blank slate. From reading the impressions of other interns who were surprised at Windward I knew I should hold no prejudices or preconceptions. I must admit, I was taken back by the amount of stuff that appeared to be lying around, and all the projects in progress. Chaotic and unpredictable, this was my first impression. Ruffled edges can put a person off, but I was intrigued.

     There is a kind of eloquence to this place, like an old tom cat who has seen many scuffles; proud and determined, but also humble and street smart. I have come to love the atmosphere: chaotic, unpredictable, and at the same time principled and peaceful, just like nature. Things here move at an organic pace with nothing hurried or contrived. Every day is invented as it happens. Daily activities are directed by what opportunities lie in the moment, whether that be storing away firewood for winter before the rains set in, or harvesting 100 gallons of windfall apples before they rot. In this way, future needs are taken care of when they are most available instead of waiting until survival depends on it. These aspects reflect deep truths about the nature of sustainability.


     Like a sage meditating in the wilderness with matted hair and a soiled robe, his physical appearance is shocking at first, but it is his wisdom that draws people to wander the forest looking for him. It is in Windward's unconventional appearance and disposition that its true beauty and wisdom emerges.

     Like a turtle walking from one end of an island to another; it moves no faster than need be. Although others might perceive it wandering without aim, it knows exactly where it's headed. Stick around long enough and you will see. When approached by antagonistic forces it retreats into its shell to wait out the danger. Resuming its journey only when it is sure it can be managed safely.

     Windward's shell is its home, its land and resources, the buildings and the knowledge that built them, its sense of belonging, friendship and camaraderie, love shared between its members, its open heart and mind. Like the turtle on the island, it is a peaceful creature without ill intention; secure in itself, no offense but a strong defense; the home which it carries with it. An opportunistic creature, yet never taking more than its habitat can handle. Calm and deliberate, for it knows there's no sense in hurrying when all will be accomplished in time. When no urgency exists the extra energy exerted to finish early is a waste of a valuable resource, the worth of which is measured by its limited supply. Life is too precious to waste. The members of Windward know that the essential preciousness of all life is that it is fragile and short. The wounds from learning this fact can be seen in the members' eyes, in its history, and in its search for the next generation of stewards.

     The goals of Windward are grand; perhaps arrogant and audacious as well. To manifest a sustainable alternative to a patriarchal, egotistical, species-centric, consumer-oriented and profit-driven society. To provide food, water, clothing, shelter, energy and fuel without need of a money economy, or the officious governments required to maintain them. To imagine and create a community that operates on love, compassion, communication. To do all this peacefully and in harmonious balance with the workings of natural systems.

     Is this too much for one community? Can Windward succeed where so many others have failed?

     It is a choice between the old and destructive forces that hold so much sway in the world today, and an emerging consciousness that recognizes humanity's place within the natural world: not as conqueror but as companion in the project of creation; connected to all life; part of a singular existence; steward and lover of nature. It helps that Windward is not alone in its dreams. We recognize that we cannot do it alone. To last, Windward cannot remain a closed society, but must endeavor to foster lasting connections with existing and emerging communities, and welcome those who have something to bring to this grand and precarious project.

     What I feel the world needs more than anything else is a model that they can believe in. Windward is doing this by reawakening communitarian social structures that embrace healthy human relationships toward each other and toward nature. Windward is such a model of people coming together with common purpose, addressing the necessities of human life with honesty and communication, hard work and cooperation with nature.

     I have come across a definition of wisdom that claims it to be a combination of intelligence, experience, and reflection. The history of Windward and its members displays a superior synergy of these qualities. At the base there is a scholarly approach to life which stresses the importance of understanding history, science, technology and social theories. This intelligence is paired with the continued experience of testing ideas of sustainable production and social organization. These two things are well and good, but without the third element, they fall short of wisdom. By reflecting on experience, with knowledge of nature and the shortcomings of history, Windward has been able to avoid ruin on a number of occasions. By recognizing and adapting to failures, Windward stands the only chance of preventing them from occurring again.

     With any luck, Windward will effectively pass its wisdom to a new generation of stewards; through its Bylaws, documenting its decisions, through the Windward Notes, and through a daily oral exchange of knowledge. It is our hope that the wisdom will transcend Windward's boundaries and go on to effect change in the world.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68