The Ebb and Flow of Being
on the Plateau
and How the Notes Pull Us Together
The Windward Notes began as a way to stay connected with members of
the community that could not always be on site. In the past
one-and-a-half years, it has been one of the major ways I have stayed
up-to-date with Windward's everyday activities as well as making sure
that my values and those of Windward's continue to align.
The Tough Parts
Arriving, or welcoming returning members, has always felt to me like a
celebration, which is the way it should be. After the greetings are
over, though, different personalities deal with a familiar visitor in
significantly different ways. Some need time to get used to me being
there before being able to fully immerse themselves in my presence,
whereas others easily grab whatever time they can to talk with me.
Others prefer to wait until I find the time to talk with them. Having
but one month, or even one week, to spend with the group, I prefer to
dive right in and reconnect with everyone as soon as possible. I
recognize that it can be quite jarring to a community with established
rhythms to absorb another person into the everyday, even if the visit
is far from a surprise.
Leaving is hard. I am often cheerful when departing, and it only hits
me later that I've left. Why, if leaving is so tough, does visiting
even cross the mind? Why, when I propose a chance to visit, I get
encouragement and hope from others, even though they know it will be
short and they know I'd have to leave? I certainly feel like I am a
branch of the community oak tree, and even if this branch is reaching
far away for light, it is still firmly connected to the core. With
that thought, why leave to begin with?
Funding is always an issue at Windward. One of the reasons that I have
decided to reach further with my branch is because I want viable
alternatives for income that would serve me well both at Windward and
away, for the rest of my life. Although that is one reason, the most
important is that I have a passion to teach that could not immediately
be resolved at Windward, and that is why I departed. My job is not yet
finished, and so I am still away.
Being away does indeed create distance. I feel, however, that distance
and time bring perspective. I am able to see how the community and its
elements have grown with different eyes. Visiting allows me to observe
the development of each person's vision for Windward and to see what
has been accomplished materially towards those goals. I believe that
it is valuable to have someone who believes in the mission, and sees
the visions of what this place could be in the future, keep their
branch out in the rest of the world, encouraging others unrelated to
Windward to see value in what this community does.
As I write this next entry to the Notes, I am sitting at about 9,000
feet in the mountains of Colorado, having recently returned from a
week-long visit to Windward. All this coming and going has got me
thinking about what it means for a community to hold on to a member
who is mostly not there on the plateau, as I have been for the
past 18 months. Is there value in keeping a strong connection with
members who are far away? How much time is worth investing in someone
who will soon depart? Why is coming and going so difficult, and is it
worthwhile? Here are some of my thoughts.
the Gore mountains in the background
Windward's history contains oft-repeated examples of members coming
and going, attempting to connect their lives to Windward while also
remaining well-connected to the rest of the world. Seasonal work
allowed members to leave for several months to produce income or learn
new skills, then return to the plateau during parts of the year. For
the explorers, the come-and-goers, this is a viable option for life at
Windward, but it is important that the community be able to let go and
reabsorb each traveling member as they disappear and reappear. What
are ways that communities can do that effectively?
It is important to me as a branch of the oak to bring something back
each time. I am not certain that I have been able to do that so far,
but my goal in the future is to be able to bring a skill or some
useful knowledge that would drive Windward's systems farther forward.
In the meantime, I have to know what Windward needs, and so we come
back to these Notes. They help connect Windward to its roving
branches, allowing for its members to come and go, teach and learn.
This is why they are important to me in my travels.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71