Notes from Windward: #71


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.

Oana teaching

     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 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.

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