Easter at Common Ground

This is a selection of journal writing while at Common Ground over the past few days.

The weekend at Common Ground started with a Grief Ritual. It was a big part of the reason I went there, to express the feelings I’ve had building from learning about climate change and peak oil. It was held in the Octagon, one of the first permanent structures built on the site. There was a circle of pillows, with a centre decorated with a chain and foliage. There were about 20 of us, including a handful of children. Each person was given an opportunity to share some of the things in the world that were upsetting them. People spoke of all sorts of issues, East Timor, those imprisoned, Refugees, single moms etc. I was surprise at how few people mentioned environmental issues. The kids spoke of poverty and parenting issues, it was quite touching.

Next we all bundled up and went to a camp fire at the top of the hill. Each person carried a candle in one hand, and held on to a part of the chain with the other. As we walked up the hill, I thought, the pace is so slow! How akin to my sentiment about changes in responses to the issue which I feel so grievous of. We’re not going fast enough to ameliorate climate change! I saw Charlie, the resident kangaroo, and thought, ‘they will adapt and survive, the earth will survive,’ I saw a rock with a large patch of lichen and it affirmed my thought that the earth will survive.

Once we got to the top of the hill I was ever watchful for any sparks from the fire that may ignite the dry bushland around us. Ever vigilant of the needs of the greater good, leaving me less energy to pay attention to the task at hand. Thankfully I was able to focus on the second part of the ritual adequately enough to enjoy it. I have been looking forward to this chance to release some of my grief about the world. It was a good start, I look forward to more opportunities to let that stuff go…

In the ritual I was aware that I was holding back my emotions, not blocking them but not expressing them fully despite how teary i was. I was in an environment where I hardly new the people, some I’d met a few times, many I’d only just met. At another ritual I may feel more comfortable, more entitled to express the grief and sadness. I was surprised that when it came to my turn to speak that I didn’t spill out all over, that I could say what I did calmly and without tears. In some ways I was disappointed. I really wanted to just let it all go, have a big cathartic release but it didn’t happen. That’s ok, I have time for that. But part of me wants to just get it out, release it so I don’t have to carry it any more, so it doesn’t influence my life the way it does. After the ritual a woman spoke to me about a stillness in action workshop and a climate and peak oil study group that would also be opportunities for dealing with this stuff in a way that acknowledges and expresses the greif.

Saturday, March 26, 2005
A Day of Work
You know you’re a city slicker when the exhaustion of a day of work outside in the garden and making fire wood, really feels good and you look forward to the sleep you’ll get that night because it’s likely to be the best sleep you’ve had in ages. That’s how it feels now. It was a leisurely morning but the afternoon was full of very satisfying hard work. After picking a few of the biggest apples on the trees with Madi (age 7), I went up to split some wood but there were already three guys doing that so I helped unload the wood from the trailer, then Aaron and I went over to get the saw hooked up to the tractor motor. I spent most of the time pulling nails out of the wood to make it safe to put thru the saw. It was me and Aaron and Kate, so after a while I felt brave enuf to try it, reminded me of when I used the circular saw to make my loft bed. Damn I miss that bed. Anyway, I spent a fair bit of time putting wood thru the saw, it felt good, felt worthwhile and great to use my body. Not the same kind of satisfaction or value from domestic chores, funny that. Feels more important to do the more physical work, don’t like that it feels that way, feels like I’ve succumbed to the values of patriarchy. Tho it’s hard not to when you live in a patriarchal society. I really like the people here tho, they don’t seem to subscribe to those mainstream values much. Really refreshing!

So after the saw, me and Robbie went down to the garden to make some beds of hay for broad beans to re-nitrogenate the soil after corn he’d been growing there. There were a lot of rocks and I was a bit worried about my back. We got one bed done and Robbie figured it was time to call it a day, which was fine by me, I could have pushed it and kept working but I’d have been so nackered by the end of it. I went back up to my room and had a shower and then crashed out for about an hour I think. I was wiped! The sunrise celebratory ritual is tomorrow at dawn so I’m happy to get to bed early and will sleep well.

Sunday, March 27, 2005
Blood Sweat and Tears (and babies)

I got a good scrape on my leg moving branches from a tree on to the back of the truck, an f150. Something strangely comforting about those big beasts, and this was certainly a big old beast. A real work truck, beaten, worn, rusty and mangled. Despite the nasty emissions there’s something about it you had to admire. Not to mention reminding me of when I was dating George Anderson in Vernon BC. It was the truck of choice by locals (read: rednecks), tho George had a Trans Am that he loved about as much as my dad loves his BMW.

Anyway back to the gash, it was enough to feel sore but not enuf to slow me down. I still hauled big branches into the truck bed, piled high, I think I earned some respect with the guys, tho it was my shoulder that slowed me down, I could still work pretty hard. Enough to make me sweaty and glad for a drink afterward. It was one of the few times I could understand what it means to be keen for a beer at the end of a job, and dry cider was just what the doctor ordered. I didn’t even wash my hands, dress my wound or change my clothes, I just wanted a cool refreshing beverage to take the edge off. It did the job.

The morning was a rare observation of the dawn, the Ritual of Hope at sunrise. I actually got up and out of bed in time to participate. And tho it was about celebrating symbols of hope, I shed a tear or three. Robbie’s genuine sadness at the impact he sees of young men who don’t realize their dream (as he has by living here) and the hurt they cause themselves and others. And of his acknowledgement and appreciation of his mom was beautiful. She’s the one who gave me the wake up call. I’ve really enjoyed her and all the older women who are connected here. Almost like I’ve begun to build my ‘patchwork mom’ (a assortment of older women who collectively satisfy our needs for a mother figure). It’s actually really nice to be around so many middle aged women, and that are primarily activists of the social change, environmental or spiritual type. It’s been such a treat to be around so many people who know so much about the issues here in oz and globally! And that are working in the vein of Joanna Macy’s work! (I’m considering doing the Stillness in Action workshop in May, it’s here at CG too.)

I’ve also enjoyed Aaron and Chelsea and their cuter than cute baby, Delilah. Aaron has been really good at including me and especially with the physical tasks. Not even hesitating to ask if I want to participate in the muscle stuff or batting an eyelash when I broke a nail hauling branches on to the back of the truck. And it’s been good to talk with him about political and climate change/energy stuff. Chelsea is also really intelligent and great to talk to, she spoke of Delilah as her hope for the world and tho I rarely resonate with that sentiment, I found myself agreeing with what she was saying and spoke with her after about how it had influenced my (usual lack of) desire to procreate. I love being around babies, and tho it doesn’t mean I will actually have one of my own, I could imagine the possibility more clearly. It seems Common Ground would be a great place to be in community to raise a child, and to have support around to do so. Could I do it with my fantasy family of a woman partner and gay father of the child? Doubtful but not impossible, as I told Chelsea earlier, I’ve learned never so say never.

i got it!

I got the job at Village Well!

I got the call just before 10 am, 5 hours before the position even closed! I was SO happy! I phoned my dad first to let him know, then i tired to get in touch with Janine from VAADA, she was in meetings all morning so i sent her a text message and said i’d follow up with a phone call after she got out of her meetings. When i called back later on, she was in meetings again, so I left a message. I’ll follow up with her next week to thank her for the offer and for her flexibility.

To top it off, i got a call less than two hours later from the Environmental Protection Agency of Victoria (the State) for an interview for a policy position i applied for! Yup, i’m on FIRE! I thanked them for shortlisting me but that i’d just accepted a position with Village Well, did that ever feel good!

I found out from a third party that infact Village Well and Village Green dont really like eachother at this stage, sounds like the split was not too long ago, tho at least a year i think. So i feel less good about letting Doug know that Village Well has scooped me. But it’s not my stuff, and i don’t intend to take it on. Just good to be aware of and will inform the level of diplomacy i will use in breaking the news to Doug from Village Green.

There’s always drama in some facet of things! Regardless, my job search is OVER! and i’ll be stoked to hand in my last form with Centrelink and tell them i will no longer be needing thier assistance! Will feel SO good to earn some decent money! I’m pretty keen to get a bicycle, likely with my first pay check.

Earning money will also create a different dynamic living with my dad too. I’ll be able to contribute to living expenses and buy the groceries. There have been good things about not having much money, i’ve been less of a consumer, and more scrupulous when i do spend money. It’s easier to stick to my low impact principles with not much to spend, but thinking about getting a laptop and more clothes to work in, shoes, a jacket, a hair cut!!! etc… I will have to be mindful of remaining conscientious of my consumer power and curb those frivolous desires.

I will treat myself but will remind myself that making a lower impact purchse will feel better in the long term and have better long term effects in terms of sustainability. It’s so annoying that living in a consumer culture and mass marketing leave me with the idea that retail therapy is effective, i KNOW better but the thought is still there. It’s interesting to be in this position of coming from recieving benefits (limited income- tho much more than Canada) from the state and having modest consumer power, to becoming gainfully employed. It remains to be seen what it will be like to live in a place where the cost of living is higher than what i’m used to.

Eventually i’ll want to find a new place to live. I am in no rush because living with dad is not bad at all, we get along pretty good and having NVC as a tool for communication has been incredible! So i’ll take my time finding a queer friendly, sustainability oriented, communal living space that ideally has a cat, a garden and broadband internet! That’ll be my next quest. But first, i’ll be getting to know my new job, my new co-workers, my new employer and the progam i’ll be managing!

it's raining jobs!

I have been in Australia for three and a half months. I have not worked since September 30th, that’s more than 5 months! Since i started looking for work in Melbourne i’ve applied for nearly 30 jobs. I didn’t even get an interview until 6 weeks after i started applying for work. I’ve only had two interviews for jobs that have been posted.
First for a project manager position at the National Centre for Sustainability and second for a Walking Projects Coordinator position with the Shire of Melton, (suburban hell) for which i was not nearly as excited about as the first job i interviewed for.

I began to volunteer to get some local experience and it worked. After offering my volunteer management skills to the Sustainable Living Foundation’s Festival Volunteer Coordinator (who was only paid 2 days a week for less than two months!) my skill was evident to whole lot of people and i got lots of nice kudos at the end of the three day festival.

The fesitval’s site manager called me the following week to ask me to do some stage managing (people management focused, not technical) for the Melbourne Comedy Festival just a few days on weekends starting April 1st (rather fitting!) I I haven’t quite done that before, but he figured i could do it based on what he saw at the festival. I’m certainly not going to say no to paid work!

When i went back to SLF to update the volunteer database i’d created for them, Leo, the volunteer coordinator, who also works (the other three days a week prior to the festival and now full time) at the Environmental Jobs Network, that’s right next to SLF in a building in East Melblourne (right across from Fitzroy Gardens that i walk thru to get from Parliament Station to the building that houses both SLF and EJN, I realized and actually remembered that its’ the park i went to a Teddy Bear’s Picnic at when i was probably 4 years old!) So Leo was aware of my skill with databases and told me there might be a few days of work for me with the Environmental Jobs Network just doing data analysis to help them get finshed a project on time. That started this monday.

There’s a great website i’ve been looking at for community job postings on that also has an opportunity for job seekers to post thier resume’s, i didn’t expect any response but i got three! One from a multi level marketing company 😛 one just today from a casual work service that allows you to put a “work wanted” poster on their web page, and finally from an organization called the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association who was looking for someone to do some Event and Program Management for them. I had a fairly informal interview with them last week and discovered that they are an organization in transition and have recently had some staff turn over, so the person who’s heading up the org has only been there three weeks and transition seems to be a big theme for them right now.

On friday i got an email from Village Green, a small environmental management comapny and one of the exhibitors from the Sustainable Living Festival that i introduced my self to and sent my resume to following the festival. They wanted to meet with me on monday to interview for an upcoming project, i was working at the Environmental Jobs Network that day so sent a response asking if later in the week could work. When i got to EJN on Monday, it turned out that i could only work for a couple of hours because the database with the survey responses hadn’t yet been sent to EJN so i rang Doug at Village Green and said i was in fact available that afternoon so planned to meet him at 2pm.

While i was on my way there, Janine from VAADA called to offer me a three month, 4 day a week, $42 K p.a. pro rata contract with potential extension. PHEW! I told her i was interested and was going into an interview and could i come by the office to get more info and see the space once i was done with the interview with Village Green, so made plans to do that.

I arrived early at Ross House in Flinders Lane, where Village Green and a wide range of not-for-profit’s and a few progressive businesses reside, similar to the Central Building 620 View St (aka the Save the World Building) in Victoria BC. Another organization doing similar work, with a similar name (and as i found out later similar origins) called Village Well also resides in Ross House and also recieved an introduction and resume from me as a result of SLF.

Village Well had posted a position in the paper, it’s for Program Manager of a Green Streets project. So before i went to talk to Doug at Village Green I went up to the 4th floor of Ross House to see if i could connect with Gilbert at Village Well, he wasn’t there so i left a note about wanting to connect again after having introduced myself and sent a resume, as well as going to talk to Doug at Village Green and the contract at VAADA being offered and hoping to connect with him about their green streets position to help me make a more informed decision. I didn’t expect much but thougth it was worth a try.

I had a great conversation/interview with Doug, he told me about Village Green, a bit of it’s history, it’s work, it’s pilot project on Smith Street, etc, he seemed very interested in my skills and i wanted to be very upfront with him about my situation with VAADA. Sussed him out in terms of the options and implications of my potentially accepting the contract with VAADA. The project he has me in mind for wont’ be confirmed for a couple of weeks and said that there was potential to start part time, so possibly do both. That was reasuring, tho added a bit of complexity to my decision. I felt good about it all when i left Village Green and went to VAADA to see the space and talk to Janine.

VAADA’s office is in the first block of smith street, a cool area but it’s an old converted house with lots of space, few people, big gray walls, minimal connectivity and a bit of a sparse feel to it. Janine spoke about potentially moving the office or at least doing something about the gray walls! I was clear and open with her about my situation, she was very understanding and flexible we talked more about the work she had for me and the opportunities if things work out, assuming i stay on with them, for the work to be tailored to my interests. Like if i’m keen to learn about policy and advocacy or webdesign and data management, there’d be space and potentially resources for training for me to do that! That’s an attractive incentive!

She suggested a start date of two weeks and i told her i was available to start next week if that was easier for her. So at the end of our conversation, i told Janine that the idea of working for them felt good and that i’d like to accept tentatively and contact her in the morning.

When i was at my grandma’s with my dad that night, (last night) i got a call from Armadis who works with Gilbert at Village Well saying they loved my resume and wanted me to come in for an interview! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Can you say complication factor to the power of 2!!?????!!!!!!!! We planned to meet on Friday morning but then she called this morning with an idea to meet at 5:30 pm today!

SO! I told Janine that i didn’t feel any differently about the contract offer but that i had another unexpected interview this afternoon and could i contact her tomorrow? Thankfully she was fine with that. After working on data analysis all day at EJN i went back to Ross House and interviewed for the Program Manager position of the Green Streets’ program with Village Well!

Village Well feels like home, is colourful, creative, holistic, innovative and hugely values based. It feels like a place I could be open about who I am without fear of that uncomfortable silence and the assumptions that follow. In comparison to the other one and a half offers I feel like it is a way better fit in so many ways. They are closing the position at the end of the week and are interviewing a few others before they make a decision. So where does that leave me with VAADA? Do I tell them I won’t be able to make a decision till Monday? Do I accept, being that it’s the only firm offer on the table, (and well paying at that!) and hope that I get an offer from Village Well before I start at VAADA? I want to approach this situation with integrity and be clear and open with both VAADA and Village Green. I feel ok about telling Doug from Village Green that I have interviewed for the position advertised by Village Well and that I feel hopeful about that job and will wait to hear from both “village” organizations and in the mean time have put off my decision to accept the VAADA contract. Yeah, that sounds good.

When it rains, it pours! I’m just beside myself and simultaneously tickeld when i think of this situation after such drought in my job search till now! I feel more confident and strong in my skills and it’s sure nice to be so sought after! WOW! I really hope it pans out with Village Well! It’s such a great organization, it’s a really good match for my personal and career goals. Crossing my fingers!

I hope VAADA can wait till the end of the week or Monday for me to decide, if not, i don’t know what i’ll do. I’ll have to fret and ponder and cogitate some more. I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: Thankfuly Janine is generously flexible and willing to wait till friday for my decision. I’ll find out at 3pm, if i dont’ get the job with Village Well, i’ll start with VAADA on monday. Wish me luck!

Celebrating Destruction

(disclaimer: this was written as a catharsis of my feelings of despair at the time, i have not imposed political correctness on my imagination and some judgemental sentiments arose. forgive me, i am human.)

Thousands of Melbournians flocked to Albert Park to witness the excitement as kilogram after kilogram of carbon dioxide was shamelessly pumped into the overcast skies by the super fuel burning formula one racing machines who sped around the track, in circles, over and over and over… The Grand Prix is big business in Melbourne and Australia, used to sell everything from motor oil to ice cream. Scores of race fans sold thier bodies and souls to the worship of car culture, speed and ultimately and unknowlingly, human and ecological demise. Ferarri hats, jakets, t-shirts and bags made for a sea of red and white as i took the train home from a celebration of international womens’ day at CERES environment park. The rest of the world rushed in painfully as we left the park property. As i changed trains i became innundated by the fossil fuel fanatics returning from the big race.

I saw a young man in his twenties carrying a large toy car, all new and shiny in it’s box. The look of dismay and disapproval on my face must have been evidant as he began to look less proud of his big boy toy. Could he recapture the dream and excitement of the race by playing with his remote controlled car in the parking lot of his housing complex? Will he continue to pump gas for minimum wage and continue to fantasize about the ferarri he’ll never be able to afford? At least he’ll continue to use public transport while he wishes he didn’t have to but because it’s the form of transport that’s most accesible to him.

I’m not sure why i felt so deeply sad as i got home, was it a crying jag born of loneliness, or hopelessness? Was it from the display of people so bent on harming our global ecological system, our air, our life? The masses of ignorant asses finding joy in something i find so abhorent? Or maybe the feeling of isolation, of being such an invisible dissident, the frustration of knowing i cant’ change thier minds, that they’re just gona continue to sit infront of thier TVs and be fed the dream that has put us in such peril. Will i be saying “see! i told you!” when the storms become so frequent that more time will be spent catching upand cleaning up from the disastrous down time than making money from so called ‘progress’? When earthquakes and disease, the wrath of mother nature, begin to curb our population when we couldn’t achieve sustainability our selves will we begin to revere the life on the planet as integral to our own survival, realizing we are not separate or better than the other life forms, and that we have soiled our nest, and the nests of every other living being. Will we wake up when it’s too late? This i fear is the deep seated pain that sprung to the surface today when i got home.