Time for a bloggin,
At this time of 4:12 pm on Friday April 13 I find myself passenger on the north bound motorway heading back to Anahata Community. Strangely naïve, we headed from our new rental home in Point England in the south eastern urban area up to the North Shore at commute time. Its been a hectic and emotionally challenging day. We had our first night in our Normal little house by the Tamaki river-bay. Leaving Anahata, the community where we lived for almost 6 months. Anahata is on 18 acres about 15 km north of Auckland, New Zealand. We landed there after an extensive 4 month tour of both Islands of New Zealand. We had ran out of money and the desire to roam about.
The experience of living ‘in community’ taught my husband and I some very valuable things. The first that comes to mind today is the favourable aspect of the efficiency and “buying power” of group coordinated living. The hard part at Anahata was the wide difference of ambitions, energy output, personal standards and preferences. For example: while almost everyone likes a nice clean, organized and well stocked kitchen, not everyone is willing to put energy into creating and maintaining it. There are meldings of delightful insights, humor, emphatic dogmas and lots of history constantly surging forward and receding like an organism’s grooving undulation. As an extremely controversial (read- scandalous) operation Centerpoint, (the predecessor community of Anahata’s aging site) had a guru/ followers structure going. As a radical response after some sex and drug violations and indictments the next group swung widely the other way and made all of the group decisions by consensus. This arduous method was just too much for the mish mash or to be nicer, miss match of 20 people who lived there. When new ideas or changes were proposed, they needed unanimous approval as defined in the Anahata’s constitution (which I saw observed as a fair-weather document). Needless to say, any opposition could stall them out (even unfounded, hysterical, convoluted or otherwise biased by historical differences between members) could stall them out. The response to this was frustrated obedience, but more likely, various shades of disregarding the rules. When a critical mass of folks in a community do what serves or betters themselves rather than the group plan it really catches on and let the lawless rumpus begin! This was certainly not in the manner of the power drunk lords of Centerpoint, but notably irritating nonetheless. I tallied up my hours of volunteer effort to keep things flowing humanely and deliciously at Anahata and it was an embarrassing martyrly number in the low 20s per week. Anyway, that chapter is closing now. The only dishes Ill be scoffing at are my own. Food I buy for tomorrow’s dinner will not be consumed in an early morning feed with eyes at half mast, dishes left to further mock the miserly cook/shopper. Yes, the transition from Community to private home has its advantages.
It would not be fair of me to fail to mention some of the positive sides of the commune coin. There are moments of spontaneous harmony and levity that coalesce in community living. I have a few that come to mind in reflection on living at Anahata. The day when a coincidental group of us headed down to the walnut trees to collect some nuts is a fond memory. It was a lovely autumn day as seven or so of us wandered down the driveway in offhanded conversation. I felt the hunter-gatherer anticipation rising in me. When we got to the trees, which were at least 25 years old, we began to pick up the nuts that had fallen on large sheets of cloth David had laid down to make the task easier. Not long after the gathering began the lovely and soulful sounds of a bagpipe started up from only a short distance away in a neighbouring park. It was the perfect soundtrack to the impromtu party we were having. There were theories about which nuts to take and which might not be good due to having been on the wet ground around or under the cloths. I tried to conform to the strategies, being a good Aquarian, but soon there were contradictions and any manner and all the nuts were going in the baskets. Such is the way in community. Everyone has an idea that they think is right, even if they are in a quiet war with someone undoing it for their own better way they will keep going with it. I think these contradictory methods get addressed more in a marriage or as roommates, because of the proximity and the small number of people there could be to clarify with. In a community you could really go crazy if you had an eye for efficiency, safety, cleanliness, aesthetics or whatever and you wanted others to see it the same way. I guess that is unless you are the Guru of the operation, in that case, you’d be set!
One other nice thing that happened at Anahata is that I made friends with a Chinese friend’s mother. She came from China for what we thought was to be a short visit and stayed for months. I eventually learned that she was recouperating from breast cancer surgery in the company of her daughter, Tong. Her name is Dao Jung. For a long time I grossly mispronounced her name as Doa Ching- CHING, like a hungry cash register. She never flinched or asked her daughter to clarify her name for me. Now that I think of it, she calls me “Katy” which is a name that people give me, usually to my dismay. It never bothered me that she called me that, either. She adored my little ones and doted on them with hugs and gifts. One night having accepted an invitation to the cocktail realms of Josef’s hut, Jordan and I had left the kids with a video in the library for a short visit up the hill. After a few minutes I got that mother’s intuition nagging at me to check on them. I dashed down the hill to find Lillian inching into a steamy hot bath someone had filling in the bathroom outside our rooms. I turned the water off, collected Lillian and her clothes and decided to search for the person who had been drawing the bath to tell them it was full and I had turned it off. I found Dao Jung and mimed the incident to her. She didn’t have a clue, turns out, since she didn’t even know there was a bathtub at the time. I wonder what she thought I was saying with my gestures. Our communications got much better after that. She taught me to make Chinese dumplings, which are actually quite simple to do. Together, we often became a cooking team. Her diet was quite healthy and very different than the other European diets around her. She ate a rice based breakfast each morning, usually with fresh vegetables and some highly seasoned meats. Spice was a routine element and I’ve come to enjoy the fiery toasted chili and peanuts in oil condiment she favors at almost every meal. As her vocation, Dao Jung was a physician in China, trained under the Communist regime. Lots of people never tried to communicate with Dao Jung since she spoke very little English. What a caring warm soul they missed out on. Once I gave her some green beans Id grown in the garden. I knew she would appreciate the beans for the vegetable they were but also the home grown aspect. I put them on the shelf belonging to Dao Jung and Tong. The shelf was a real museum to a foodie like me, plenty of new ideas and oddities to note. Later that night, I found a lovely dish of Chinese style green beans with some sort of unfamiliar meat, possibly pork belly. It was just delicious. For those of you gasping at the idea of pork belly, RELAX- you’ve probably had it many times, salted and cured or smoked as bacon. Dao Jung also began a steady flow of garments for me over time. Most of them just weren’t ‘me’ but I didn’t have the heart to tell her. I even strategically wore them sometimes in the morning when I was likely to see her. My politeness training can be a little ridicules, I admit. I miss Dao Jung looking from a few days out of the community. Ill have to give her a call and put on one of those silly vests she gave me for a visit.