life in community

cohousing , life in community

26 women, aged 50-87, the Older Women’s Cohousing group, will this week take possession of a block of 25 newly built flats in Union Street, High Barnet. Together they will form a self-managing community, based on the shared values of neighbourliness and mutual support. A mix of home-owners and social renters, they want to act as a demonstration project to encourage other older people to plan their later lives and develop similar initiatives.

Having lived mostly alone all over London and beyond, these independent minded women have met regularly to develop their own mini-neighbourhood in High Barnet, design their building and plan their future together. Some OWCH members are still working and others have long retired - many from the public sector. Aware that advancing old age can mean increased frailty and possible isolation and loneliness, they have joined forces to plan ahead. Most of all, they want to stay in charge of their own lives. They also want a lively mix of sociability and shared activity plus clear boundaries for personal space and a private life. They intend to look out for each other and share resources as well as reach out to their locality. One of the earliest actions they plan is to invite the whole street in for coffee to see the building that has been under construction, causing inconvenience for a considerable time. They intend to enjoy becoming known as the pioneers of the country’s first ever senior cohousing community, establishing here what has been a feature of Dutch and Scandinavian life for decades. More here, http://www.owch.org.uk/

art , cohousing , life in community , news

Congratulations to Ted who had his photograph of the Great Oak West node featured as part of The View From Your Window — click on the picture below to see the feature.

annarbormi830am

life in community , news

this Saturday, June 7, 2008, from 9am to 3pm is the combined Touchstone/Great Oak yard sale! Directions are on our location page.

life in community , meals

Passover crowdOver the years, a number of wonderful traditions have been established at Great Oak: the GO anniversary/Valentine’s party, July fireworks, late summer bonfires, and what has become my personal favorite — the Great Oak Seder. I no longer remember what inspired Rachel, Tom and me to organize the first one, but it was such a fun event that we’ve done it every year since.The first seder was a relatively simple affair on some levels — although Rachel, Tom, Bonnie (Rachel’s mom) and I did much of the cooking, other GO’ers volunteered to make some of the traditional dishes. As many had never had these foods, let alone cooked them (or shopped for ingredients that were kosher for Passover), it was quite the learning experience!

The evening began with an introduction to a key Passover ritual — the reading of the Haggadah. In a moment of insane inspiration, Rachel, Tom and I decided at the semi-last minute to write our own haggadah. Interweaving English and Hebrew, prose, poetry, songs, and (amazingly) a brief play, the Great Oak Haggadah (and its musical supplement) was the first introduction many had to the Passover story and to a second key Passover ritual — eagerly eyeing the food while becoming overcome by the sinking feeling that it would be hours before one would actually eat.

Thinking back to that first year, I’m somewhat amazed that we ever decided to do it again. But we have! And, for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me, things have gotten more elaborate each year. (And more and more people participate — we had 91 attendees this year!)
Over time, our Haggadah has become more polished (well, at least I’d like to think so!). My annual revision process (writing parts of the text and integrating pieces from a wide range of published and unpublished sources) has deepened my own awareness of the meaning of this holiday. I think, too, that varying the text has served to keep folks more interested — there’s usually at least 2 sections that have been substantially revised.
And, in keeping with the Jewish tradition that we should continue to find new meaning in the story of Passover, we try to bring the story alive in new ways. This year, through the combined efforts of a lot of folks, we did a musical puppet show. It was a crazy amount of work but I think it was well worth it — adults and kids all seemed to enjoy it a lot.

Friends are gathered round, tonight we’ll stay up later
Because there is no greater than the Great Oak Seder

Moses, Laird, and Pharaoh discuss conflict resolution Miriam sings

cohousing , life in community

Parenting is a complex, difficult and harshly judged affair. Being a new parent is to be full of self-doubt and anxiety (at least it was for me). I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement for parenting in cohousing than this cheeky article:

My idea of childcare is a large field. At one side is a marquee
serving local ales. This is where the parents gather. On the other
side, somewhere in the distance, the children play. I don’t
bother them and they don’t bother me. I give them as much
freedom as possible.

Maybe cohousing isn’t all that in the specifics, but Great Oak (apart from the darkest and coldest winter stretches) is certainly about as close to that that I’ve seen in my, admittedly limited, parenting years.

life in community , meals , news

Any occasion to have a celebration/party/special meal and associated festivities is welcomed at Great Oak. For the first time, we celebrated Diwali with a catered Indian meal, sparklers for the kids followed by Bhangra dancing (lessons provided). The Common House dining room was decorated for the occasion with silk saris and rangoli. Click on the image below for more pictures of the occasion. Although the proceedings were much more modest than our annual Passover Seder we have grander ambitions for 2008!

IMG_6544
(note the hanging saris on the wall along with the rangoli)

art , cohousing , life in community , music , news , performances

Great Oak just celebrated its 5th anniversary with a fabulous talent show and party!

Great Oak 2007 Anniversary

We  had music, dancing, snakes, dragons, grape-hoarding, band-name unveiling, storytelling, stage-shyness, anti-art and much, much more!

life in community , news

Winter has been kind to us this year! Up to mid-January we had temperatures in the high 30s, 40s and low 50s. Then, when it did get cold and gloomy it got icy. I mean EVERYTHING got icy. Here are some picture of OUR FROZEN WORLD…

 

  click here for more pics…

life in community , news , performances

The game room in the Great Oak Common House has a large wall used as a projection screen;

Great Oak Common House Game Room with Movie screen Great Oak Movie night album Great Oak Movie night album
it is painted with screen-goo which is a

specially formatted, highly reflective acrylic paint, designed specifically for the video projection industry. Screen Goo acrylic paint allows one to transform any smooth paintable surface into a high performance projection screen.

Combined with a LCD projector, DVD player and some speakers, we have a very enjoyable, community, movie experience periodically. The movies have ranged from a “Portrait of Andy Goldsworthy, an artist whose specialty is ephemeral sculptures made from elements of nature.” in Rivers and Tides to The Adventures of Robin Hood with Erol Flynn and Apollo 13 and to a Bollywood favorite, Dil Chahta hai, that was accompanied with popcorn flavored with chat masala and samosas as a snack during intermission as part of a member’s birthday celebration!

Most recently, it was Groundhog Day, albeit a bit early for Spring, but hope springs eternal!

life in community , news

Mary & Carl’s 4th New Year’s Day Euchre Tournament - and the 2nd held at Great Oak.

Twenty-four people including Great Oak family and friends, Touchstoners, (mostly the entire Rolka family, minus Chet who was sleeping) enjoyed four rounds of friendly competition.

Potluck snacks included the generous and delicious left overs from the Epicuria new Year’s Eve party.

The youngest participant was Mary’s 12 year old nephew Jordan, and the oldest was Sarah’s mom, Gail, (who is noticeably older than Jordan).

Almost half the participants were first time players!

Carl Hanna dominated the score board with a perfect 40! Lisa placed a respectable second with 38. Jim Sweeton brought up the rear with a total of 16 points.

Prizes, (and we use the term loosely, here), were distributed in a White Elephant exchange. The low scorer, (that would be Jim Sweeton) was the first to open his mystery gift. Subsequent rounds of gift opening included the option to snatch a gift from anyone with a lower score, (that would be Jim Sweeton).

Thanks to all who participated, especially Sarah and others who helped with set-up and clean up.

The Beginner's table.

To see more photos click here.

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