Magali and Frank, an Explorer couple from New York, paid us a visit last week. It was a great excuse to have a party. We met in Cathy’s lovely backyard in midtown Sacramento. So wonderful to be able to meet in person again sharing food, laughter and interesting conversation.
Here are some glimpses of our gathering:
Others who were there but not captured by our photographer include Scott & Lisa, Barb, Stu P, Anne, and John.
Our community enthusiastically welcomes Carol, John and Nancy, our 2 most recent member households. Carol, a California native, has spent the last 20 years in Flagstaff, AZ. In May she followed her friend Bea and joined Washington Commons. (Bea joined us in April.) John and Nancy (Carol's sister), also California natives currently living in San Francisco, followed Carol's lead and joined us on the same day in May. Friends, family and community are priorities for Carol, John, Nancy and Bea which they can manifest at Washington Commons.
Diversity in cohousing is not a new topic, but it is a conversation that is increasingly at the forefront of forming communities as the discussion has grown nationally in all aspects of contemporary life. This subject is not easy to approach, it requires lots of unlearning, listening, and often times uncomfortable introspection. It is not a topic that we can decipher alone, and takes the coming together of various groups and demographics to begin to understand the root of the problem, and how we can affect change in our own lives and communities.
Here at Washington Commons we have enlisted the help of Dr. Stacie Walton, better known as the Diversity Doctor, to learn how we can better create a welcomingly diverse community environment.
In our first meeting with Stacie, she emphasized intention and action. She queried us as to what results we really want. This led us to creating an action plan which we are now implementing. This plan includes strategically redesigning our website, initiating a list of organizations in our community that we can work with and share our message with such as the black Chamber of Commerce, the urban league and various service organizations. We are working to outline economic options for first time homebuyers and others with limited financial resources. We set up to focus groups to query in a neutral environment people of color who had participated in past site tours to learn whether our processes had could be improved.
"I personally think the most powerful thing that Stacie did for us was to engage us in a way that mobilized our intention. We have been desiring this but without any sense of efficacy. Stacie gave us the sense that we really could make a difference. That even small things could make a difference. She is also working with us on the topic of healing, resulting in profound realizations. I desire diversity, and my intention is to be welcoming. But, I have, in effect, a counter intention that and that is “Why would any people of color want to be with us? Why after all we as a culture have done to them?” I’m working on healing this and making myself truly open to engaging with people of color who I’m learning are very excited about engaging with us."
- Anne Geraghty, Washington Commons Community Member
We continue to work every day to create a more welcoming and diverse environment. We are listening, learning, and unlearning. With the guidance of Dr. Stacie Walton we feel like we are beginning to fully embody our mission statement: "Our daring effort to live well with care for each other and the environment, learn from each other, respect our differences, and make great community decisions."
Thanks for reading.
We are thrilled to introduce our two newest members who both share a history of cohousing and Sacramento. Bea, joining us from Flagstaff, was a resident of N Street Cohousing in Davis many years ago. Cathy, joining us from Sacramento, was involved in the formation of Southside Cohousing in Sacramento and is excited to be joining our community.
N Street Cohousing in Davis was my home for part of that time and I’m grateful to my friends there who taught me the joy and rewards of community living.
Washington Commons is now affording me the opportunity to come “home”. My heart has longed to be back among friends, water, fabulous bird watching locations and gorgeously blooming gardens in Sacramento. Living almost beside the Sacramento River, but steps from the Capitol, restaurants, arenas and with my new family at Washington Commons is my heart’s desire. Sharing much of daily life while having my own private home will be icing on my cake.”
I am a retired clinical social worker writing a book about my work with veterans at the VA, which was terrific, and VA mental health policy, which needs improvement. When I’m not writing I enjoy gardening, music, and the Sierra Nevada to ski, hike, and camp. I’m looking forward to the possibility of visiting some wineries with other members, having buddies to cycle our American River Bike Trail and sail at Lake Washington Sailing Club, just ten minutes from Washington Commons. It’s hard to beat an evening sail when the Delta breeze kicks in after a hot summer day in Sacramento."
WELCOME Bea and Cathy, it is a joy to be creating community together!
According to Erik's research, the hallmark of projects that succeed in creating cohesive community is ‘connection-centric design’. Erik identifies 2 types of connection-centric design: Overt and Covert. Overt design is represented in the physical features that create intentional engagement with your neighbors such as the common house, dining room, commercial kitchen, and guest and reception spaces. These are spaces which feature planned events such as community meals and meetings. Overt design facilitates intentional bonding.
Covert design elements, by contrast, are those design features that result in incidental bonding among community members. They don’t require community planning or intention to be effective. They work continuously, affect everyone, go unnoticed and don’t create undue annoyance.
What are these “Covert” design elements?
Erik left us with the sense of how beautifully our community is designed – both for planned events and unplanned, magical connections. Thank you Erik!
“Joyous!” was how longtime cyclist and member Stu P. described the March 20 biking and social event.
Arlete Hodel of SABA led Washington Commoners on their 2nd bike event of the year, this time a city tour of West Sacramento. The large group included people from New Hampshire, Oakland, Walnut Creek, Cloverdale and Modesto, as well as the locals from Sacramento and Yolo counties. It also included 4 current explorers and one former explorer who decided to renew her Explorer status after the event. Two co-housing enthusiasts (future Explorers?) also joined the group at the Treehouse Cafe for food, drink and socializing after the ride.
The tour visited the closest of the Three Sisters' urban farms where peas, chard, lettuce and carrots were thriving and the weeds were non-existent! An additional highlight was bicycling on the Clarksburg Branch Line Trail. When we returned to the Treehouse Cafe everyone was treated to more fruits of the Central Valley; member Becky shared her labor of love; Kumquat marmalade.
Many of the newer members and explorers were meeting the long-term members in person for the first time, and even the long-timers did not recognize the faces they had been seeing on Zoom for the past year behind their masks! It was a fun event, nurturing on all levels this unique gathering of individuals that wants to know their neighbors and build community together.
“Arlete, thank you so much for sharing your biking expertise and wisdom with our group! Even before we mounted our bikes, she performed a safety check. She brought 2 sweepers, always thinking of our safety. And she provided safety tips at the onset and along the way. She led us on a delightful tour, we had a great time, perfect weather and a truly perfect day!” -Pam
First stop on the tour was at the closest of the Three Sisters urban farms where peas, chard, lettuce, and carrots were thriving and the weeds were non-existent
“It was a great experience to learn about and ride the quiet and beautiful bike paths in West Sacramento. Knowing I can ride my bike to nature, recreation, and shopping made me feel hopeful about being less dependent on my car.” -Lisa
“It felt so good to be riding a bike again. I’m looking forward to lots of bicycling adventures with my new Washington Commons friends.”
"One of the many joys of bike riding is all the aromas.... jasmine, newly mown grass, food cooking, fabric softener from someone's dryer, then there's all the different sounds!” -Jae
“It was heartwarming to finally be able to see members of my new community in person, many for the first time. And at a cafe right next to our site! Let's do it again soon!” -Catherine
When we returned to the Treehouse Cafe everyone was treated to more fruits of the Central Valley; member Becky shared her labor of love, Kumquat marmalade.
“I enjoy making kumquat marmalade and am so pleased that I have appreciative folks to make it for.” -Becky
Karen Gimnig, Imago Facilitator and co-author of ’The Cooperative Culture Handbook’, led a large workshop of Washington Commons’ members and Explorers interested in building community and deepening our connection to one another. Karen asked each of us to write 10 responses to the prompt, “Our vision is realized, we have moved into our new homes, and we have fabulous relationships. I can tell because I see, hear, or feel…”. She created the image above with our responses.
Karen asked, “What gets in the way of attaining our vision”? She showed us how our conditioned survival strategies on a biological as well as a social level kick in when we feel our sense of belonging threatened. These strategies put us in our competitive habits where we inflict rules, employ power, and judge right and wrong. Such strategies have kept us alive but are counter productive to communication or creating connection. Even when we are not in fight or flight response, Karen told us, “only17% of what gets said gets listened to”.
Then Karen taught us the simple but powerful technique of‘Mirroring’ or ‘Active Listening’ which to do at all we had to get out of our competitive habit of preparing our rebuttal. We practiced using this tool in breakout rooms with one other person for 2 different 20-minute sessions. This single tool enabled us to begin to hear each other in ways that brought people back from the breakout rooms bubbling with cheerful chatter at what they had learned, savoring the connection they had made with their future neighbor, and childlike joy that, “my partner really got me”.