The following is an excerpt from the journal kept by Patricia Diehl
during her travels.
January 12, 1999
Every journey begins with a first step. But I wonder how to identify that
first step. My intention to visit intentional communities began before I
ever heard of ZEGG, back in the days of discussions with my friends and
cohorts of Communities ConneXion -- probably 1993/94.
I did quite a lot of writing at that time about what I wanted to do with
this life that looked so blank after the ending of a 32 year marriage. My
wildest - and fondest - dream (formed early in '93) was (and still is) to be
part of a research institute creating and studying models for a new social
paradigm that recognizes the oneness of all being and the uniqueness of each
individual expression of being; that is founded and grounded in peace, love
and joy; and that operates primarily in a context of cooperation rather than
competition. I want to see what the expression of such a world view might
look like. I want to look at possible expressions in the political
(governance), economic and social arenas, how it might play out at the
mental, emotional and spiritual levels. In short, I want to help dream a
future for humankind and experiment with the possibilities.
In the same time period ('93) I began going to Community ConneXion, which
was just forming for the purpose of learning and discussion about
intentional communities and all of the "alternative s that go with that
concept (alternative economics, alternative technology, permaculture,
simple living, etc.) I thought I might find a way of life that would fill
my desire for family living and fit with my passion for an alternative
Several months after giving "voice" to my dream it finally occurred to me
that intentional communities are natural "laboratories" for a new social
paradigm and that I had in fact begun my studies. I had already enrolled in
my graduate school and I didn't even know it! I formed a dream then of
visiting and studying existing communities to see how they were contributing
to a paradigm shift. This was a year or more before I had even heard of
ZEGG; two years before the first summer camp.
In the period '94/'95 I was reading a lot and writing my wonderings and
thoughts about the basic assumptions of the prevailing paradigm in my "Book
of Questions." I also had a philosopher friend with whom I could discuss
ideas and questions at length. I learned a lot from him about looking at
the world in a very different way and questioning all my assumptions (at
least those that I am aware of).
As I learned more about intentional community -- and that there are many out
there , some of which have been in existence for quite a long time -- I
talked more about visiting communities. I even created a questionnaire.
Several of us did this as part of determining what we would want in a
community, and to help others form their concepts. But I had an idea that
I might be able to use this to compile information about what communities
are doing that could change the existing paradigm. What political,
economic, social, cultural and spiritual forms are they experimenting with?
What world view or vision do they share? What are their core values?
I was laying groundwork for a trip, but I wasn't moving. I was scared. The
idea of contacting people that I don't know hits my fear and self
consciousness buttons. The idea of asking questions for my own purposes,
not on behalf of some "official" organization was even scarier. The idea of
asking for an invitation to visit people that I don't know seemed an
impossible task. Traveling long distances alone seemed daunting enough, and
to couple that with a destination of the unknown felt like double jeopardy.
I found plenty to do at home in Portland.
Meanwhile, in the latter part of '94 the ZEGG experience met Community
ConneXion. I saw the video, read Dieter Duhm's work (the little that was
translated into English) and I was intrigued. Here was a community that is
consciously creating itself as a social experiment. I joined a group that
intended to do an experiment in transparency (we weren't) and decided to
keep an open mind around the question of open relationship as a new paradigm
In June of '95 the first Summer Camp was created at the Trolley Park, and I
was hooked. Network For a New Culture (NFNC) was conceived and it seemed
like the venue within which I could find "my" community of dreamers and
experimenters; and within which I could participate in the experiment. I
formed my personal goal of becoming a person who could live in and express
the paradigm of which I dreamed.
I have since then participated in every camp and workshop sponsored by NFNC.
I have a strong core of close friends and cohorts among those who connect
within the network. The dream of a land based community is more alive and
more broadly based than ever and is lending itself to a "virtual" experiment
in using email communication (newcomm) with a "home" in the NFNC web page.
Newcomm is currently experimenting with a process for consensus by email.
The creation of these innovative computer techniques have been thanks
primarily to the work of Steven Parker.
Email is a new experience for me and one that is helping me gain confidence
around traveling. I can stay connected to friends and family while I am on
the road. This ties into the friendships I have formed; I have confidence
in being welcomed back when I return. Another experience is my personal
experiments in community living. I no longer wonder whether I will have a
place to come home to; a place will be available for me.
In December of '95 I began my first personal experiment in community living.
I moved into the Habitat on Thurman Street. When that experiment ended in
April '96, I moved into Cascade House, where I stayed until August of '97.
That community household seems to be thriving still. I spent Christmas
there this year, and I am always welcomed back as one of the "family."
In July of '96 I went with Loren and Miaya to spend a month at ZEGG -- my
first journey outside Portland to an intentional community. I kept a
journal of that visit and sent pieces of it to members of the Portland
community. I also wrote my impressions of the experience in a letter to
Kastor at ZEGG. That letter was to be published in a newsletter/journal
that never came out, but it is now included in the library at the NFNC web
site ( www.nfnc.org ).
In August '97 I traveled with Bill Bryan and did a four month community
experiment at his home in Louisiana. That experience has helped me
considerably in gaining confidence about traveling and about functioning in
an unknown social environment. That November I traveled (by bus) to the
FIC meeting at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. There I met people
from a variety of communities around the country. Now I have names and
faces to associate with unknown places. I have real, live, known contacts.
I returned to Portland in Decemberof '97, spent a month at Cascade House,
and in January '98 moved out to Sauvie Cove. There I participated in a
community business venture, living and working in a wonderful setting on
Sauvie Island. This was a multi-generational community, a situation that I
consider desirable. Unfortunately, the business did not survive past fall.
I left in October to play Grandma in California for a month, take part in
two community gatherings (FIC Art of Community and general meeting, and the
NFNC December Whatever), learn to do email, and get ready for my "real" trip
around the country. Once again I returned to Portland in December and spent
Christmas at Cascade House.
So now in January of 1999 I have set out on this journey that I first
"intended" back in 1993/94. I have more incentive now just within my own
family. My children, who were then primarily based in California, are now
spread across the country in Colorado, Kentucky and Nebraska, as well as
California Bay Area. And I have two brothers on the east coast as well, in
North Carolina and New Jersey. My son in Bahrain is still a bit beyond the
scope of this travel.
Also, I have two bonuses. First, at the December Whatever Miaya decided to
travel with me, part of the time anyway, on her Walkabout. And, second,
together with Billie Dean Bryan we are creating a new community experiment
with the intention of combining travel and learning with manifesting a
gathering in Louisiana in the fall of this year. Of all my many friends,
how amazing that I should be privileged to share this time in a special way
with two who are among the closest to my heart.
The Universe seems to provide in so many ways the experience, the
information, the material help and human encouragement that I need to carry
out my best intentions. I would like to believe that my intention for this
journey (and Miaya's and Bill's as well) is aligned with that of the
Universe, but that may be my own conceit.
This background piece was completed January 15, 1999.