Saturday, January 5, 2013

Arcadian Rhythms

It's Epiphany Eve and I'm working at Arcadia Cohousing in Carrboro NC, delivering on the back end of a barter in exchange for this community's hosting the FIC's spring organizational meetings last April.

This is one of the ways that we're able to contain costs for Board members attending our semi-annual get-togethers, by trading the use of sleeping accommodations and meeting space for process consulting. For the attendees, they only have to cover travel and food; for the host community, they get professional help at a fraction of the cost. Everyone feels like they're coming out ahead in the exchange.

In recognition of the upcoming 12th Day of Christmas (and the arrival of the three wise guys in Bethlehem), we had a Mexican dinner at the community tonight, featuring Three King's Cake for dessert. By tradition, the cake has several plastic replicas of Baby Jesus baked into it and if you find one in your piece cake you're expected to pop for a round of tamales on Fat Tuesday (where do they think this stuff up?).

Anyway the cake was good, and tomorrow (Epiphany proper) we're going to eat the leftovers with Oaxacan hot chocolate for breakfast. While I'm questioning whether it's a good idea to start a day of meetings that will last until 4:30 with everyone buzzed on chocolate, cake, and caffeine, I don't expect it to be dull. Who knows, maybe some of the participants will even have an epiphany or two about our topic: participation.

Naturally, as a professional facilitator, I'm always trying to help groups experience breakthroughs in how they understand things or in how they can bridge positions that seem hopelessly separated. I just don't often get the chance to try delivering epiphanies on Epiphany. Maybe it will help.

In addition to good food, the Arcadians have supplied me with two of my favorites recreational pastimes, which I don't recall ever encountering together in the same location away from home before: jigsaw puzzles and Mah Jongg. I've had fun playing with both each of the past two nights. 

The community had started this monster 1000-piece jigsaw at Christmas time and a fortnight later they've barely made a dent. The image is a field of brightly colored buttons. There is no up or down; there are only different-sized buttons piled atop each other in a bewildering array of colors. To give you an idea how hard this sucker is, it wasn't until today that someone found the last edge piece. Over the course of the past two days I may have located 12-15 pieces—enough to earn a nod of recognition from the local puzzle heads, but not enough to make much of a difference. It's a good thing I leave tomorrow for Virginia (and a visit with my dear friend Annie) or else I'd be susceptible to getting addicted and having to stay until the damn puzzle was finished. (This falls under the category of saving me from myself.)

One of the Arcadians had purchased a nice Mah Jongg set in the last year and I was able to teach some folks here the traditional scoring that I had learned 40 years ago when I stumbled upon the game with college cohorts. It was soothing to play several hands as part of winding down from a long day of meetings, listening to the tiles clacking against the table, as people picked up the rhythm of the play. It turns out you needn't be either Chinese or a Jewish dowager to enjoy it—and what an epiphany it's been for me to learn that the folks here share so many of my favorite vices!

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