Having dealt with the infamous Western Mass guru Michael Rapunzel and his Brotherhood of the Spirit, I am naturally skeptical of alternative communities. However, yesterday I had a chance to visit the Sirius Eco-Village up in nearby Shutesbury and was very impressed. Never heard of it? Here's a capsule summary:
Sirius Community is an educational, spiritual, service community of twenty to thirty residents and about two hundred associate non-resident members. It is an intentional community situated between the Quabbin Reservoir and the Connecticut River, in the eastern hills of the Pioneer Valley in Shutesbury, MA. It is a demonstration site for Permaculture Design and enacts the philosophies of "living lightly on Earth . . . living in harmony with nature." Sirius is an eco-village that models organic food production, green energy generation and generally less consumptive and more self-sufficient lifestyles. This involves "green" building and passive solar construction, solar and wind power, organic agriculture, waste management, and composting and energy efficient appliances. The community strives to embody "the new planetary consciousness that honors [the] interconnectedness and sacredness of all living things." Sirius engages in community outreach through hosting workshops, apprenticeships, courses and open houses. And, more than just opening their doors, they actively seek ways to build coalitions with organizations and people in the surrounding area.
That may sound a little spacey, and I suppose it is, but not in a bad way. In fact, I would call this community one of the coolest places in the Valley to visit and hang out for a while. Most Sunday afternoons are a good time to stop by. The community center building rises like an Aztec temple over the woodlands of Shutesbury.
Inside people were sitting around, playing instruments and just chillin.
There apparently had been some kind of activity earlier where people wrote things on a strip of paper and hung them up.
When I got there lunch had just ended. Here is the gong to call people to eat, made out of an old oxegen tank. It was surprisingly tuneful.
This is the community oven and the person who built it.
The design of the structures is sometimes quite whimsical.
Most of the buildings appear to be heated by woodstoves.
The community tries to incorporate a variety of energy sources, so that no one form dominates. That is in sharp contrast to the larger society which is primarily oil dependant. Here is one of the many solar panels on the premises.
This is one of the group meditation rooms.
Chickens wander about pretty freely.
Art is also encouraged. Someone transformed this dead tree into a beautiful wood nymph.
I like these psychedelic murals.
The community is pretty isolated, and I suspect most people would not choose to live there full time. But there is a lot for visitors to do there, including interesting and informative classes, lectures and outdoor activities available for very reasonable prices. It's the sort of scene you could get wrapped up in to ever deeper degrees without even realizing it. I suggest you check it out.
Showtime in Hamp
Where else but in downtown Northampton would you find a psychedelic King Tut?
Actually it was an advetisement for the production of Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Academy of Music.
Saturday the band Primate Fiasco was playing on the steps of the First Church. Here's a glimpse of the scene.
Drivin' That Train
What is it about Palmer, Massachusetts (train station above) that makes everyone so fascinated with the trains that go by that they make tons of videos of them? Check it out here.