Reclaiming Placemaking for Liberation with Ridhi D’Cruz
Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 016
We’re kicking off Season 2 with a pair of episodes about Placemaking, how we design and consider creating environments for healthy thriving humans. In this second episode, Ridhi D’Cruz approaches the topic from a liberatory and healing perspective.
In this episode
- Placemaking as a spiritual process (9:46)
- Placemaking vs. Place taking (17:43)
- How do you come into an urban area (26:51)
- Connecting with native people (32:35)
- How permaculture principles dovetail into the stewarding process (41:01)
- What does it mean to be a community (48:10)
- Being in community with ourselves (52:49)
- The spiritual practice of place (59:47)
- Practice of liberation (1:06:36)
- Vulnerability as a podcast host (1:16:35)
About Ridhi D’Cruz
Ridhi D’Cruz (they/them) is a gender queer Malayali who grew up in the city of Bangalore in southern India and moved to Wapato Valley (Portland) in 2010. They fondly identify as a learner, facilitator and artist. Their life artistry roots at the intersections of place, healing, design and creativity. Ridhi has dedicated over a decade of their life to designing community processes that cultivate liberatory and healing senses of place. They strive to honor and benefit the sacred and stolen lands of the Chinook people and several other tribes both recognized and unrecognized that they are a guest upon.
Ridhi has cultivated a place justice practice through more than a decade of service on Chinook lands. Currently, they co-facilitate an annual herbal immersion program for BIPOC called the Moon & Mirror Apprenticeship Program, are an nature educator with and for QT/BIPOC community through Wild Diversity and humbly support various place justice projects including the Native Gathering Garden at Cully Park and the Justice for Justice for Keaton Otis Memorial Art Project.
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Ridhi’s FIC course, Reclaiming Permaculture and Placemaking for Liberation starts May 8, 2023
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Thanks from Rebecca, your podcast host
Rebecca Mesritz 0:00
For more than 50 years communitarians community seekers and cooperative culture activists have been sharing their stories and helpful community resources and communities magazine building from the ground up communities magazines spring 2023 issue, share stories and guidance about natural building, starting new groups from scratch and developing communities both ecologically and socially. You can gain access to all back issues in digital form, plus receive current print and digital issues by subscribing now, at Gen hyphen us.net/subscribe. coho us is the hub of the cohousing movement, convening individuals and organizations with a shared vision for intentional community living. expert led courses and forums on the cohousing Institute, provide the skills and expertise to build and sustain your community. Available both live and on demand. Join coho us for the commons a monthly gathering space for the cohousing curious the 10th of every month at 10am Mountain, learn email@example.com.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:26
Welcome to the inside community podcast. I’m your host, Rebecca Mesritz. I hope that you are binge listening to the first two episodes of our second season and are ready to continue on our journey of exploring the idea of placemaking. In the previous episode, I had a conversation with Brian Bowen, and we talked about how to design spaces and places for people to really thrive. Brian’s experience is that of an architect. And he comes at this question from a design perspective. And so with him, we discuss tools and structures of design and even some of the legal aspects of what it is to plan a habitat. In this interview, I’m going to be speaking with Reidy to Cruz, who comes at the question of place and placemaking from a very different vantage point really is a gender queer Mala YALI, who grew up in the city of Bangalore in Southern India, and moved to the Wapato Valley, also known as Portland in 2010. They have dedicated over a decade of their life to designing community processes that cultivate laboratory and healing senses of place. Reedy has cultivated a place justice practice through more than a decade of service on Chinna clans. Currently they co facilitate an herbal immersion program for bipoc called the moon and mirror apprenticeship program, and our nature educator for Cutie bipoc community through wild diversity. And reedy is also teaching an upcoming course through the fic and titled reclaiming permaculture and placemaking for liberation, which I will link to in the show notes. So I’m sure you can already tell that this conversation is just going to be happening on a very different plane than the last one. And I hope you really enjoy and drink deep from this well of wisdom that really holds. I know I certainly did. This is definitely one of those episodes that I recommend finding a nice place to sit and just listen if you can, so that you can really absorb what they’re sharing. Ready to cruise. Welcome to the inside community podcasts. Thank you so much for being here.
Ridhi D’Cruz 3:43
Thank you for having me.
Rebecca Mesritz 3:46
Yeah, I know that you wanted to ground this conversation in some mindfulness. So I’d love to just get started with that.
Ridhi D’Cruz 3:58
Thank you. Yeah. So I’m going to invite you to get comfortable wherever you are. Maybe draw your attention to the points of contact that your body has with the ground. Anything you’re sitting on or laying on. Feeling into these points of connection that ultimately are grounded and rooted in the Earth does loosen loosening up into that support and relaxing knowing that the Earth really can and does As hold us as fully and wholly as we are inviting you to soften your gaze or if you feel comfortable, close your eyes. So, you can invite some insight looking inward sensing and feeling into this body, this present moment, this time in this place inviting you to take a few deep breaths, life giving edge that this wonderful Earth again provides we depend on that is truly a part of us automatically by design
Ridhi D’Cruz 6:34
breathing in spaciousness breathing out presence
Ridhi D’Cruz 6:47
breathing in belonging breathing out presents breathing in liberation breathing out presents
Ridhi D’Cruz 7:16
taking a moment to notice spaciousness we’ve just invited in the support that is around us. And also giving a lot of gratitude for each one of us in this moment being present.
Ridhi D’Cruz 7:53
Thank you for doing that with me.
Rebecca Mesritz 7:56
Thank you. Thank you. Huh? Well, I think that was a really great setup for a conversation that Ken might probably will push into some areas that are a little bit sensitive, a little bit tender, possibly triggering. And I’m really grateful to start in that way. So that hopefully anyone that’s listening that has a moment of like, oh, that’s a lot. That’s uncomfortable, can just find themselves back in that softened place a little. So thank you for starting us there. And yeah, really, I think we’re here today to talk about placemaking as a tool for liberation. And I want to I want to weave our way in that direction. But first, I just want to start with what is placemaking? Like, what is this? What is this idea even. And I know that for a lot of communities that are founding or in their early years, how to be in right relation with the land that they’re stewarding, or the land that they’re occupying, can be really challenging as we talk about not just being in right relation to the land as in treating it respectfully and mindfully but also honoring its past. Also how to plan and design for humans to inhabit that land in a really good way. And as we think about planning and design placemaking has become kind of the buzzword of recent years and I know you’ve got some interesting kind of perspectives on that, particularly as it relates to urban plan. Morning. And just for our guests, I’ll say that you know, Wikipedia talks about the subject saying placemaking capitalizes on a local communities assets, inspiration and potential with the intention of creating public spaces that improve urban vitality, and promote people’s health, happiness and well being. So I’d love for you to just help us unpack placemaking from your worldview, and set the stage for us a little bit about how you think about this subject.
Ridhi D’Cruz 10:36
Thank you. Yeah, I think first, I’d like to kind of delve into this, the public space kind of aspect of it, there’s a lot that, again, happens in planning with bureaus like the Bureau of Transportation, for example, has been a long term collaborator. And, you know, public art, we kind of see placemaking, interfacing with public space. And I just want to, especially when we’re talking about place, acknowledge and underscored that we are all on indigenous land, stolen indigenous land on Turtle Island. And in many senses from folks that I’ve been working with, and learning from and learning with, that there is no such thing as private property ownership, like there’s just a very different relationship to land. And so this whole notion of private property, I just want to up in that straight away in the definition and say that, for me, placemaking is not confined and restrained to what lies between property lines, which for me, are, you know, drawing on maybe permaculture vocabulary for a second, the invisible structures of of a colonial imagination. And so they transgress and go way beyond what just happens in so called public space. Yeah, and I think the placemaking, for me, is also just an orientation and approach to remembering relationship to land, as I’ve been taught by some of my mentors, and friends and colleagues. And what I’ll also add to that is, you know, with the with the wiki, I love Wikipedia, I don’t want to like drag Wikipedia, specifically, you know, I’m like, that. That’s not my point. But I think what I’m noticing from that definition, too, is it’s very product oriented, like capitalizing on the assets of a local community. And it feels like though, it feels like one approach, you know, like ecosystem services, what are all the things we can get from this from this tree? And I think that’s, that’s fine as one aspect of connection and one aspect of like, viewing someone, and something. But for me, it’s not, it can only be the utilitarian productive quality that’s very much based in an imagination that’s, again, very extractive. And so for me, placemaking is also kind of a spiritual process of really feeling into what this land and all of the relationships with the more than human world, and also humans over time, what is it really holding? And what can we do here together into the future? So one of the ways that I describe my place practice is, is a form of being in relationship with myself with the more than human world and with each other as humans. And it’s really those three components that for me, make up the core of placemaking are a place practice. And I say that because, please, you know, was something that I remember I was in grad school and read, something that I really resonated with, I think it came from the field of humanist geography, or human geography. And it said that place was, according to some geographers at least was a concept that kind of held not just a geographic location, so not just land but also land that was imbued with meaning. And so inherently it felt like land and people together. And in many languages in many cultures, we don’t separate nature, culture, land and people. And so for me, that kind of worldview that that bedrock of approaching land as if it’s, it’s not separate from me, it’s and it’s not been separate from various people who have tended it since time immemorial come come through as guests, and also the violence in colonization, and just all the hardship and grief that it holds all of the above. together. So, yeah, there’s a, there’s that relationship, there’s a temporality there’s time that goes through it. So that we don’t play into this amnesia of oh, this place, we need to make place because there’s a lack of it, which I often find with, you know, designers, we go somewhere. And, you know, I know from the field of permaculture, for example, there’s, there’s like, needing to observe a deep practice of observation, but how often do designers actually spend time in a place and how much of that observation is limited by our own, you know, lineage, our own experiences, our own lenses, one of my teacher sets said to me once, you only see what you believe, so if you, rather than you only believe what you see. And so if we’re already queued and kind of honed in on seeing something, valuing something in a particular way, I think we close ourselves off to what’s actually there, or what that means to someone else. So I think that in, in my practice of place, you know, as has been informed by so many other people, and that’s why I don’t want to say it’s like, it’s on my thing, because this possessive ownership thing is, again, I find quite problematic. So just want to share, like how I’ve learned and how I’ve taught and what, and through my own experiences, and really try to approach any situation any place with, with a deep practice of listening to all that is there already and all that wants to be
Rebecca Mesritz 17:40
Hmm, that’s a great start. Just I love, like, let’s set the stage, let’s let’s get let’s get clear on a few things. You know, as we talk about placemaking, and a word that I’ve heard you use around place taking, and I’d love for you to kind of peel those two things apart a little bit to just as we’re as we’re setting the stage for, for how, how this is going to go. Can you speak a little bit about that?
Ridhi D’Cruz 18:12
Yeah. And maybe how I approach that, that question, which is very much else I just want to see, these are all questions like, I don’t feel like I’m answering them, quote, unquote, answering them and just responding like how my own approach of questioning or curiosity is. So with place taking and placemaking and are starting to peel back a little bit of this where who gets to decide what kind of place? What is a place, and what needs to be made there. For example, if I’ve witnessed this a light we’re including in myself, like forget talking about anybody else, but in myself, where I’m like, Oh, look at that, that that spot looks great for some placemaking. And what is that there’s a there’s a perceived lack of something that I’m putting onto that place, which may or may not be the case for the people who actually live around there. If if I had the curiosity and the humility to kind of be more be more in relationship with the people who are already in close proximity to the players are who have connections, right, going back to that geographers conceptualization, like maybe there’s a lot of meaning there probably is a lot of meaning and beauty in that place that I’m just not aware of. So, again, that that approach of like, how do we how do we kind of identify places and non places right, and who decides how and what make of them. And that’s one aspect that I kind of moved with. And then please taking I see, for example, who gets to engage in a lot of these so called placemaking initiatives, oftentimes people with a lot of time privilege in the sense, they can volunteer, they have time, spare time to volunteer on projects and stuff like that. Which if, say, you know, I’m not, I’m not generalizing here, but say, if you’re a single mom and have to work multiple jobs, that might not be something that feels available to you to, like, volunteer in the neighborhood project to, to do some so called placemaking project, right. And so, I think inherently in our processes, even now, when we when we try to orient towards doing something, like making a place, I think that a lot of people get left out of that conversation. They deliberately like, you know, there’s there’s been initiatives, and placemaking has been really, really growing in where I’m where I am located right now, in Chino plans are what we call colonially, Portland. And I remember one initiative where it was defined, and it was, it was said to be for, quote, unquote, frontline communities. And then was essentially an initiative to help black and brown businesses, again, like wood completely worthy of support. I’m not saying that black and brown businesses don’t deserve support. But at the same time, we commercialize, we will commercializing so called public space, and there’s a housing crisis happening. And so we would rather provide a sheltered space with government funding for people to do more business rather than provide housing and we’re still conducting as a city. We’re conducting sweeps, displacing people from, you know, not not owning, like not making a business, but literally finding a place to rest their heads. So there’s just, you know what I mean, like so. And again, this was
Rebecca Mesritz 22:18
a huge issue with that. That’s a big, big problem in that city. Yeah. It’s got dramatic over the last 10 years.
Ridhi D’Cruz 22:29
Yeah, and I didn’t have a medic. Yeah, and I don’t think it’s unique to Portland, I think that we we are not in I mean, I’m from what we now call India and housing issues, like I think housing is just an issue is a global issue. And it has these different flavors that are placed based. And so for me, this this thing of who gets to take play, make a place and take up space, right, like this place taking, like, who gets to do that is very, very important. And also the relationality of it. Like, for example, I so appreciate when the uprisings in 2020 were happening all over the country, really, there was this just amazing outburst of color and temporary art, like whether it was chalk, or these paintings and murals that came up and, you know, no one is facilitating that. Like as, as in people were just taking up space. And I think that was very beautiful, given that, especially black folks, people of the African diaspora have been silenced and violently killed, and there’s just been so much violence and, and push back and not allowing black folks to take up space. And so I think it’s absolutely an act of resistance, and an act of thriving to take up that place. Where as, you know, you contrast that to say, you know, a different group of people who own their homes and, and I’ve literally had people have this conversation with me, they’re like, We want to take back our city. And I’m like, from whom? Who do you want to take it back from? You know, and the underlying, I would say value there is yeah, we want to take it back from from violence gangs, in gangs in houses people like there’s just this thing of, we want to protect the the colonial project, right, like the imagination that this place is safe for certain kinds of people. So again, I feel like who is doing the plate the work Who’s Who is this place being created for who is being I’m supported and resourced to do that work, how we do it, not just what do we do it for and who do we do it with, but how we do it is also of such importance. Because, say we do it in a way that burns people out or is just lacking the care that we we say will be in the, in the product, right? If that does isn’t reflected in the process of how we work with people talk with people, yeah, stuffs gonna come up, not everyone’s gonna agree. And I think that’s where I feel like there’s such a powerful spiritual healing component to a practice of place. Because the truth is that, while there may not be, like tangible forms of violence happening, like we, a friend of mine, I remember one said, like, we are on, were on, we’re on a graveyard like this, like how many people have died here from genocide, or from violence, right. And we’re also simultaneously on holy ground, like how many people have found divinity, like, it’s this layering of meaning and experience that every place really holds and to, I think, move something forward, that brings the people together and ties that up with also just the the land itself, like land having and being given a voice. If we’re, if we’re willing, and again, humble and listening enough to be like, so what is this place actually? Like, what is this place? You know, what has happened? You and, and again, they could sit down?
Rebecca Mesritz 26:50
Like, I mean, not to interject, but when I think about a place like Portland, or any major city, you know, in any big city or urban area, or even suburban area that’s been occupied, for lack of a better word, I mean, by, by colonial people, or, I mean, it’s like, how do you come into a space like that? How do you come into an urban area that’s probably had humble beginnings. And then, through the rise of industry now seen, saw a heyday at one point of, of new new buildings and cars and roads and infrastructure that gets put in, and then sort of a decline that comes after that. And then you see a space that’s now seemingly, in a state of degradation. That’s probably at this point, completely devoid of nature. You know, there’s there may be there’s a couple of trees on the streets, I’m just thinking of these like urban pockets. And particularly for me, in my mind is parts of Baltimore where I grew up, or parts of, were parts of the city, like the buildings are collapsing, they’re just falling down. There’s no, you know, the, the life has just been sucked out of that area. And you have people who want to come back in and like rebuild and re vivify. But how can even connect to the spirit of a place that’s had? It’s any kind of sense of connection to nature completely taken, it was stripped away years and years ago? And it’s like, it seems like you’re just creating it out of thin air in some ways. So like, where do you even start? Where do you even start? I mean, I guess we’re specifically talking more about urban or suburban realities. Now. We can talk about more rural realities later, but when you come into an urban space that wants to be revivified. Where do you start?
Ridhi D’Cruz 28:55
Yeah, I mean, for me, and this is again, why go back to how it’s a practice, right? I’m not going to have answers that might make sense for you, but how, for me what, what that reminds me off is being in India in my parents place, very urban, very, like ornamental lawn kind of landscaping. And that’s not great. And I can feel it in my lungs and the burning sensation in my eyes like it’s impacted. And I think the the truth of it, like there’s multiple realities, one is that I feel like something that I want to bring forward is that there is no nature without human influence at this point, even like the most remote kind of jangled area like the Amazon being a food forest, for example. We’ve always been intertwined. So I think, for me as a concept like this moving away from this purity principle for it sample where like nature is kind of like good and pure versus, you know, built up spaces are somehow degraded like that kind of, I don’t know that, that duality like kind of moving away from viewing them as so separate even when it’s so, so difficult for me. So when I was in India, something that I did is I made an altar and I put a bunch of found natural objects from my walks and of picking up seeds and of picking up the lake. Yeah, they were their seeds, it was stones, flowers, when they’re blooming, and I set this up and, and they put tap water, which has a way like, it was very, like what we call hard water. So there’s a lot of calcification when it evaporated, and I put it in the center, and I was like, all land is Holy Land is sacred. And even when I am struggling, me personally struggling so much to find divinity in it. I think it’s it’s very important to recognize and practice that, that divinity. And I think that applies to people as well, right? Like, because it’s so easy to say, oh, this person, they’re on the streets, they’re like, so, you know, their lives have been so difficult. And I feel like that, that inherently, that value judgment, at least personally, for me, allows me to kind of dehumanize and distance myself and be like, there’s no hope you. There’s no responsibility here. There’s no divinity cure. But I think that, for me is a very powerful calling to question that. And to, you know, how they say, like, fake it till you till you make it. Like, for me, it was just looking at that altar everyday and just being like, Yeah, I mean, I’d fully feel that in my body. But I know, I know, somewhere in there, like, yeah, this too, is sacred. And this too, deserves healing, just like any other place. So that’s one thing I love starting with ritual. You. We started with a mindfulness practice. The other thing I would say is how who gets to benefit, right? Like, because you’re not going to have an like this, you have to start somewhere. And that could look like a lot of different ways. And I’m trying to think one way that I think I started in my, when I came here to Turtle Island is I was really curious as like, yeah, I studied anthropology, by the way. And I was really curious, all these textbooks talking about Native people as if they no longer existed. And at that point in my student housing was located really close to the Native American student and community center. And so I was like, pretty sure there’s need Fox down the street for me. And so I just go and hang out there. And it was just it was like, you know, this is like the systemic gaslighting, right, like where we fed this narrative from all these different places, that something doesn’t exist, or people don’t aren’t alive anymore. This is an IED. A Native American myth, like how many signboards in public parks over here? Have I seen like knee according to native legend? And, wow, it’s right. And it’s just like, again, this very kind of pioneer imagination that’s being centered. Whereas people exist. And people are definitely having the complexity of that experience, right like that. There’s a native center, and there’s near folks, and there’s Indigenous Studies, and there’s like stuff happening. And so I’d often kind of like, trail off from the Anthro department, whereas I’m noticing that there’s not native folks teaching or participating in this program, you know, at least at the time, or to my knowledge, not to many of us, I was the only grad school, grad student of color. And then I’d venture down down the street or up the street over to the native center. And I’d be like, Yeah, okay, y’all, I heal. Can I just like, be with y’all, like, so what’s happening instead of like, reading about it in textbooks, I just keep going back to like, relationship relationship relationship, which is why when I’ve first described my practice of place, it was all about relationship, relationship to myself, relationship to the more than human world and to other humans. And it was, it has been through that relationship with for me, the experience of being now you know, I’m like, oh, yeah, people of color. I didn’t identify as a person of color or a person from the global majority until I came here. Right. So, really delving in into that, how identity is relational inherently? And how do I get a sense for where I am, is by connecting with people. Very simple. You know, like, I know that, for example, in permaculture going back to that, because I trained as, as trained in permaculture and have my own complicated feelings towards that, that methodology as well. But the first, the first principle, which is again, like science, scientific observation, whether that’s Western Eurocentric science or indigenous science, it’s just observe, observe and then interact, what is interact, but be in relationship. Right. And so I think, I don’t, I can’t foretell what you will observe or what you will feel, who you will connect with, whether that’s a who have a crow or who have a neighbor passing down the street, but I think starting with that practice of listening and cultivating relationship, that’s, that’s where it begins for me. And then continuing that forward, you know, when, say, there’s a, you decide like, okay, yeah, people seem like they want you know, a garden here, then who gets to benefit from that garden? Who is it designed for? Right? Is it designed for, for the bird people for like nature and wildlife to come through? Is it also designed in a way that people can people feel welcome to, to snack and and gather and harvest? Or is there is there some form of reciprocity and relationality that is inherently built in that transgressors? The way that we are? Kind of what’s the word siloed into these into these kinds of containers, whether it’s age group or skin color, or, you know, all these different ways we were like, Okay, we got to keep things, keep things locked into a particular community. But how do we, how do we go beyond that? When is it appropriate? There’s, there’s just a lot of I think it’s a very personal, I would say, it’s a personal calling for me. So that’s how I would respond to what you just asked, because I don’t know what it means for you, you know, and I think it would be very foolish and not humble of me to say I know what your path is. But I believe that, by following that practice, in that process, the path reveals itself kind of a thing.
Rebecca Mesritz 37:42
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Rebecca Mesritz 40:32
I just love set to come back to this because I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if you were at like a, you know, an an old Roman Church or something in Europe, and they said something like, according to the legend of the people here and then told a story about like Jesus or something like that, like people would blow their minds to have their their spirituality handled in such a way. And I think that that kind of Yeah, blindness that we have, to other people’s perspectives. To me really, again, comes back to this idea of you have to observe, you have to ask the questions first. And so as I’m thinking about this, as I’m thinking about, like, drilling down a little bit, getting a little bit more specific. You know, for for groups that have a sense of place, have a piece of land that they’re stewarding have relations with the people that they’re potentially sharing this land with, because this is about community have relations and understanding about the people that came before and what’s come before. My next question is really about some of these these permaculture principles that you’ve talked about, and and how did those sort of dovetail into how people could be thinking about the spaces that they’re preparing to hold and occupy and steward and yeah, how did how do they live in right relation to the space? And like, what are the things you should be considering?
Ridhi D’Cruz 42:30
Mm hmm. Yeah. I think for me, one of the biggest things is to consider is access to land, right? Like we started off with this public private kind of duality. And I think, again, just really sitting with and reflecting and rooting into who accesses this land, and how that feels really important to kind of elevate at this point, because, you know, I feel like the commute the word community gets bandied around to the point of like, meaninglessness at this point, because I’m like, I don’t know what that means. Like, what is? So I think also bringing in more specificity like, which community Oh, it’s, it’s like, the land based community that’s in this area, or, like, just more specifics, because I feel like it. It doesn’t mean everyone right. And so anyway, I’m just having this talk to kind of
Rebecca Mesritz 43:47
well, I let me clarify, because I mean, we talk on this podcast, we talk a lot about intentional community. I’m talking about people who are coming together with a shared vision, to live together in some way, and that could look like a cohousing, that could look like a co living that could look a lot of different ways. It could look like a full on land based, intentional community. I think a lot of the things that we talk about, on this show kind of spread out into other types of little c community, like a thriving neighborhood of people that know each other, and have relationships but maybe are not as interdependent. You know, they’re not necessarily as interwoven into each other’s lives. So for me, for what we kind of talked about here, I think a lot of it does come back to that the what I call big see community, of intentional community or people who are actually choosing very consciously, to build life together and to be interdependent upon each other and upon the land. And so I think it’s just a different it’s a slightly different mindset. Then like a, just a group of neighbors, you know, are people in a cul de sac, trying to kind of have some things in common they barbecue together. But their finances are not intertwined in any way. And their their landholding is not intertwined. Like one person can sell off their parcel to whoever they want, as opposed to community held space that might be that would just operate with different agreements, I guess.
Ridhi D’Cruz 45:31
Yeah, and, you know, I’m not certain the degree to which this is true, but I suddenly feel like, um, the kind of community you’re talking about, can and has existed in urban spaces as well, like I’ve heard Oh, yeah. Yeah. So you know, like, la eco village. Yeah. And a, like, Kyla Chico village here, but but even beyond that, I feel like the, I think the ratio of people from the global majority, like how we’ve all like, to some degree always had to live in community in different ways. For example, I feel like when you’re not allowed to hold land, for example, in, in Oregon, when that was just recently, you know, kind of taken taken out of the legal infrastructure of oppression, and then violence, and but we still see just very little land held by people from the global majority, right. And so I feel like people have always kind of banded together to be like, okay, whether it’s like me, living close by helping each other with, you know, buy houses. So, so yeah, I just wanted to also also say that, I don’t think that maybe I’ll say blatantly like this, I don’t think white folks came up with intentional communities. And right, and so I just want to expand this notion of even big see community to be like, yeah, there’s so many different ways in which folks have been doing all of those, all of that creating interdependencies as survival strategies, because it was just like, what else? Do you do it? It’s part of the culture. Right? And I think the difference from the way that you were describing an urban neighborhood is that, I think the, the kind of pathology of whiteness, and I don’t mean, whiteness is not something from my perspective, and many others. And surely, whiteness is not just limited to limited to wide bodied folks. So it’s, it’s this, it’s this thing that is unfortunately, part of our global imagination and aspiration even. But, yeah, there’s part of the pathology of whiteness is this amnesia that we are interdependent in in an interconnected and actually need each other? And so then in that setting in an urban settlement, yeah, there is like people just living together and not talking to each other. So
Rebecca Mesritz 48:11
yes, and I would, I would even argue, I mean, I don’t know, I could be totally wrong here. But when I think of like, oh, there’s like, in this city, there’s this vibrant Cuban community, or this five, vibrant Ethiopian community or there’s this vibrant. Like, I think in those environments, where what you’re talking about, where you have people who are banded together, who are deeply involved in each other’s lives, they have a shared a deeply shared culture, shared food, shared spiritual beliefs, shared practices, and also a deep need because of oppression to be intertwined and to rely on each other. In some ways, I see, you know, I mean, it’s like the poverty of white culture is that it doesn’t have that shared culture. It’s become very homogenized and maybe the the highest value is capitalism, you know, the highest value is can you have more stuff? Can you have the bigger car, the bigger house, the younger, prettier, hotter wife, you know, the perfect show dog or like, whatever, all these things that you can acquire and like, get art and that’s, that’s it, like a lot of people, a lot of people that I know, white bodied people don’t have feel like they’re really impoverished in the way that they’re completely disconnected from a sense of indigenous culture, or the naturalized version of themselves, a natural connection to nature, the land, their history, it’s all kind of been, I mean, for lack of a better word whitewashed. And so yeah, I mean, I totally agree with you that there are these these different kinds of, of communities that yeah, not even put a value like one is better than the other, but they formed from different needs and different desires and different necessities. But I think at the end of the day, they all sort of come back to a deep desire for connection, your relationship, as you say, this deep desire to be in relation to be in relation to be seen, to be held to be known to be accepted by other people by the land, by their environment, you know, so yeah, just thinking about how to how to cultivate that connection, regardless of of what your community looks like, or how separate or connected you are to some kind of cultural tether, I suppose.
Ridhi D’Cruz 50:46
Yeah, and, and that’s, that’s it for me, right. Like, that’s why I was saying earlier that the word community like I think it sometimes for me, it obscures what’s actually happening, because that community means in my experience, right, like community means different things, so many different things to so many different people. I mean, any word would, right? Like, there’s the multitudes of perspectives that are not, like bad or wrong. And so for me again, it’s those though, how do we intentionally design? Couldn’t connections, what kind of connections connecting to what right like, cuz, I also feel like, as someone who’s grown up in India, where community doesn’t just mean good stuff. To me, community can feel stifling, can feel like, right? It’s like what type of community like, what, that’s why I say like, there’s, it’s not just this noun, that means the same thing. It’s like, there’s something that animates it. So what, what type what is it functioning as, what’s it in relation to, and so, and that’s why for me, also, in the practice of place I put in there like that, sometimes, you know, more than connecting with, with stuff outside or with people outside, I really need a practice of connecting to myself. And so it doesn’t mean that every thing we design, like everything needs to be mixed up, right, like potluck style, like only potluck, like and are all like dal Khichdi like everything, one, one pot soup, I think that’s appropriate for certain types of things and certain needs. But then I also feel like sometimes we need that distinctness we need our individuality or we need that like silence space to just be with ourselves draw our attention, inward. The truth being I mean, we’re not one singular self either, right? But, but you get what I’m saying like to be in community with ourselves to be in connection with ourselves. And so there’s, there’s a, there’s a way, I think, beautiful nuance and multiplicity to what community means and how people access it, and how it what effect it has on us, whether that’s like, is it tied in and aligned with how we want to grow and unfold and be liberated, and be in this being this dynamic dance of healing together? Or does it also kind of enmesh us and entangle us in ways that are codependent and like, you know, kind of trauma bonding and bring us into, like, you know, potential for healing. But I think there’s just ways to hold that dynamic dance, not again, as like a be all end all, like, fix it kind of way, like in a static way. But to be like, how are we again? Like, what are we designing connection and community and relationship for? And how are we doing that? Because here’s another thing, you know, when, when, and I’m not going to just use like markers for this land. But say, if there’s someone for example, that has had intergenerational access to wealth and land, the way that they design community will be vastly different from someone who hasn’t had that, right like and how they design their finances, say for example. So I think again, like this one size fits all situation. Doesn’t doesn’t work and, and so just having that that nuance, and this is where I feel like the design, the design principles, and like just this, this thought of like, oh, wait, we get to design this, like we get to bring some intentional choice and consent into it like decision making, you know, we may not have the full picture. I mean, do we really ever have the whole picture? No. There always is a mystery to it right? But I think that we can do the best we can Then, and, and then not be too attached because everything’s implement in any way. And then we just get to continue in a process, right. Like, of designing of being in relationship like, I don’t know if I’m, I don’t know if this is all tying back in, but I wanted to,
Rebecca Mesritz 55:18
I want to, like, I want to, like, get the thing to like, okay, so give me like the three things. I feel like, there’s part of my nature is like, okay, so what do we need to do? What are the actionable items? Spell it out for me, just give me the instruction manual. And I always find myself in these conversations where people are like, just No, Rebecca. Like, that’s not a thing. Like your mind wants to do that. But that’s not the way to do it. I’m like, Ah, foil, wailed. It’s very and then and to bring it all back to impermanence. Like, it’s very, it’s very Buddhist.
Ridhi D’Cruz 55:56
But it’s very, it’s like, I think that that’s what I mean, again, when it’s like, are we listening? Right? Like, are we actually listening, listening to listen and hear what’s being said, or listening to be like, oh, yeah, I already know what I want. I’m just gonna, like, fit it into this thing. Right. And I don’t think that’s a Rebecca thing at all. I think it’s all of us. Like, I do that all the time. Right? And, like, walk by someone and be like, Wouldn’t it be cute if they like, planted some raspberries? Why? Because I love grass, or whatever. It’s like, we, we, we just, I think that’s okay. For me. It’s not, I don’t fault us for having desires and imaginations and wanting certainty. I feel like, I feel like that’s a very human human thing. I think where it becomes interesting for me is to observe that right, like to observe Oh, and reaching for this thing. And then just doing a quick scan, like, when am I not? What am I kind of ignoring and myself like, what feel maybe as the seated in? Or who am I potentially harming greatly, because I feel like, once we observe that, that that thing, then then for me is when the work begins, oh, now I’m gonna go into a shame spiral because I’m like, Damn, I’ve been doing this for decades now. And it’s still, I’m still not perfect. Oh, surprise, surprise, yeah, none of us get to be perfect. We’re all gonna make mistakes. We’re all blundering through this, in our own way. And I think ultimately, for me, one of the deepest practices has been to learn to love myself through all of the harm, and just yeah, the mistakes that I’m making all of the brokenness that I feel of displacement being a person of diaspora, like, all of that, like, for me, that’s, that’s the, that’s the, that’s the tilt from which any kind of creative imagination and connect, connection to, to this practice really comes from, you know, it’s deeply embedded within that, and I continue to learn so much from every, obviously everything around me, and everything within me. And not to say again, they go, I’m just gonna go and, you know, sit, like, sit on a cushion and think about how I need to heal myself. No, this is all still very much a relational practice, right, like even the attention of to within oneself and like how to love myself through it, I think radiates in how I’m able to love other people that remind me of myself that I get very annoyed with and have a lot of conflicts with. That’s what that that medicine is it’s like Oh, right. This is so like, it’s just that that reflection, right what’s happening outside is what is it a reflection of what’s happening within and sometimes we we need to attend what’s within more than what we need to more than then we need to attend what’s outside and sometimes the opposite to and sometimes together like again, I don’t want to give you know the give you the 123 But yeah, I just really when I’m like oh look at that thing out there. The cool yeah, go do that thing because being with nature, hands in the soil, very healing. And also what is that really informing me about myself? My my internal landscape
Rebecca Mesritz 59:47
my heart right now is just on fire. i It’s so good. It’s so good. I I know for myself, I’m the kind of person that I’m I need to I need to do the thing like, my, one of my shadows is, are my weaknesses, I should say is, is really just being with someone who is uncomfortable or having a process or is ill or something like that I just want to fix, I just want to do something to make it better. Like, I immediately jump to, can I just What can I do? Like, can I can I buy a thing? Can I fix a thing and a cleaner thing? And seeing seeing that here in this moment, like I just want to give an answer I just want to like, this is how you just get it get it to be but then this beautiful, like mystical, spiritual practice of place, as you’re talking about it, and allowing the kind of waves of discomfort with our own view of how it should be or could be, or a sense of loss and longing for what it was or what’s been destroyed. That deep desire to like fix a place or fix a thing, you know, fix every so often I walk around my own house or land and I’m like, Oh, this needs to get fixed, this needs to get fixed. And it takes a lot of work to just be with and appreciate and allow it to be whatever it is in this moment. And so I love this, what you’re dropping on us right now. around just the practice of place. And, and the the fullness of all of those emotions just like moving through you. And yeah, and hopefully from that place people can start to think about I mean, how beautiful to like clear some of that. clear some of those expectations, those desires, before embarking on a journey of creating a home, for example, or creating a place for people to gather or creating a place for people to just be still and silent or creating a place for people to observe. Yeah.
Ridhi D’Cruz 1:02:19
Yeah, yeah. It’s that creating a deep sense of belonging to ourselves, right? Like, I think that’s one. One way it’s it’s arisen within me is yes, I’m deeply embedded with the places around like land. And I’ve one of my friends jokes, like, these bodies, these meat suits that we hurtle around in our everyday lives. You know, like, this is also a place this body is also land, connected to land, but yeah, how do we, how do we be in this place? How do we be? And? And also, please, being time based as well, like, how do we be in this place? And as you were saying, like, you know, walking around and like wanting to fix this, that and the other. And it may only be language, but for me language is powerfully evocative, it’s like spell work in a way. And instead of fixing stuff I, I have, I like to try to feel into like, what, what, what’s that shift in my energy when I’m actually tending stuff, or tea, or care giving kids something? Right? Because the fixing feels like power over. And this is what I mean by liberation is threaded through relationally in every aspect. I’ve certainly taken out a lot of frustration and aggression on brooms, for example, be like, Oh, I gotta clean this, clean this stuff up. And, again, I’m not gonna throw shade. Like we all process we like it, you know, forgiveness is another practice, right? And it doesn’t mean we’re right or wrong. But I just imagine when I’m with that broom, the same tool. And when I’m like, Oh, look at this. I want to like, Oh, my my housemates coming back after a trip or after something tender that happened. I really want them to enter the space and feel like they have arrived in a place where care exists and carries the language, the visual language of what they are coming into. Right? Like how differently will I approach tending the space with the same tools with that goal?
Rebecca Mesritz 1:04:52
It’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful. Thank you. Thank you, I guess you know, I do Just before we, before we wrap up, I do want to come back a little bit to the idea of liberation. And I don’t necessarily know where I want it to go. But just to kind of close on, on, on the idea of liberation and the possibility of this practice being a tool for liberation. And just hear from you your thoughts on that?
Ridhi D’Cruz 1:05:28
Yeah. Yeah, we’ve talked, I feel like I’ve spoken a lot to, you know, the personal journey that I I’ve had with it. And maybe I’ll scale to some of the incredible people, places and projects that I get to work with. And for me, you know, it may sound trite, but I really live and breathe and animate this. Yeah, just this spell, I’m going to use the word spell that we, like, I’m only liberated when we’re all liberated. Right. And so it’s that, that reach that seeking that practice of liberation. That’s not just for my own personal gain. And not from this. This lack of this, like, oh, I need to fix something. Just again, practice, right? Again, we’re not, there’s obviously I’m going to be reaching and all of these things are simultaneously happening within me. But yeah, I think just practicing liberation, and what that means and looks like with different within different contexts. So for example, one of the ways that for me, black liberation, obviously is really important, Black joy, black, black folks thriving in public space. Not just in so called private space, but being able to be to be free to be free on this land, like wow, what a what a difficult and yet completely integral imagination and dream to live into. And for me liberation, and through placemaking. And please, best practice is to and to work towards uplifting, amplifying, supporting, sitting with this is all the ways that we can be in relationship with how that can be true for different different groups of people, and different individuals themselves. So one project that I am learning so much from is the justice for Keaton Otis project, and it’s, it’s about What does black healing and joy look like in public space when so much black life has been taken away by police brutality. And I think that’s a really powerful story to continue to live into. And how do we memorialize people? Who are the, you know, who have faced and lost their lives, their lives have been taken away by state sanctioned violence? I think those stories are really important to kind of imbue and embed into our woven fabric of place. How does what does it mean for indigenous folks, urban indigenous folks, because, you know, we get into the politics, tribal politics, and, and I think, again, all of these things are important, but also for folks for the indigenous diaspora who’ve been displaced, relocated, forced into urban settlements in this present moment, what does that mean for people to reconnect and connect with land and to their life with their life based practices? You know, I think that’s an important please space narrative for me again, as a as a brown settler here, I wasn’t stolen from my homelands and brought here I have much privilege to have chosen to come here. So I feel like I’m talking about my practice, right my liberation practice is to is to ensure that the The imaginations dreamings aspirations of place that I see elevated and kind of on full blast, right? Even when you think about Portland like what what are the stories about Portland that get blasted on the media or in our conversations, and I think who’s being silenced like on the theory says it’s not giving voice to the voiceless. But it’s really looking at, like, what are those stories that have been deliberately silenced, and discarded and violently subdued and repressed? So and to do that, in a way, like in terms of my social positioning, and my own lineage and my own, kind of where I am in my journey of healing, to continue to learn how to do that and to unfold together, you know, because, as, for example, I’d show up at all these like meetings with urban indigenous folks. And then people would ask me, they’re like, are you indigenous to the and I was like, Whoa, that means very different thing in India, I wouldn’t identify as indigenous in an Indian context, even though I’ve done the 23andme. And I’m the I’m pretty, pretty genetically 50 Indian, but it means something so different that and so then routing into like, oh, you know, what is ancestry and lineage? And what’s the brokenness? I feel in my own lineage? Why, like, what’s that draw towards like, fighting? Fighting this fight, or like, growing this garden, right? Like Alex’s, your, your wound, my garden, is the name of one of their books. And I’m like, Oh, my gosh, how beautiful. So, yeah, just turning that inward to be like, oh, yeah, this means I have some work to do around healing my own relationship to my own indigeneity. Right. And that includes white bodied folks like what? Indigenous solidarity is not just like this, oh, I’m gonna go and support someone out there. This caretaking codependent, right. It’s also it’s both simultaneously yes, there’s a responsibility to indigenous solidarity, but then what’s our responsibility to connecting with our own and indigeneity and our own colonization that has happened so that we can, we can do this to one another. And the same goes with the black brothers, sisters and kin. You know, I, it deepens and deepens, like to really sit with the ongoing genocide that’s happening to folks from the African diaspora here, there’s a lot of discomfort. And again, I’m just like, I just want to go and like, fix it and make, you know, do something out there. And then, but to sit with the grief, I think, for me the amount of grief that comes up with this work. And there’s such medicine to it, though, because otherwise I feel like, and I’ve been doing this right, which, again, not talking about other people in my own practice, I’m just then I feel like holding expectations, and my wounds. I’m just walking around with them, and not tending to them in a way that feels responsible. And then they come with me into the room. And then harm happens when I’m not tending my own wounds. Right. And so I feel like, yeah, there’s that responsibility to sit with what’s coming up for me, as someone who’s not racialized as black in this on this land. How does that How do I fully somatically sit with? And then also in my design, how do I help bring in that prayer for black liberation, for indigenous liberation, for immigrant liberation going closer towards home? Which, ironically, not surprise, surprise, didn’t deal with that for a long time as like, Nah, I’ll just do the bike, the black indigenous, kind of solidarity work and because, you know, I, myself, am an immigrant. And sometimes the things we take time to circle back to what’s really close to us, this has been my experience, at least because I’ve needed to kind of, I’ve needed to like wind my way, right? We don’t want to just not have capacity and then just go reach in and then do more damage. Healing is not linear. It’s very circular and circuitous. And I’m grateful for that. And so I feel like more recently, I’m getting to work with folks that share that, that we share that bond of not having been born on this land or brought up here and having cultures that are from outside of Turtle Island, and navigating the immigration system and so again, like, you know,
Ridhi D’Cruz 1:15:08
just what does that liberation and solidarity look like for others and for myself, and, and on and on, if you look at every, at every point, it’s an orientation, the way that I, the way that I experienced this is, you know, I orient towards healing, I try to orient towards liberation to be like, yes, these are, this is what feels like it’s animating me giving me life feels like it’s aligned with my values. I have capacity for this to like, titrated to this level, of, of practice inward outward. And so yep. Is it still is my is my North Star still liberation? Does this work? God, check? Sweet, let’s keep moving, you know, moving forward. And I think that, that, that reflectiveness that coming back, right, that spider learning, because obviously, sometimes I’m gonna get lost, and then I’m going to need like, somebody else being like, Yeah, I know, I know, you’ve been around this community for a while already. But like, that felt harmful. And that’s like, wow, that’s a gift to be like, Oh, if I can approach this, I can continue to learn and heal and grow. And. And that’s, that’s, that’s such a blessing. It’s such a blessing.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:16:35
Thank you for thank you for saying that. And just speaking to that. Yeah, I’m just for myself, I’m aware as a as a podcast host. And it’s someone that’s putting themselves selves out in a pretty public way that this morning before this interview, and I did another interview this morning, I was feeling really nervous to talk about some of these topics, because it’s, it’s vulnerable. And there’s, I still feel like, despite as much work as I’ve done already, there’s still so so so much work ahead of me. And I just wanted to, since we’re at the beginning of the season with this episode, you know, kind of just drop in this idea of failing forward that people talk about, and just the importance of, of the vulnerability to say, you know, what, we’re not, we’re not baked cakes, we’re not perfect, like, we’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to do harm. And can we continue to come back to a place of owning and taking responsibility for the harm we’ve created? Making a meaningful apology? Being willing to receive feedback that says, ouch, like that didn’t feel good that you did that? Or can you please try it this way in the future, and keep pushing forward and love ourselves enough and respect ourselves enough to forgive ourselves, allow ourselves to be forgiven, and, and keep moving forward. And I truly hope that anyone listening to this podcast, including myself, can have the grace I pray that we all get to have the grace to be courageous in these efforts towards liberation and towards solidarity. And I’m really grateful to you for for bringing that point around here. So thank you for that. Thank you. And I would love to I’d love for you to just take us out with a with a moment of of mindfulness to kind of book end our time together.
Ridhi D’Cruz 1:18:50
Thank you. Yes. So let’s, once again find those points of contact the ground of the chair, maybe our backs are resting against something
Ridhi D’Cruz 1:19:19
anchoring ourselves through touch. Allowing all that’s been stirred up within us through this conversation through
Ridhi D’Cruz 1:19:33
whatever is happening within us, giving the tender bits within us some some love and some gratitude. Being moved for being alive and in relationship. Taking a moment To soften our gaze and turn our sight inwards inside to bring about some awareness and attention and cared for ourselves in these bodies biting in some lifegiving l thank you to the trees and all the beings that
Ridhi D’Cruz 1:20:44
are inherently part of this air that is now part of me and welcoming in this breath to nourish our bodies, spirits to flow through our lungs and animate us as we continue to do the best we can. So, practice the commitment inviting this breath to soften and loosen the parts of our body where we feel like we’re holding ourselves in a particular way maybe from some residue of feel some expectation of perfection that we can just lovingly release they’ll by little whatever’s left ready to let go. Sitting with the miracle and beauty in this moment that we’re alive breathing that we get to dip into liberation the gift of the present moment breathing in softness breathing out the operation breathing in forgiveness breathing out trust breathing in love breathing out love thank you so much for love being loud and true loving
Rebecca Mesritz 1:23:32
Well, Rudy to Cruz, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your insights today. It’s been such a pleasure to talk with you.
Ridhi D’Cruz 1:23:43
Same Thank you Rebecca.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:23:50
Well, I hope that you got as much out of this conversation with ready to cruise as I did. You can find more information about ready at their website, ready to cruise dotnet and on Instagram at ready to cruise. I invite you to check out their upcoming course reclaiming permaculture and placemaking for liberation hosted through the foundation for intentional community. And I hope you’ll continue to follow along with our second season. I am so thrilled to be once again hosting these potent conversations. And I hope that you are getting a lot out of them. There are lots of ways to support the show if you are enjoying it. Of course your donations are always welcome. But liking, subscribing and sharing with friends and leaving reviews on Apple podcasts really helps us to grow our reach. You can also fill out our survey at ic.org/podcast and let us know what kind of interviews conversations and guests you would like to see on the show. And you can also reach out to me directly through Facebook or Instagram at insight Community podcast. I’d like to take a moment and give a few shout outs to some of the folks who have been absolutely integral and getting this second season of the show launched. None of this could be happening without the dedication and work and amazingly upbeat attitude of Kim Kenny, one of the CO directors of the fic Bianca Villanova and Aaron McMichael had been rocking our fundraiser effort. Neil Planchon has been a huge supporter of the show and is a true Spider Man weaving webs of connection and support throughout the cohousing and intentional community spheres. And finally, my buddy Dave Buddha, who was so generous with his creative ability as to create the awesome inside community ditty that you will be hearing on the show from here on out. Thanks, friends, it has been a pleasure to work with all of you. It is such an honor to continue to uncover all of the beautiful and messy realities of living inside community and to be sharing these conversations with you. Thank you so much for joining and I’ll see you next time.
Dave Booda 1:26:08
Who left the dishes in the shared kitchen sink? Who helps her Johnny when is too much to drink? How do we find a way for everyone to agree? That Sinsa commune it’s a podcast y’all.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Listen & Subscribe
- New Visions for the Communities Movement with Daniel Greenberg
- Cults! The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly with Jesse Stone
- Community Held Death and Dying with Angela Franklin
- Central Leader Communities with “Evil Dictator” Paul Wheaton
- Intimacy in Community with Dave Booda
- Aging Well Together with Margaret Critchlow
- Raising Children in Community with Amy Saloner
- Reclaiming Placemaking for Liberation with Ridhi D’Cruz
- Designing Shared Spaces with Bryan Bowen
About the Show
The Inside Community Podcast brings folks along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. We provide useful and inspiring content to support people on their quest for resilience, sustainability, and connection.
Meet Your Host
Inside Community Podcast host Rebecca Mesritz is a community builder living in Williams, Oregon. In 2011, Rebecca co-founded the Emerald Village (EVO) in North County San Diego, California. During her ten years with EVO, she supported and led numerous programs and initiatives including implementation and training of the community in Sociocracy, establishment of the Animal Husbandry program, leadership of the Land Circle, hosting numerous internal and external community events, and participation in the Human Relations Circle which holds the relational, spiritual and emotional container for their work.
In June of 2021, with the blessing of EVO, Rebecca and 3 other co-founders relocated to begin a new, mission- driven community and learning center housed on 160 acres of forest and farmland. Rebecca is passionate about communal living and sees intentional community as a tool for both personal and cultural transformation. In addition to her work in this field, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University and creates functional, public, and interactive art in metal, wood, and pretty much any other material she can get her hands on. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a nurturer of gardens, an epicurean lover of sustainable wholesome food, and a cultivator of compassion and beauty.
The Inside Community Podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for Intentional Community (FIC). Reach out if you are interested in sponsorship or advertisement opportunities on the podcast.