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Field Notes: Auroville, observations feeling lost (at first)

Intro / Disclaimer (longer than actual notes): I hesitate to publish this flashback diary, not because I fear away from my notion of embracing translucency in personal archaeology, but rather because these are notes from the first couple of days and after sort of a disconnected start (keep in mind, I had just come out of several weeks of fairly solitary time at an Ayurveda hospital).

Anyhow my (I don’t know how to say it) my “community building instincts” kicked in and I made friends with some fun Italians who had a house and some herb, we did some slacker yoga, met a young Indian man studying sustainable architecture and connected him with the wider hemp as a building material community which has gone on to be fruitful relationships, met some wonderful wise elder ladies from Iceland and Switzerland, sort of fell into my rhythm.

Matrimandir thatta way

Plus, I learned logistics about “how to live there which basically is “if you can contribute something, you can make it happen”.

So this part of the story which sounds a little bit bleak and, in many ways is accurate though as in recent times (as a round this up in 2022,) there are emerging and ongoing controversies about how a place like this should be governed which brings in a lot of questions about privilege, colonialism, ecology, status of the land itself, the intentions of founders (and how much that matters and how is to be interpreted), which all brings tension between long timers, and newer inter-lopers, and the people around the international enclave who are just living and trying to make the best of their life in a larger country which still kind of figuring out who wants to be in the bigger world.

oh here is Matrimandir

So,… there’s this part of the story and then the part where I had to leave suddenly upon the passing of my mother and make a rapid trip to Utah, (talk about culture shock!), on the middle, there were some pleasantness which I’ll try to articulate along the way under separate cover.

In short, I found that there was a need for archivists, librarians, radio talkers, communications types and I suddenly saw how I might fit in and disappear there forever.

Of course I loaded up on artifacts, ephemera and items from the bookstore with the teachings of the founders and various dispatchers and missives about peace and community. (Some made it in to a scrapbook chronicling the heart-wrenching trip from India to Utah and beyond).

I’m saying this because there’s a lot more to say but in the meantime I was also dealing with the crisis of the withdrawal of Rs.1000 and Rs.5000 bank notes from circulation which resulted in empty bank machines, and no way to get cash (which was particularly amusing/ironic in this cashless society when one really needed cash to not use cash – but without a bank account well… folks were flying to Sri Lanka just to exchange money and come back which seems to defeat the whole point of an ecologically sustainable and equitable community!).

As fate (if that’s a thing) had it, things went differently, very differently, but this place remains in my head as I try to sort out the conundrum to address here on these first tentative days, but also in my heart simply for the fact that this kind of “unique/weirdness” exists.

I hope to return, or maybe not, I just hope something like this exists in some utopian form. Yep, one can dream right?

Added a few snapshots in here, others will go in a sort of “in between days” post” (pardon my notes to self).

Oh and more about this time appears in audio form as “Field Notes from Elsehwere, Choogle On #121” in which i tell *way too much* about the missing years.

Auroville Observations

So far, its much more intense than intentional. Can a community grow into a city without bureaucracy, boards, meetings, committees, resolutions, motions, applications, infighting, mandatory contributions and acronyms?

Seems perhaps not, or is it? It seems not. Or is it rule dependent? Or personality driven?

But strong leaders go rogue and sex and power corrode.

Frequent complaining, loud motorbikes, local workers and no hellos and/or Namastes.

I have tea in a stainless steel cup. Will food come to me as a notice my cane? I suspect not.

With respect to intention and effort, are you simply trading one framework for another with new names?

various shrines but not “religious”

The spirituality if any is in the background. “Love” is the word but not evident in action. No hugs, no warmth, not cold communication but hardly an emotional symbiotic place or perhaps not physically evident.

Now, one full day in… Awaiting dinner after fumbling through woods on a dark trail. Why am I so unsatisfied? All afternoon scrapbooking, letter/package making-is it that I don’t understand this place yet? The only people who come to talk are other new people or “tourists”.

restaurants are neither businesses nor not-businesses, cash is no cash but cash

I get that long timers make this community for themselves and not for passers-thru but, still… This is neither a spiritual holy land nor brilliantly efficient or revolutionary self-sufficient nor rock ‘n’ roll fun nor artsy-craftsy-though all those elements exist.

No “religion” per se but cult of work-that’s sort of OK-not warm but not clinical. No hugs still, no hellos or help all day long. So many complainers!

Even at the visitor center-everyone is on mobile’s-services spread out making wearing motorcycles and scooters necessary. Townhall was well, a Townhall. You change money for a card with Receipts and *sign here* for everything.

I buy and read all the books and I’m down with the charter and respect and work but somehow it feels oddly-indifferent to outsiders no doubt and unashamed to say-a shortage of houses but no quick prefab dwellings.

Old ideas are cool with local artisans but if a shortage is thwarting progress from only 2800-ish to a projected (and seemingly unreasonable 50,000) how well it scale?

I don’t care as I like small but masterplan seems dependent on a few “lions” and long timers. Sure it makes sense in a traditional conventional sense but it all seems so fragile and rather self-congratulatory while more or less like the old west of the myths of America – pioneer families incorporating a new town while carpet-baggers roll in often with new ideas and are branded “newcomers” even after a decade or so.

New arrivals who wish to settle are vetted after a year or longer. You have to contribute *something* of value (skills, building, biz…) which the community deems needed.

But the “community leadership” is nebulous and confused (from my vantage point). The newbs post bond in form of an air ticket home – your “home” isn’t here, it’s where you “come from” not like rainbow gatherings where the greeting is “welcome home” – maybe because of the outside political situation, hedging bets with a “punt play”.

The pain and guilt of socioeconomic class is palatable and unresolved.

Yet here I feel so alone despite surrounded by people for the first time in weeks. But no eye contact no warmth – to me at least.

Now I will eat and hope it’s just a bad day despite a walk to the visitor center, watching an introductory film, purchasing books with rupees for which change is difficult, chatting on blankets and towel, getting “non-cash” card, buying items to eat: pears and curd and cookies on bed while I listen to favorite music but all I think is “I am lost.”

mighty banyan tree
Continue reading Field Notes: Auroville, observations feeling lost (at first)

Postbox: Matsue, Shimane, Japan (for #postboxsaturday)

A very unique Japan PostBox for #PostboxSaturday

This black beauty is in Matsue, Shimane outside the former residence, next to museum of renowned international, multi-genre writer: Lafcadio Hearn.

He is a total hero for me and others – his roots and branches run deep and wide with roots in Ireland & Greece and sojourns in New Orleans and Caribbean before moving to Japan and taking a Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo.

{If curious, I have a dossier about Lafcadio Hearn with more snapshots and annotations}

Memo: As it goes, i have hundreds of snapshots of postboxes, post offices, and “postal still life” (meaning scenes of scattered pens, papers, postcards, stationery, stamps – all spread over a table while in a session) and i use these for Postcards from Gravelly Beach podcast “episode art” and made a book from many of the artifacts.

Of late, some Instagram/Twitter folks have a #postboxsaturday campaign/project rolling so i’ve used this as encouragement to start trickling out my stash. Slowly and intermittently (because i have too many projects on the go!) with minor annotations.

Post’d: well-franked from Wales, Portugal and Gifu + India returned

Quite an assortment in the Post box yesterday:

that right there is a beautiful quartet

1) postcard of painting of a postbox from Wales with a commemorative Queen Elizabeth 2 Memorial franking & 3 language Air Mail seal

2) postcard from a dear correspondent in Gifu who’s postmaster always does a fantastic cancellation stamp (subject matter: motels around the world)

3) big envelope with collage art from Portugal with a fantastic oversize 4£ portfolio style stamp

4) a postcard i mailed to India that sadly, was returned because “mail to this region is not currently possible“ – keeping it on standby in the meanwhile

Equinox at Ohaka, saying respectful hellos to the ancestors

The both of them are so adorable, me, I’m just glad to be here

Friday, Sept 23: Equinox day walk up to the ancestral graves for cleaning, incense and fresh flowers… as is tradition. We tended to several generations in Tsuchida, Okayama.

Note we are wearing our “family tie-dye tartan” made by brother Dan (wiped me out so back home to rest fckn #mecfs :()

Continue reading Equinox at Ohaka, saying respectful hellos to the ancestors

Post’d: “vintage” postcard home from CJ81 scout camp

Vintage DaveO postcard from “Canadian Jamboree 1981” CJ 81 in Kananaskis Country, the summer i turned 11 yrs old (i was probably the youngest on site and needed special permission but ya know i was a keener as they say).


Bikes, canoes, beavers, creative handwriting… In other words, i haven’t changed much since :)

PS Funny thing is, I was back home from camp for a week before it actually showed up… Kind of defeats the purpose but great artifact

Postboxes + Post Office: Katsuyama, Okayama, Japan (for #postboxsaturday)

“Just hanging out by a beautiful pillar #Postbox with a fantastic noren curtain in historic Katsuyama, Okayama, Japan for #PostboxSaturday #PostBoxesOfTheWorld

yes i am cheesing out, with a jaunty pose but i mean, look how great it all is!

More: same cheesy pose, same town, same different box, different day along Katsuyama historic “preserved” street

Even More: same town, 2 snaps of another pillar at Katsuyama Station and another cheesy pose by a standard issue box by the actual post office in Yubara, Katsuyama

Continue reading Postboxes + Post Office: Katsuyama, Okayama, Japan (for #postboxsaturday)

Still Life: writing letters at Sun Clinic

A sunny patch of grass, all necessary tools, everything is possible

Came across this photo, I suppose there’s a chance it’s elsewhere in this archive but its significant memory for me… ergo:

When we were pregnant, went to the lovely “and clinic” for our usual check-in but, in those early heady days of the “notable public health conundrum virus” this was the first time I was not allowed in to participate due to uncertainty and concern.

Certainly crestfallen so, as I do when feeling blue, I grabbed my postal kit and wrote a postcard or a letter, possibly to you.

These sorts of photos with pens, papers, address book, inky and postal stamps, aerograms, ephemera, postcards etc, all sort of spread around on a table, desk, blanket (or just the flap of a leather satchel purchased in Nepal), I called “postal still life” and yes, I have dozens of examples, 100s possibly.

Post’d: tiny exhibit, on a string in Shelter Cove (& a stainless steel fridge)

daveo on the rocks

Dear friends in Coquitlam, British Columbia are amassing *quite a collection* of my/our dispatches over the recent months and years.

{In fact, assuming they’ve kept everything I’ve sent over the years, likely in the top three of all my accidental repositories.}

This string just holds a sampler, but what a sampler it is! In my spin spin spin brain, sometimes I forget these things made and sent out into the world. Thanks for reminder.

Oh bonus! I’ve made it to another refrigerator. You can keep your fancy galleries, I’ll take the shoeboxes, scrapbooks and fridge magnets :-)

postcard goes well with stainless steel

Bonus: Mail art dossier to (New) Westminster

Came across snapshots of poetry & art items mailed to a friend several years back, made a collage to enjoy the interaction again:

to which K replied, “I still have the flowers on my fridge”