*cino Work, Education, People, Three Rivers

Three Rivers and roads: Nate’s reflection

Just over two months ago I stepped out of my car into the town of Three Rivers for the first time. To be honest, I didn’t really know why I was here. Yes, I was here to be an intern for *cino, but the reality was that I had little idea what that meant. I hadn’t even applied for this internship until the very day of the deadline and even after that I spent another weekend deliberating before finally accepting the role. I knew coming in that my soul was tired. I needed to learn how to live sustainably, environmentally yes, but more crucially with a lifestyle that wouldn’t drain me. When it really comes down to it, I came to Three Rivers seeking renewal and rest.

What I found was so much more than both. I found a rest that was not just restful but active and productive, and renewal that didn’t demand lethargy or apathy. I found a community of people that really desperately wants to know how to live well, and seeks each day to live better than the last. Before I arrived I struggled knowing what to tell people who asked about my summer plans. “I’m interning for a non-profit,” I would tell them, and invariably they would ask, “Doing what?” That was where I usually got stuck. “Well, kind of just living mostly” was often my reply. Yes, I would tell them about planning for our weekly Community Fun Nights, but I didn’t really know what that entailed then, and I would tell them about Future Festival, but I had only a shadow of an idea of what that looked like, and really, when I look back on it, I think I like my first answer better anyway. Describing the tasks I did falls far short of understanding what this experience was about. It was not just a list of things to get done, a manner of being productive, but rather a shift in paradigm. It’s really about living, not doing. A better question would be “How did you live?” instead of “What did you do?”

So how did I live? I lived with six amazing people, each uniquely gifted and beautiful. We cooked and ate together each night, sat together on the porch laughing, enjoyed beers together at the bar, played together, cleaned together, and cuddled together (all seven of us at once). I worked as a grounds-keeper at Gilchrist, a local retreat center, drinking in beauty and peace each morning as I arrived to bright flowers glistening with dew. There I learned the meditation of weeding, contemplating life as my hands sifted through dirt seeking out roots to remove. I spent hours at the Huss Project fixing things, cleaning things, sorting things, organizing things, making things. There my imagination felt free: free to take risks, to create, and to permit myself to be artistic. I visited downtown, regularly patronizing the Riviera Bar and Theater, Up in Smoke, and Main St. Café, loving the feeling of being a regular after showing up the second time. I went on adventures to Lake Michigan, to the hidden marsh, down dirt roads, and onto the swings of a playground. That was life: an exhilarating mix of order and spontaneity, responsibility and whimsy.

Now I stare at the end of my time here in Three Rivers and a long road beckons me. I’m leaving to begin my student teaching experience in New Mexico, a new space, a new way of life. The road is simultaneously incredibly cruel and wonderfully kind. Cruel because it takes me away from this life I have grown to love so fully and richly in such a short time, and yet kind because it brings me to a new place that is bursting with life and possibility and the road lets me bring along the lessons of my summer here. I also take comfort in the fact that as the road carries me away, the rivers here keep flowing. Others remain, continuing the life that I was privileged to be a part of, and maybe someday my road will cross these rivers again.

Rivers and roads,
Rivers and roads,
Rivers ‘til I reach you.

Above: Nate helps a neighbor pick blueberries during a Community Fun Night at the Huss Project.

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Education, People

The value of creative collaboration

The Save the Frogs tent at Huss Future Festival on July 19, 2014.

Our continuing exploration of *cino’s core values took us to a discussion of creative collaboration during our weekly Garden of your Mind session. Our text for the dialogue came from Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block. The book opens with the following statement about community:

The essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole. The key is to identfy how this transformation occurs. We begin by shifting our attention from the problems of community to the possibility of community. We also need to acknowledge that our wisdom about individual transformation is not enough when it comes to community transformation. So, one purpose here is to bring together our knowledge about the nature of collective transformation.

Huss Future Festival is a prime example of the value of creative collaboration at work within *cino activities. Future Fest brings together numerous organizations and individuals from around the Three Rivers area, from organizations that participate in the coin carnival to artists selling wares, from local folks working on frog extinction issues to Speaking Stone Cafe, and, this year, working alongside the Three Rivers Area Faith Community (TRAFC) for their Back-to-School backpack distribution. Each of these entities brings something unique to the event that otherwise would be absent, and together we are able to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

That is one of our small offerings towards the collective transformation of the Three Rivers community we seek to be a part of. Our own *cino community has individually made commitments towards a certain kind of life, but we recognize that those decisions alone do not add up to community transformation. For that, creative collaboration is an absolutely essential component. Sometimes collaboration requires the type of creativity that figures out ways to bridge the gap — what Block refers to as bridging capital — between parties who disagree. That is the sort of creativity that breaks down barriers pushes through stalemates, and that is the sort of collaboration that can change the world.

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Education, Organization, People

The value of unfettered imagination

This piece was co-authored by Nate Brees and Alexandra Harper.

The key pathology of our time, which seduces us all, is the reduction of imagination so that we are too numbed, satiated, and co-opted to do serious imaginative work. It could be, as is so often the case, that the only ones left who can imagine are the ones at the margin. They are waiting to be heard, but they have a hard time finding a place and a way for their voices.
– Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation and Obedience

Armed with our recent Sunday night viewing of The Lego Movie, we gathered in the Rectory living room ready to do some serious imaginative work. Unfettered imagination was the produce of this week’s Garden of your Mind, our weekly discussions centering around *cino’s core values, and the newly released blockbuster was to offer a springboard for our thoughts.

Our conversation on unfettered imagination began with a tone of hilarity inspired by the film. We had, after all, also read a review of The Lego Movie by Jeffrey Overstreet as one of our correlated text and scenes, quotes, and one catchy song (“Everything is Awesome”) from the movie were present in our minds and ready on our tongues. Thus, the conversation began with more laughter and Lego-mimicry than serious-minded imagination analysis, just as it should have.

The movie portrays a surprisingly well-thought out approach to the necessity of imagination, centering around Emmet, a very-average-man construction worker, in a worryingly-cheerful lego world. When Emmet accidentally fulfills a prophesy and is thrust into the role of liberator to the entire lego universe, he has to choose whether to use his seemingly average but kooky mind to help the oppressed peoples of the Lego Lands or the expose himself as the false hope he believes himself to be. Though we at *cino went into the film with varying levels of skepticism, we all came out with a relatively common conclusion: the film does a brilliant job at taking a multifaceted view on imagination (it supports both teamwork and individuality, “coolness” and “weirdness”, and the importance personalities both upbeat-and-centerstage [Emmet] and introspective-and-chill [Lego Batman]). We also all agreed the film was hilarious.

However, the conversation did inevitably broaden to include facets of imagination outside of the assemblage of Lego. For instance, we discussed *cino’s imagination as it manifests in the Huss Project, most notably in Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma’s article “Ten Things We Imagine at Huss School.” We were reminded of the necessity for community imagination and as we checked off 9 of the once-envisioned 10 imaginings for Huss as now completed, we were struck by the power of communal imagination. We also read two other catapult magazine pieces by Kirstin about the sequestration of imagination and recovering imagination.

Imagination is at the heart of change and, as The Lego Movie eloquently demonstrates, whether you are a master builder or an individual who has never had an original idea his life, your mind can be the birthplace of that imagining. We at *cino encourage you to take some time to invest in some serious imaginative work wherever you might be. To help you get started enjoy this snippet featuring Benny the 1980s-something space guy.


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