Last week, we were joined by nine students from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI on a spring break trip in partnership with Calvin’s Service-Learning Center. We had a wonderful week exploring the idea of committing to a place and considering the practical outcomes of place-based living. To that end, we enjoyed tearing up carpet and re-purposing materials at the Huss Project, meeting with so many of the great members of the Three Rivers community, and following a rule of life together at the Hermitage and at St. Gregory’s Abbey. Delicious meals, stimulating conversations, and a respite from the hectic nature of everyday life were savored by both students and *cino staff members. Find more pictures on Flickr, and check back here soon for a full recap of the week!
Summers are a busy time for *cino folks. We tend to cram as much as we can into the good weather, and this summer was no exception (or perhaps it was as we crammed in more than usual!).This is a short list of what we did during the hottest months of the year:
- Paid off the mortgage on Huss, making it official *cino property!
- Planned and executed Future Fest, our biggest summer event, designed to demonstrate what’s possible at Huss and build community through creativity and food.
- Hosted Family Fun Nights every Tuesday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to enjoy snacks, games and crafts with our neighbors.
- Continued our series of Underground Supper Clubs, a brand new fundraising effort in Three Rivers that is definitely making waves.
- Hosted storytelling nights for potential storytellers to come out to Huss and share their tales.
- Added to our Huss Stories series, with pieces on Gail Walters, Carol Boulette and Luther Channey.
- Worked on the school every Friday during the afternoon because there’s always something to be done.
- Hosted school lunches four days a week in partnership with the local schools because kids need food!
- Attempted to raise more money for the Huss Project through various grants and activities.
- Hosted the Calvin College Service-Learning Center staff for a day of training.
- And, of course, we continued to publish catapult magazine and the daily asterisk this summer before taking our traditional August publishing break.
With the end of summer upon us, we enter into a different phase of *cino’s work, one that is perhaps less stressful, but every bit as important. However, this particular year it is a bittersweet respite we face, as the end of this summer of 2013 has brought with it a host of goodbyes. The farewells began in the early summer with our first interns, Jonathan and Ginna, a pair from Costa Rica who came into the *cino community and infected us all with their enthusiasm and creativity. We then saw the arrival and departure of the other interns, Ainsley, Chelsea, and Jonathan (affectionately dubbed Jonathan #2), who brought with them new ideas and a willingness to explore the values and work of *cino. Interns coming and going is something we’ve grown used to at *cino, though we never relish the idea of their departure (and will often persuade them to stick around, if only for just a little while).
We also said goodbye to two longstanding *cino members in Stephanie and Chad, friends who have been integral to *cino’s development both as individuals and then as newlyweds. We know they will do great things in their new location, and their presence will positively impact all those they come across. Our final goodbye came recently, and it was with heavy hearts that the *cino moving crew packed up the belongings of one Emily “Battleship” Ulmer and docked her in her new home, where she will seek the degree she so richly deserves.
These are bittersweet farewells, certainly, but they are also hopeful ones because the connections we find and cultivate at *cino are the kind that last lifetimes, and we know that these goodbyes are temporary things. So we say ‘so long,’ though it may be with heavy hearts, and we take heart from a great human who once wrote, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
It’s been a week of closure for *cino and the Huss Project. Earlier last week we had our final Family Fun Night of the summer, this week saw a bittersweet farewell to our remaining summer interns, and last Friday we had our last Storytelling night. The final Storytelling in our series of nights at Huss drew quite a crowd. Some were there for the food, some for the stories, and all for the chance to be around others and engage in something unusual for Three Rivers.
One thing we pass along during each storytelling night is the reason why we do this: *cino is passionate about storytelling. “The stories we tell and hear teach us and shape us,” said Emily Ulmer, *cino’s staff coordinator for this storytelling series. “Stories can challenge us to empathize with people greatly different from ourselves and stories can give us comfort at the end of a hard day. We are so grateful for all those willing to listen to the stories of others and those who are willing to share.”
And we are grateful. People who we might never have expected to share have come out to Huss and allowed us to empathize with them. We’ve had poems and prose, tears and laughter, and plenty of food to absorb it all.
This last night of storytelling was a strange mix. We had long moments of pause, people deliberating on whether or not they wanted to brave the microphone. But we also had more stories than on any other night, to the point where it seemed like we might keep telling stories until the moon passed overhead. In some ways, that’s the best type of storytelling experience. Knowing that people want to keep telling stories and keep listening is magic in its own way. And it was a lovely send-off to a summer full of stories, both told and un-told, and we hope that we can do even better next year. There are always more stories to tell, and the story of *cino’s journey in Three Rivers, and that off The Huss Project, is only getting stronger. We hope to see you, whether or not you’ve joined us so far, at next year’s summer series of stories. Until then!
The summer storytelling season kicked off down at the Huss Project on Friday, June 28 with the thought-provoking and (to some) deceptively intricate theme: The Best Decision I Ever Made.
A day of cleaning and decorating again transformed the old kindergarten room of Huss School into a place of hospitality and attentiveness. As will be the custom for each storytelling event, food came first — potluck style — to quiet our bellies, lift our spirits and ease us into a mode of comfortable conversation after a long week of work and responsibilities (or night travel and weddings). Potted centerpieces sat on softly patterned tablecloths, and the light from assorted chandeliers mixed with the warm summer sunbeams that slipped in through the open door. As a first time attendee, let me say: *cino staff knows how to set the mood, y’all.
After the meal, emcee Jonathan Huang (a summer intern) took the stage (a stool) and began by reminding us why we dare to let our guards down and share a few pages from our personal stories: to cross barriers and learn from our neighbors. With that, the microphone was left to wait for the first brave soul. Nudges and whispered “No, you go’s” continued until *cino staff member Jay Howard groaned, “Fine,” and jaywalked to the stool. He was the first of many to fill the room with the tale of a single, often casual, choice — a choice that continues rippling through one’s life, rich and transformative, years after it’s made.
I didn’t share a story that evening — I’m still exploring my history of stellar decisions — but I felt just as much a part of the occasion as those who were bold enough to sit exposed. There’s nothing like a living room full of thoughtful friends, and that’s exactly what we found in that half-renovated learning space. We lent our eyes and ears for as long as any speaker needed, opened our minds to memory, and even hung on during the inescapable pauses that followed each, “Oh, shoot … I’ve got to backtrack.”
Join us for the next summer storytelling night on Friday, June 12 at the Huss Project (1008 8th Street in Three Rivers). Bring a dish to share for the potluck at 7:00 p.m. and a tale to share for storytelling time from 8:00-9:00 p.m. Listeners are welcome, too!
On Sunday, April 28, members of the *cino community enjoyed sharing coffee, tea, juice and homemade cinnamon rolls between and after worship services with members of Trinity Episcopal Church.
Since the summer of 2010, *cino has been renting Trinity’s rectory to house an intentional community, which includes volunteer staff and summer interns. The church has also graciously allowed us to use their basement for the times extra space is needed, including summer and various student groups who come to Three Rivers for service-learning, retreat, leadership training and just-plain-visiting. Last year, Trinity applied for a grant to renovate the bathrooms in the basement and put in a shower, which has been wonderfully helpful for all of the hosting our group does.
Trinity will celebrate its 150th anniversary this coming September and we were excited to hear during coffee hour about some of the creative plans that are taking shape for that event. True to their long legacy of outreach and hospitality, Trinity has not only rented space to the *cino gang, but they’ve also contributed in terms of furniture, housewares, encouragement, financial contributions and, simply, friendship. (We greatly miss our Trinity friend Jeanette and her kind pup Larry — they appear around :33 in this video — who lived across the street from Huss until Jeanette passed away last year.) In addition to all of this generosity, Trinity has also agreed to host a Noisy Offering next Sunday to continue their support of the Huss Project Brick Campaign. Thank you, Trinity friends, for all you do to live out your congregational mission to be “God’s love in action” in Three Rivers and beyond!
Bring your loose change and join us at Trinity Episcopal Church on Sunday, May 5 for a Noisy Offering (coins in baking pans, although bills and checks are welcome, too!). Special offerings will take place at both the 8:00 a.m. (spoken liturgy) and 10:00 a.m. (sung liturgy) worship services. Trinity is located at 321 N. Main Street in Three Rivers.
Check out photos of *cino goings-on at Trinity:
Hello! My name is Christina and this is my first post to the *cino intern blog. A little intro about myself: I am a rising senior at Calvin College studying theatre. As part of my internship with *cino I am collecting stories about Huss School through interviews with people in the community, which I will then edit to create a performance at the end of the summer. I am really excited to learn more about Three Rivers and to be part of the transformation of Huss School. Through our workdays at the school, cooking together, eating together, and sharing stories, I’ve come to know and love the fellow interns, staff, and other *cino supporters.
Last night we assembled to welcome the new CINO interns and host the first storytelling night of the summer. Much in the vein of The Moth Podcast, for those familiar with NPR, we held an open mike for stories relating to a particular theme. Last night we told identity stories. I love stories! As a theatre enthusiast, I believe stories have the power to reinforce identity, build community, and, please forgive the clichÃ©, change the world.
In many ways, last night’s event confirmed my personal beliefs about storytelling. I felt honored, welcomed into this group of friends gathered in our home to share memories of the people and events that shaped their character. Our stories ranged in location from Three Rivers to Korea and the tales depicted adoption, journeys, violins, marriage, unexpected finds, birth, death, and beards. It takes a certain amount of courage to stand before an audience and speak. In my theatre experience, I usually have a character, someone else’s identity, to hide behind. It can be so much scarier to stand before a crowd, as yourself, to share something personal. As anyone with stage fright can tell you, the audience can be very intimidating. Who knows what they are thinking? How they are judging you? Fortunately, last night’s audience was compassionate and attentive. However, the situation still held the potential for embarrassment. But that is a good thing.
Last semester, for my directing class, I read Anne Bogart’s collection of essays on art and theatre from the book A Director Prepares. In one of her essays Bogart discusses the potential for embarrassment in art. She writes, “If your work does not sufficiently embarrass you, then very likely no one will be touched by it.” Painfully embarrassing moments include times when we feel ashamed of ourselves, when we reveal something intensely personal and intimate, and, of course, the times we rip our pants in public. People avoid embarrassment for good reason. It is not always safe for us to reveal ourselves and relive embarrassing moments. We do not want to make ourselves vulnerable to everyone. However, sharing moments where you felt intense shame or exposure can be a wonderful bonding experience, when you are with the right group of people. I have been to enough slumber parties to verify that fact.
Fortunately, last night’s audience made up a wonderful, welcoming, and compassionate community. Although I am still new to Three Rivers, I felt an unusual familiarity with the people I met last night. They greeted me with hugs, smiles, and jokes. Perhaps this is part of the culture of a small town. However, I think part of the familiarity comes from our common support of *cino and the organization’s mission to strengthen community and create good culture. I felt blessed to be in an environment where others felt safe opening up. I heard wonderful and powerful stories. I believe I witnessed something sacred. We recorded a number of the stories. I thought I might post some of the clips here, but I’ve decided against that. The Internet is not a safe environment to reveal my identity story. I bet you’re really interested now ;) I hope that tantalizing recap will convince you to participate in our next storytelling event. Maybe you might even tell an embarrassing story. Regardless, wherever you are, I encourage you to listen compassionately, without judgment. We could all use an empathetic audience.
About a month ago I moved my (not-so-few) possessions from Grand Rapids to Three Rivers. That night, as my fellow interns and I situated ourselves in our rooms, the house felt big, empty and foreign. Having just left a cocoon-like college community, I felt anxious giving up my warm coverlet of intimate friendships. Now that I am settled in Three Rivers (after being in Texas for a few weeks), I don’t feel nearly as nervous. This probably has a lot to do with this last 4th of July weekend.
“Watermelon, sunshine, and no shoes allowed!” Johnny, (another intern) exclaimed when, over a month ago, we first discussed inviting our friends down for the 4th to show them Three Rivers. “It will be a porch-swinging, root beer*-slurping, grand old time.” The prospect of sharing the simple pleasures of this place with my friends excited me. Mixing these worlds intentionally would be a momentous occasion.
We were fairly open with our invitations and told people to bring friends. We expected most of the pals we invited to already have plans. As the weekend quickly approached, we were still uncertain of how many would arrive. We never expected to see all of the nineteen familiar faces, which passed through our doors over the weekend. Thursday, our first guests came for with our weekly CINO house dinner. Folks just kept coming. People dropped their family get-togethers, and they delayed their vacations. There seemed to be a general acknowledgement of the significance of our gathering. And so, Rebecca, Stephanie, Greg, Ryan, Heidi, Heather, Kevin, Jen, Ben, Mitchell, Karie, Nathaniel, Kristen, Mag, Kirsten, Matt, Tiffany, Lydia, and Megan came in packs of four or five to celebrate the many connections which have developed amongst us over the last four years.
Despite our numbers our time together was rich, and even tranquil. On the porch, Kevin broke the soft silence of a circle of avid readers with humorously grotesque excerpts from Arabian Nights (his audience grumbled and chuckled concurrently). Kirsten and Kristen, dusted in pastel, drew eclectic designs on the sidewalk with chalk. At the dining room table a group of (short-term) soccer-enthusiasts watched the World-Cup, munched melon and chattered loudly about the game. In the kitchen, Jen matched their ruckus storming around the kitchen, commanding people to peel this or chop. Greg on the other hand, exuding calm, cleaned the cutting boards before the knives were put down. So, basically we didn’t do anything. People were content just being together.
Then on Sunday we went to Pleasant Lake. Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma’s Grandparents graciously invited us interns to bring our friends out to their cottage to swim. When we (with apprehension) showed up with a small army, they didn’t even flinch. They were so welcoming and it was a beautiful day! As dusk approached, I sat out on the raft in the water and gazed at the sky over the water. Sunlight and water. I realized then that friendship is not so much like a protective shell, or a warm cocoon. Water, the substance that I can dive into in the summer and which covers me like a blanket in the fall, is constantly taking new forms. So also will my friendships take on new forms.
My first blog post.
This is Johnathan- I’ve been here in Three Rivers since May 31st, and days here are beginning to feel familiar and rhythmic. It has taken some time to reach that point, partly because we interns have all moved here at different times, but also because projects take time to develop. The vision of a task and of the collective has to come into focus before a path can be set. So, I am getting comfortable. That feels nice.
One interesting event that seemed to mark the start of my establishment here happened just last week. Paul already mentioned the four cyclists barreling through St. Joseph county, stumbling across us in hopes to find a space to sleep. Well, not only were these four women fun to be around and adventurous as all get-out (cycling from D.C.? oook.), they were a beautiful reminder of how enriching being spontaneously open can be. Having just moved from a community in Grand Rapids where strangers couch-surfed often and the door was always unlocked, I had grown accustomed to a quick (and random) hospitality. Being able to function as a community, responding to immediate opportunities at the drop of a hat, was something I was good at and really enjoyed.
So, it meant a lot to me last week when Paul, Jared, and I were able to function together in offering what we had to these travelers. It christened the house in a way. It proved we could pull together vegan meals, clean towels, and pillows for random people with no notice.
I have confidence in us now. I’m here now.