A highlight of my recent visit to Seattle was the opportunity to stay for a couple of weeks at the Sherwood Coöperative, a place that I have considered the closest I have to “home” in the North since I first moved in during the summer of 2007. It was founded by the Students Coöperative Associate at the University of Washington, which formed as a student mutual aid society during the global economic crisis of the 1930s. Sherwood has occupied the same house since the mid-1970s, and the now 100-year-old building has been collectively owned by its occupants for a decade.
During my visit I was reminded of how much I have learned and gained from my experiences as a member of Sherwood Coöperative: techniques of consensus-based decision making and facilitation of meetings; the invaluable skill of cooking for 20+ people and the fellowship of communal meals; the joy, challenges, and efficiency of voluntary collective ownership and work; the necessity of communication and consent in social relations; the comfort found in safe and respectful community spaces.
In two short weeks I had the chance to fall in love with Sherwood and its inhabitants all over again (luckily enough, I was able to be present on February 14 for Dinner of Love, the coöp’s annual orgy of mutual affection and chocolate desserts). Conversations about midwifery, political struggle in the workplace and against police brutality, homemade art, and daily life can be found around the 20-foot long kitchen table at any time of day; at other times the four-storey house is meditative and silent except for the clucking of the hens in their run alongside the yard. I was able to appreciate and learn more about housemates’ personalities and creativity at poetry and literature readings, in living-room jam sessions, and in the simple encounters of cohabitation.
How lovely to see so many others fall fast in love with this place; growing from curious interest to confident ownership of a space, a project, a history, coming to inhabit and express the collective “we” of Sherwood. To hear new members’ unique voices in the tone and rhythm of their assault on the dinner bell, in their wielding of knives and vegetables, grains and spices in the kitchen. And to see others drift or stride purposefully away, moving on to new environments appropriate to their individual desires, maintaining their stake in the “we,” in its past manifestations and future metamorphoses, their debts paid and upaid, their signatures and slogans painted on the walls.
Dear Sherwood: You are in my thoughts often. Long may you continue to wage consensus on behalf of our collective liberation!