Friday, November 14, 2014

The Safety Pin Cafe in Winter

Winter is the season for dreams and story. The longer hours of darkness are fertile ground for seeding dreams, and stories come to affect our imagination. We envision a space built so the Sensitives can safely gather, and, offer The Safety Pin Café as shared space for multiple purposes as well. With that acknowledgement of Winter's Gift for dreaming, Pete and I have been conspiring to create a story that leads to The Safety Pin Café in Winter ... We share it here, as a new born. This is a precious and freshly birthed story. Treat it with love and care and The Safety Pin Café will grow into something of generosity, a place to cultivate wisdom and spirit; it will be in good tilth in good heart.

To me the word "Tilth" is a one-word haiku.
It's said that every word carries with it all of its meanings. Tilth is an Old English word that comes from the same root as the verb "to till." In the dictionary it is defined as "the structure and quality of cultivated soil." In an older meaning the word "tilth" was used to describe the cultivation of wisdom and the spirit.
A soil—or a person—in good tilth was said to be "in good heart." 
-A Brief History of Tilth
By Mark Musick

The Vardo for Two
Five years ago (2010) my husband Pete Little and I found the South Whidbey Island community. Our former life was being rebuilt; we had to dig deeper for people, place and values to thrive in spite of a medical diagnosis with one basic 'cure': "avoid almost everything!" That's a bit of a stretch but not much of one. The short story is I was diagnosed with MCS Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, or Environmental Illness in 2007, pesticides, chemicals and common products of the everyday 21st century are the primary sources of harsh and often debilitating reactions. My immune system was unable to cope, or restore health. A house or public spaces? For years those were "no-can-dos". In 2008 we learned what materials were less toxic and lessened the body's burden brought on by exposures; we experimented and tested how to build a tiny movable space to live in and regain wellness. Then began the journey to become part of a community.

In the summer of 2010 we found a place in the woods of Langley to park our Vardo for Two. Life began to re-fresh knowing we had a home. That same summer we found the South Whidbey Tilth and Farmers' Market. At first, it was the companionship and laid-back atmosphere that made us feel at home. Then, we discovered Tilth's history as a place unsprayed with pesticides for three decades. Our shoulders relaxed, my immune system calmed for the first time in three years, we began to root, volunteer, share what we have learned about fragrance-free and chemical free practices and become part of the community. 

1. Fragrance-free and chemical-free bathrooms (May 2011)
We started volunteering at Tilth in 2011, setting up and cleaning up after the Sunday Farmers' Market. That summer we asked about implementing a fragrance and chemical-free cleaning regime in the two Tilth Campus bathrooms. Pete and I cleaned the bathrooms for the next couple of summers. Vinegar, baking soda and unscented hand soap were the only 'product' used and a sign describing the process was posted in the bathrooms. It was the first step. The process and the standard remain in place today and unscented dish soap is now used in the kitchen at Tilth as well.
2. The Safety Pin Café ( 2013, 2014)
I am a storyteller. In a former life I was a teacher, columnist, human resources trainer, community builder and Hawaiian culture educator. After I began ill with MCS I needed to find ways to restore my life and contribute differently. Combining my love of story and writing with the practices of my Hawaiian culture I wrote a mythic tale inspired by our life in South Whidbey. I published the tale in regular installments via my blog, and then shared a two-hour interactive presentation and live performance bringing the virtual doors of The Safety Pin Café down to Earth. The theme of the stories: common magic found on the borders of the everyday. I used Drewslist to publicize the first fragrance-free Safety Pin Café storytelling event in October, 2013. We had great fun, a wonderful crowd and contributed 10% of the donations we received to the South Whidbey Tilth.

In September and October 2014 we pitched the tents for The Safety Pin Café again, for Story Sunday. These Sundays were filled with traditional First Peoples' stories of respect for the Elements -- Akua, the Gods; the lessons began with chants and respect for the people who came before, and love of the sacred places within us and on this island Earth. Through the voice (chant) all who gathered learned to remember: ask permission before assuming you know. The community was very generous with their donations. More than $250 dollars was raised at these storytelling events and all proceeds benefited the Good Cheer Food Bank. A percentage of the donations were also shared with the Tilth.
"Your full-hearted sharing brings music and light into One's inner stream of being!  It is easy to envision peace from that space because it is the place of infinite possibility and where One's needs fall into place with the Spirit's journey.  Thank you for bringing the stories gilded with light, sparkle, and music that hold the attention of even the youngest in a crowd, yet nourish and refresh the old and weary with their wisdom and give the "movers" something to set their inner compasses by.  You and Pete are true jewels in this community!  I'm sorry that I was not there for your sharing from the beginning!  Next time I surely will get out earlier!" - Kathleen Martin
The stories I share from The Safety Pin Café reflect the living philosophy and art of our life.  I call it our safety pin life: small, efficient, elegant, detachable. In many ways it is magic made manifest, making something wonderful out of chaos and challenge. We pin things together with a lot of help from seen and unseen beings and accept that nothing lasts forever.
3. Our Vision Now: Create a removable* Fragrance-free Zone and winter home for The Safety Pin Café

Removable: The walls for The Safety Pin Café would be designed so each wall/panel could be installed after the Farmers' Market ends in October, and removed prior to the first market Sunday the following May. The size of the walls/panels are designed so they can be stored in protected areas on the South Whidbey Tilth during the Sunday market season.
One of the challenges people who live with "Invisible Disabilities" such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivities face is the prevailing attitude that "You don't look sick." I don't use a wheel-chair or walk with visible 'disability' so understanding and accommodations are based on asking for what I need. Unless I am wearing one of my masks to filter chemicals or fragrances most people would never know what difficulty I face being:
  1. around wood smoke
  2. in a café that was just cleaned with bleach
  3. next to a woman who has just shampooed with something fragranced
  4. at a party where people have used scented dryer sheets to dry their clothes
  5. in a building just remodeled
  6. or, in a moldy building/room/house
  7. the list goes on ...

Summers on Whidbey Island is the best of times. I can be out and about, am able to shop and frequent many (not all) local businesses and public facilities. My health, and immune system are better thanks to a new foundation of knowing my needs, limits, and having a network of support that respects us. Pete has spent the last five and a half years sharing his particular magic volunteering at Whidbey Institute's Garden, Good Cheer Garden and Food Bank, Bayview Hall and the South Whidbey Tilth; while also providing Home Health Care and fix-'ems for people. He has his roots in places he wants to be.

The challenges of being a storyteller (and her husband) with MCS change in winter. Wood-burning is difficult if not impossible for me to be around. As the cold and damp sets in businesses enclose their spaces; the fresh outdoor air does not circulate the smells and chemicals used to clean, sanitize and deodorize. People use scented laundry and personal care products. Added together that combination adds to the burden of being chemically sensitive. During the past seven years Pete and I have learned to build and create Fragrance and Chemical Free Zones to live and be in year-round. These havens are the essential factor in maintaining well-ness and recovering from chemical or fragrance exposures.

Our vision and wish is to
  • create a winter place for The Safety Pin Café,
  • a Fragrance and Chemical Free Zone,
  • and public space to share.

We introduce our vision to the South Whidbey Tilth Board and welcome the Board members' input, comments and questions.
the Pavilion as it is at the end of Farmers' Market Season, 2014
* In the Sketch of " " these are Panel #2 and Panel #3 (left to right)

The existing entrance to the Pavilion.
*In the Sketch this is the panel with a door; Panel # 4 facing the existing bathrooms at the Tilth

This is the view of the 'steps-side of the Pavilion.
*In the Sketch this is the panel with an opening window; Panel #1

This is an inside view of the Pavilion, showing both the space inside and the land, trees and space outside.

Here's a view from a table inside the pavilion. We want to be able to be sheltered, yet use material to let in as much natural light, and visibility to the land outside.
This is the recycled metal siding we'd like to use to side The Safety Pin Café in winter. These are at Island Recycling in Freeland. The red trim is similar to many of the red-painted building at the Tilth,  weathered copper/gray-green in the main. The paneling is old, off-gassed of any residual finishes and would need to be cleaned before installation. 

Pete and I drew up a sketch of "The Safety Pin Café's Winter Home at South Whidbey Tilth". This post and the sketches will be available at the Business Council Meeting of South Whidbey Tilth on November 20, 2014 and includes:
  •  Materials List (including measurements) for exterior and interior panels
  • Approximate costs to secure materials
  • Drawings of the entrance and window placements
  • Details for framing, attaching and supporting of panels
  • Details for insulating and flooring
We seed our dream for a winter home for The Safety Pin Café and a space to share with the South Whidbey Community.

E Ho Mai. E Ho Mai. E Ho Mai. (Click on the link to hear the chant and read its interpretation)

Stay tuned for updates to our dream project.

Thank you,
Mokihana and Pete

1 comment:

  1. It's a go! The Tilth Board listened to Pete as he presented our proposal to winterize the existing Pavilion and create a fragrance-free and chemical-free safe ... a Safety Pin Café in winter. There are details and questions to work through and answer but in the main the concept has been approved. We are collaborating!! Thank you to the Tilth Board members for your support. We have work to do and a dream to make manifest. What a perfect time to affirm the journey: a Safety Pin Café for winter. Yay!!


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