Angela recommended Casey to me. She had very nice things to say about her and also sent me a link to this article that Casey wrote. It was pretty great to get a peek at who she was before meeting her. We were able to set up our meeting quickly and she invited me to come to her co-housing community. When I first arrived, Casey gave me a tour of the grounds and we chatted about any number of things. By the time we sat down for the interview, we had already developed a level of trust for each other and it made for an open and honest conversation. It is clear to me, and I am sure it will be to you, that Casey sincerely gives a damn about community. She brings a lot of heart and skill into her work and is an absolute pleasure to be around. Keep an eye out for her and her projects. Oh, and get this, right before we parted ways, Casey told me that she was one of Marlene's students when she was a child! With that connection in mind, I recommend revisiting that interview.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
Who am I? Yeah, this identity question is also interesting, right? 'Cause when we meet people we always, What do you do for a living? This is the question that always comes up. So, a title - this phase in my life, I'm a mom. That's definitely created who I am in in this phase. I'm a community builder; I like to bring people together. I'm a listener. A friend of mine uses the term cultural change agent. I like that one a lot. I'm an artist. I'm an activist. Oh, and I'm a designer - that's what I do for a living. An active community member; someone who cares about the place she lives.
What matters to you?
Really, creating community in its kind of richest form, where people are seen and heard and their opinions matter and there's not this power over and under structure where, you know, we see each other as equals and that one person's issue or challenge is my issue and challenge. And this interconnectivity, I think, is really a struggle in this modern life as we kind of are all focused on our direct family and our immediate needs and what we're doing today and checking off boxes in a list. But just really moving into more of a mindset and a mentality of community and that I'm affected by you and you're affected by me and my health and your health are intertwined and the health of the planet and the health of someone we don't know on the other side of town - that we're all connected. So, yeah, that matters to me. And it's coming out in a lot of the projects that I'm choosing to be a part of, I'm noticing. And it's hard for me, often, to choose what projects I want to be a part of 'cause, at this point and time, there's so many things going on and there's so many things being exposed that need attention. But yeah, picking and choosing things that really effect not just me but the legacy that I'm leaving for my child, to other children, and really seeing this community as all of us, not just me in existence with people around me.
Why do you think on an individual basis we mean something to each other? And what do you think it is that we mean?
It's kind of like what we were talking about; that whole idea of me going for a walk at Pilot Butte. I like to walk without earbuds. I like to hear birds and experience the diversity of people that walk up Pilot Butte and say hello. And know that maybe me saying hello to that person, maybe I'm the only person that interacted with them that day. And just that warmth and that smile that I offered them meant something to them. Living here in community, I know from my own experience, my neighbors have huge impact on me. And if I have an issue or something going on, I have people I can go to and have a system of support that isn't my immediate family, that isn't my even extended family, but it's my neighbors and my friends that hold me up when I need a little. And that gives me the strength and ability to ask for help if I need help, which I think is rare in the way that we come and go and interact with each other. There's something really special in living in community and co-housing and intentional communities. When you do have kind of a family of people that you know on a level that really do care about you just because they know you. I have a friend who's a therapist and she always says... and I believe this in myself, too... it's Once I know someone's story, I fall in love with them. It doesn't matter if we're of different political persuasions or different places in the world, once I know their story, I fall in love with them. Everything else kind of falls to the wayside. That ability to get to know people better, I think, is missing in this existence as we're busily checking boxes and filling our wallets and doing our thing, buying our things, and coming and going. So that idea of interdependence - interconnectivity - is kind of hard to explain to people because we don't live it in this culture. And until you kind of have some experience around it and feel it and feel how good it feels, it's kind of something that feels lost, but also something that people are really longing for... to know again.
What does community mean to you having gone through periods without it? And where do individualism and greed fit in?
A conversation that is coming up for me right now is kind of the idea of a shifting economy that isn't just looking through a financial lens. We're seeing a lot of these social good corporations rising up and this idea that people really are starting to look through the lens not only of financial, which is important - we need to still interact with the system we've created - but also look through the lens of altruism and the lens of sustainability equally. And so that whole greed and individualism and hoarding as humans, I don't think we're actually wired to do that, but we kind of lost our way. It's hard to let go of systems. And I think that individualism and greed system is holding on for dear life because there is an uprising and people are becoming interested. I believe. I'm hopeful. I'm an idealist. That's really, if we're gonna survive, the shift that needs to happen.
As far as not living in community in the past, yeah, I've had times where I felt isolated and didn't have systems of support where I could go to someone and feel comfortable with them hearing my story and believing me and helping me. I grew up with a really athletic background; I was a college athlete. And there were times during that experience where I felt very isolated. Sports has that whole competitive versus collaborative - that kind of fits within that individualism and greed and competitive sphere. Whether it was my story or not, I didn't always feel supported... as an athlete you buck up and you just push through it and you'll be fine. So, a lot of numbing of emotional needs during that portion of my life. And so, yeah, coming and living in co-housing in a really collaborative environment feels really good to me. Not that I didn't have my teammates and we couldn't kind of just complain together, but that doesn't really feel like it's solving much and it's kind of a short-term emotional fix that doesn't really solve any (laughs) mental or mental health problems.
What's the deal with social injustice and what can one do to combat that on a regular basis?
Because I have a son - and a child in this community - I have a real concern for the well-being of children and thinking about raising kids in this community. These kids are all our kids. Instead of me just being the parent and the welfare of my child is the only thing that's important to me. Ensworth is the highest poverty school in the district. How can I be of service to those parents and those kids who are coming from different resources than I am - not better, not worse, but just different - and how can I support those kids in a way that they're getting their needs met? There's a lot of trauma that can come out of poverty. Knowing that by serving those kids as if they were my own and offering support to those parents who are struggling to make ends meet financially or dealing with other issues in their life that I'm serving my community and I'm helping those kids have a mentor or have an adult that really is there for them and cares for them. So, a group of us have been involved in volunteering at Ensworth since January. But just that mentality of Hey, I care about all the kids in my community and their well-being affects my child and my child's well-being affects them. Again, that whole interconnected piece.
What's going to bring together the many individual causes dedicated to some form of equality? There's far more people interested in good than are interested in greed or individualism or for themselves or for this particular bad thing, but we're silenced by the division within those groups. What are your thoughts on that?
Can I use this moment to do a little promo for a project I'm working on (laughs)? So, a neighbor and I - Carol Delmonico - we just self-published a interactive journal. I guess my answer to your question is we kind of need a shift in consciousness. Like, Yeah, I love puppies. I'm gonna give to puppies. But puppies really aren't... you know... that's just a tip of the iceberg. What's this underlying thing that causes us this like... Oh my gosh, this is unfair. This is not just. How did this system get into place? Really looking at cultural norms of how we got here and how these ways were created. So we created this interactive journal that puts forth 50 questions of our time. And really asks people to look at, in an active way, how we live our lives. Get a little more critical about the decisions that we make every day that might be oppressing other people. Not to sound redundant, but how is my privilege not allowing someone else to rise to their full potential? And I think that word privilege and access and things like that is in the forefront and for good reason, I think, right now because, myself included, I'm like, Oh, wow, some of these things that I've practiced in the past are keeping other people down and I don't want to do that anymore. I'm ready to look at these things. So this book covers topics of community, of legacy, of cultural norms, of belonging and inclusion. We the People is one of the categories. It can be used individually, but it really works the best when it's used in a group. You know, people can really, in a facilitated way where there's not a lot of cross dialogue, but really listening to how each person answers each question... it's been a huge eye-opener for me to be a part of it. She created the questions and then, because I have graphic design skills, she's like, I need to manifest this, can you help me? But it's been a really beautiful process of seeing what comes up for people. And sitting in a circle and like, Wow, I've never heard it like that. And I can do this on my own and be with my own thoughts, but to hear someone else from their perspective on the same question and the same topic... a lot of times the circles have very similar looking people in them... it's curious to hear something so different or so profound or so radically different. Like, Oh, wow, I can't take that on for my own but I'm curious about how they got to that place. So it has a potential to that third place that brings people together in a safe kind of container to start having real conversations about Why are we so divided? Why can't we sit in the same room with each other as people? Where did we lose that ability to see beyond political... you know, these walls we're putting up? It's called Stoke Your Woke. We're doing a couple different projects, Circle Sessions, we're calling them. There's some free ones happening at the library just to kind of create an inclusive place for people to do it. And then we're doing some at some different studios that'll be probably a sliding scale, facilitated. I'm excited just to have people that I don't know interact with it and see what comes up. The underlying, that shift of consciousness that isn't just about what I like, but it's like, Oh, this has an impact in other places, too. It kind of trickles down.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
Some days (laughs). When you say purpose, I think I'm starting to understand my strengths. I think for a long time I wanted to go and do certain things but realized I need other people to... I was very independent-minded and being here and understanding my strengths, saying Okay, if I'm gonna do this thing that I want to do, I need to do it in the way that my strengths allow me to present it to the world not how someone else... not the 1,2,3,4 checklist of how someone else has done it in the past. Yeah, I think, from a strengths perspective, I'm a peacemaker. I think I see the good in people. And if I use those two traits as my launching point, I think that is my purpose when I'm working in different projects. That's why I'm there; that's the gift that I bring. But, yeah, I think my purpose is bringing people together and creating environments and places where people can thrive and feel seen and heard and held. So, that community piece, and especially locally, since I was born and raised here, so I love this place dearly. And I think as it's grown, it's divided. And so my purpose here is to be a uniter again and speak to that in different places and create spaces where people of different backgrounds, socio- and economically is really the only, for the most part, difference we have here in Bend. And bringing groups together to see each other and realize that we live in the same community and we're affected by each other's wellbeing.
What do you want more of in your life?
(Laughs) What do I want more of? I'm kind of working on (laughs)... well... I guess I'd like a little more clarity. I have a lot of ideas (laughs). I have a really active mind and I like to be involved in a lot of things and it gives me energy and it breaks me down at the same time, so I'm really working on being a little more clear about the amount of energy I can put into things and where I want that energy directed. So, I guess, I'll keep it at clarity (laughs).
Do you have anything else to leave with?
Oh wow. Yeah. I've spoken about this before, but I think one of the things - being a local, a native Bendite and still being able to call this place my home - one of the things I really am passionate about right now is really uniting Bend again. I was at Jackson's Corner on the East side having dinner with my family. And on Friday nights they usually have music and it's packed; I mean, it gets really busy. And so you end up sharing tables with people, which I kind of dig because I like to meet and talk to strangers and hear their stories and people like to tell me their stories. So, we asked to sit down by these two women. And she led with, Oh, how long have you lived in Bend? And I said I was born and raised here. And she's like, Oh, we've lived here for 25 years, so you remember when it was one Bend? And it struck me and I said, Yeah, I do. And as Bend's grown, I've been okay with it because it's provided enough opportunity for me on an individual level, but I think, at that moment, I realized that there was a lot of grieving that was happening for me about the growth of Bend and exactly what she was talking about; this division that's happened both physically - you know, the parkway going in and 3rd Street cause a real divide physically of the city - but just this emotional divide, too, that we really... well, some believe one side's better than the other and one side deserves things that the other side isn't ready for and just this kind of overarching mentality that keeps one side very different than the other and disconnected. So those are conversations that I'm really interested in having on a local level is How can we reconnect the city? Because there's people on the East side that love living on the East side and right now I'm one of them. I miss the West side; I grew up on the West side. And that was kind of Bend at the time when I was growing up. And I do grieve the loss of what I remember as the West side and the cohesive community that I grew up in there. But, yeah, again bringing people together so we can all see each other and realize that the welfare of everyone here effects all of us. So, I'll end it with that.