Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Honor a Neighbor Sketch

Sean Gosiewski and Rachel Hefte came to the Corcoran Neighborhood, a decade ago, to be near the Farmers’ Market and the Midtown YWCA. They and their eight-year old, Marianna, live with books cats and a piano, on a block where life-long Minnesotans like themselves (White Bear Lake and Fergus Falls) rub shoulders with transplants from Morales, Mexico.

Marianna is a lively kid, learning piano from her mother, and ballet (she wants to switch to tap), and swimming outside. She is a student at Dowling Urban Environmental School, and fascinated by her class’ current unit on “Westward Expansion.” While we talked, Marianna showed me a Conestoga wagon she had made from other toys and household odds and ends. She enjoys working in the family garden, and is a champion bean and carrot harvester.

In 1987, Rachel, in her middle twenties, picked Nicaraguan coffee. Her labor was useful, but another reason for the presence of young gringo coffee pickers, in Nicaragua, during that country’s civil war, was to make the Contra revolutionaries think twice about attacking the laborers. Rachel protected by young men with Kalishnikovs, and escaped massacre by one village. Since then she has taught, traveled to Namibia, and trained Anoka County workers in alternatives to violence. She is part of Garden Matters, working with community gardeners, and works as a professional facilitator, helping groups do vision and strategic planning.

Sean is the program director for Alliance for Sustainability, a Twin Cities-based organization whose mission is to promote just, humane, and ecologically and economically sound projects that will help civilization through its current rough patch. I met with the Hefte-Gosiewski household the day after the Sustainability Networking Fair at South High, organized by Sean. The Fair’s keynote speaker was Richard Heinberg, author of The Party’s Over and other books about energy and economics, a thinker who is planning for a sustainable energy mix around 2075. The Fair also hosted break-out sessions that discussed solar power, the Midtown Market, raising city chickens, and more. Sean says he likes making linkages between people and organizations. He’s a member of Corcoran Grows, this neighborhood’s Transition group, and one of his goals for Saturday was to see other Twin Cities neighborhoods form similar organizations. I asked him how he organizes an event like the Sustainability Networking Fair. He said that it takes “holding a vision of the day, and getting people to come.”

I came away from chatting with Rachel, Sean, and Marianna impressed and a little jealous of a family whose life together seems of a piece, and dedicated to a world which Marianna will see mature, peaceful and prosperous with solar income.

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