Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Remembering Bill Coperthwaite

Remembering Bill Coperthwaite
By Peter Forbes

William Sherman Coperthwaite
September 17, 1930 – November 26, 2013

William S. Coperthwaite, architect, author, maker, visionary social critic, and homesteader, has died.  My own family has lost both our sail and our anchor, and today there are thousands of Mainers and New Englanders who grieve the same loss.

A man who inspired many thousands by his life led close to nature and in opposition to contemporary society, Mr. Coperthwaite was often compared to Henry David Thoreau. Similar to Helen and Scott Nearing, who were his friends and mentors, Mr. Coperthwaite led a 55 year long “experiment in living” on the coast of Maine where he created a homestead of wooden, multi-storied yurts, a form of architecture that he adapted from Mongolian culture and helped to make popular in the United States. More than an architect, Mr. Coperthwaite embodied a philosophy that he called “democratic living” which was about enabling every human being to have agency and control over their lives in order to create together a better community. The central question of Mr. Coperthwaite’s life and experiment has been “How can I live according to what I believe?”

He wrote in his 2004 award-winning book A Handmade Life, “The main thrust of my work is not simple living –not yurt design, not social change, although each of these is important and receives large blocks of my time. But they are not central. My central concern is encouragement –encouraging people to seek, experiment, to plan, to create, and to dream. If enough people do this we will find a better way.”

His homestead on the Maine coast was his philosophy made visible, and many thousands of people made the 1.5 mile walk to see it, to be inspired and to learn from him by working alongside him. Intentionally avoiding electricity from the grid, plumbing and motors, he showed thousands that it was possible to live more simply and that this would be good for themselves and the planet. Mr. Coperthwaite’s influence was reached not by him giving lectures and writing, though he did both, but much more so through the example of his life. When his many visitors saw what he had created and how he lived, they directly experienced the importance of beauty, self-reliance, and nonviolent ways of living.

Born in Aroostook County Maine, Mr. Coperthwaite received a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College and after graduation he turned down another scholarship to Annapolis Naval Academy to claim conscientious objector status in the Korean War. Bill did alternative service with the American Friend Service Committee where he connected with the teachings of American pacifism. Bill would become close friends with Richard Gregg, a central figure in that movement. Though they had 50 years difference in age, Coperthwaite and Gregg found a strong bond and Gregg introduced Coperthwaite to the work of Mahatma Gandhi and to Helen and Scott Nearing, legendary social radicals who had pioneered their own experiment in self-reliant living in Vermont and later in Maine. The influence of pacifism, nonviolence and simple living would lead Coperthwaite far out in to the world to learn from other ways of living, particularly handcraft traditions. In 1966, William Coperthwaite would earn a doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education based upon his research with Inuit people and their arts, handcrafts and traditions.

Though he traveled through Asia, Europe, New Zealand and the Americas building yurts and researching hand-crafts and other experiments in “democratic living”, William Coperthwaite always returned to Dickinsons Reach, the name he gave to his 500-acre homestead in Machiasport, Maine to honor his favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. Knowing that his life was winding down, Coperthwaite planned ahead and created a community of friends to take over this fabled and revered homestead and we will bury him there on the land that sustained him and inspired thousands and thousands of others. Always eschewing privilege and titles, Coperthwaite never used the title “Dr.” and preferred to be called “Bill’ by one and all.

Bill will be remembered by his friends for his commitment to his principles, his deep love of life and people, and his great intellect, humility and humor. Our nation has lost one of the links in the chain of great people working quietly with all their unique powers to foster a better world.  Bill will be buried on Saturday at his homestead after being paddled across Little Kennebec Bay one last time.  Big celebration of his life to follow in the spring.  

Peter Forbes is a farmer and writer in Vermont who collaborated with Bill Coperthwaite on the book, A Handmade Life.

Peter Forbes
Facilitate Inspire Co-create

Knoll Farm
700 Bragg Hill Road
Fayston, Vermont

Living Buildings and Technomads

Quotes and Links from a weekend at the Omega Institute's "Design by Nature" Conference and "Living Building Challenge" Awards ceremony.

"We are the change we've been waiting for"

"The entire BP spill in the gulf of mexico is comprised of less than 2 hours of oil consumption in the US." ..."The only way we achieve homeland security is when we recognize that the planet is our home". -Bob Berkebile, BNIM Architects

"The way to subvert the dominant paradigm is to have more fun than they do and make sure they know it." David Eisenberg, Executive Director, The Development Center for Appropriate Technology.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from India!

I (Siri) am currently in Bangalore at the Born Free Art School, a small project of artists and street kids in South India. I met the founder, John Devaraj, at Tamera during the Summer University. A peace activist, sculpture artist, actor and cinematographer, John began the Born Free Art School in 2002. The aim is to keep kids off the streets, and the means are art, education, a good home and love and support. Through his art projects John works to liberate the working children of India and the world.

Being back in India makes me feel so privileged. The pain and poverty especial raw in stark contrast to the technology and holiday consumerism of Bangalore. I am falling in love with the children of Born Free, touched deeply by their stories and their fragile open hearts. Sweet young Gaja, who loves school and the hard boiled eggs they serve for lunch, was sold for 500 rupees ($10) by his father. Sanjuna, actress and dancer, is the child of a prostitute. Before coming to the school she lived on the streets selling drugs. The newest addition, loving Lakshmi, was begging on the streets a week ago when she met the kids during a film shoot. Now she is begging for hugs, which she can not get enough of!

I am here to offer myself in service, and to witness this social movement of youth and art. I come at an exciting time; all are involved in the creation of 'Ananda', a feature length film. Ananda means the highest state of bliss in Hinduism, and the story reveals street children on the path towards joy. The artists, former street children themselves, play major roles; acting, costume designing, shooting and creating props. It is a community affair, with volunteers and local people stepping in for bit parts. The intention is to use this film to bring more awareness to the need for a paradigm shift to deal with the problem of working children. Born Free Art School is successful because of its focus on empowerment through art. This project has a higher retention rate than other NGOs working to help street children in India.

The twenty children and four adults have their rhythm down, their main issue is funding. I offer my support through small things, playing with the children, forming friendship with the young ladies, serving food, sweeping the floor, hugging, and listening to John's story and offering my reflections.

Today, during the Christmas party, we sat in circle and held a beautiful council about sharing. It was truly touching, and I hope to work more closely with the youth during my remaining time. Six of the young people will be stepping into more responsibility in the new year, and John has asked me to spend time with them as they transition into leadership.

To me, India is a land of contradictions, a place of bright light and dark shadow. I am equally drawn to the traditions of the ancient religions and the disparity and poverty of modern India. My sixth visit to India, I ask myself why do I keep coming back? What is my pull here? How can I serve? Seen in the context of the Beyond Boundaries pilgrimage, the need for regenerative work here appears to me more urgent than ever before. Our group spent the beginning of our journey in Europe and the USA,. N we venture into communities where the situation is very different, environmental and socially.

The last month of my Independent Study was busy, first volunteering at the Ojai Foundation and finally spending some time fundraising in the Bay Area. I collaborated with Shay and Will, fellow pilgrims, on four events. Such a challenge and such a gift. A necessary part of this work, I feel blessed to be learning from my peers and Gigi, who has offered brilliant mentorship. This focus on funding is not only necessary to support our pilgrimage, but also as part of our inquiry into the work of the world. As we look at methods of sustainability, money is a key area for healing. We were l, receiving great support, thoughtful reflections and funds. Our team has done an amazing job, and we are only $5,000 from our bottom line. I personally need to bring in $2,000 to do my part, so I continue to work. I am currently writing a grant proposal, and continue to work on manifesting funds in creative ways. Please help me in any way you can.

I began my time in India grounding at Ramana's Ashram in Thiruvannamalai. It is a place of deep meditation, and it was a perfect way for me to acclimatize and begin this leg of the pilgrimage. I will spend about a week with Born Free, then I head North to visit two inspirational community movements, Shikshantar and THREADS. At Shikshantar they are 'stepping out of the system', saying no to institutionalized education and waste and saying yes to co-creation and the gifting culture. THREADS is a network of tribal eco-villages in Orissa, through their eco-tourism center Siddartha Village they support non-violence work, vipassana meditation, women's empowerment, and indigenous agriculture.

Happy holidays, may your days be filled with joy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Beyond Boundaries has reached its midway point, and the pilgrimage continues!  Our intergenerational group of eight social and environmental activists, artists, educators and community leaders has traveled together well, listening, collaborating, and offering ourselves in service.  Our inquiry leads us into the needs and work of our times, we explore ways to offer support and leadership in local and global sustainable movements.  

I write to you to share a little about our journey, which is now in its sixth month.  I invite you to read more about us on our website, and ask for any support and help you might offer.  Part of my task is fundraising, a beautiful challenge and learning for me.  My goal is to raise $10,000 for Beyond Boundaries, and I need your help!  Any donation will help, even $10 will provide support and enable us to complete the last four months of this journey.  This is our modern day way to walk with an empty bowl and reach out for those who will walk with us.

The Pilgrimage
Committed to caring for ourselves, each other and the earth, our service-based pilgrimage brings us to 'watering holes' on our planet, communities and organizations committed to regenerative, sustainable and holistic ways of being with the Earth.  We came together in June in Big Pine, California, where the School of Lost Borders, a wilderness rites of passage school that we are connected to, is located.  We spent our first month forming community, preparing for the journey ahead, supporting a Youth Rite-of-Passage, and volunteering on projects with the local Paiute tribe.  Together we have entered into the Ojai Foundation in California, Tamera in Portugal, Damanhur in Italy, and Findhorn in Scotland.  These centers and peoples are a few amongst many emerging movements dedicated to regenerative work.  They were selected by Gigi Coyle, who envisioned Beyond Boundaries as an offering and sharing with different cultures and communities, an opportunity to bear witness to and participate in a growing global community of conscious living.

Still fully immersed in the process, I am aware that I cannot claim to have any answers or formulated reports.  I am in the thick of it, absorbing and learning from many models of sustainability.   These communities, for the most part, do not claim to have the only or final model, but offer up their visionary experiments for the benefit of all.  I have seen four different composting toilet and bio-digester systems.  I have learned about different co-housing systems called 'nucleos', 'families', and 'neighborhoods' ---and even one gang!  I have seen so many alternative building projects; diverse straw bale constructions, earth bags, tree houses, and even one revolving home, fully self sustaining in energy, water catchment and purification and waste. I have had the opportunity to listen and try on different lenses through which to view eco-villages and intentional communities.  Moving between communities there is a unique opportunity to bear witness to and become part of a bigger story that everyone seems to be involved in.

I have deepened into a new understanding of sustainability, recognizing how whole complex systems are and need to be.  These communities see the need for and are working on models of economic, environmental, social and spiritual sustainability.  These whole systems are truly holistic; each pillar is interdependently woven with the others.   I find myself increasingly drawn to the social element; looking closely at the ways these communities sustain their work through spirituality and relationship.  Sabine Lichtenfels from Tamera wrote in her book Grace,  "The revolution in the outer world has to go hand in hand with a conscious revolution in the inner world".  This ideology is reflected in the day-to-day life of Tamera, where the social experiment is given as much attention as the outer work of solar technology, permaculture, global peace work and education. 

Above all, I value the practice of council, a deep-listening communication process offered by Gigi as a shared practice and way of being with each other and the world.  Committed to listening and speaking from the heart, we have met weekly to share our experiences and learnings.  During our time at each community we meet in 'sessions' to discuss areas of focus that we feel are essential elements of healthy, whole, and sustainable living.  I am deeply grateful for the gathering of information, sharing of experiences and widening perspectives.

Independent Studies
We are currently engaged in independent studies, following our interests and callings into service around the world.  As I volunteer and lend my support to the Ojai Foundation in California my cohorts are supporting the WILD9 conference for global environmental conservation in Merida, Mexico, working with peace efforts, council and community in Israel, interning with the Living Machine project (biological waste water treatment system) at Findhorn, and collaborating with a musician and youth leader in the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil. 
As we follow our paths, we are connected in our inquiry into service and our own roots and ancestry.  My independent time began in Germany where I visited relatives in the region where my family originated. Through their deep generosity I learned a lot about the German culture and how to accept unexpected love.  I discovered passionate dedication to sustainable alternative ways of living at two German eco-villages, Zegg and Sieben Linden.  The communities met my stereotypes of German efficiency and organization, and surprised me with their beauty and emphasis on self-care.  I worked hard there, and also learned to relax during the institutionalized tea times.  

My time continues here at the Ojai Foundation, deepening my knowledge of council with the land while supporting the staff who as with every NGO, have way too much to do. In a month I travel to India, offering myself in service with two pioneering community movements.  Shikshantar is a unique research institution committed to transforming education, zero-waste, and the gifting culture.  THREADS in Orissa is a network of tribal eco-villages dedicated to ecological sustainability, non-violence, women's empowerment and honoring indigenous knowledge. In January I will join up with the team again to complete the last three months of work and travel together.

Supporting me and Beyond Boundaries
An essential piece to my independent study is fundraising.  I have raised $5,940!  I am still shy of my goal, $15,000, which will enable me complete this pilgrimage.  This is a challenge, and an opportunity for me to learn how to fundraise and face core issues about money.  In addition, we have been gifted a small flow fund to give to other individuals, communities and projects we meet along the way, a further opportunity to learn about the flow of money and the importance of collaboration in this work.  This is yet another opportunity for building community, forming partnerships with those who have different resources.

I look forward to sharing this experience with you, through ideas, practices, information, and resources. This entire pilgrimage is be funded by individuals like you, corporations and grants.   Beyond Boundaries is a project of the Biosphere Foundation, a non- profit 501 (c) 3 (  All gifts are tax deductible, and an official thank you letter from Biosphere Foundation will be sent for your tax record.  The budget includes all aspects of the itinerary, in particular appropriate compensation to hosting organizations.  

I am calling out to you as my network, and I need your help to succeed.  I know many of ‘my people' do not have a lot of money to give, so I ask you to look to your people as well on my behalf.  Who do you know who might be interested in the work we are doing?  Who might have the resources to support us on our pilgrimage?
Upcoming Events 
Three of us pilgrims will be in the San Francisco area December 3rd and are planning an Evening of Slides and Stories …this is a fundraising event. Emilia Dahlin, one of my cohorts, will be in New York December 15 hosting a night of Story, Song and Circle.  Any and all are invited.
We’ll send out a separate invitation soon.  Please RSVP. 

I am so grateful for any support and the opportunity to do this work.  I want to thank each of you for reading and hearing my story.  And thank you to all of you who have supported me with your words and donations.  

With Gratitude,

Monday, November 9, 2009

Aaron in Maine, USA

alone in Maine on this Global Grace Day , Emilia launching off to Brazil soon. I am at the Carpenter's Boatshop on Pemaquid Point. They are a spiritual community, founder spent 4 years at Findhorn, have run into a carpenter, Steve, who worked for my former life's work, the non-profit Rippleffect out on Cow Island. My friend Andrew introduced me to this place a few weeks ago and it is a beautiful secret, the apprentices do not pay for their time here. They are given room and board, and the fruit of the work, the amazing wooden boats, provide 40% of the income needed to keep the place afloat. The other 60% is fundraised by the charismatic founder , Bobby, who survives his amazing wife Ruth, struck by a brain tumor a few years ago.

I attended the Farmer to Farmer conference this past weekend, 250 organic farmers in Maine gathering to swap stories and ideas and energy. It was very powerful; I felt home with everyone. Huge numbers of young people, and so inspiring to see. Saw my old high school friend Ken, who moved to Brooklyn, summers on Nantucket Island, and was a rapper for a decade. He is now farming with draft horses on the New Beat farm. Hip Hop Farmer, baby. Had a dream last night I was shot under the right collar bone by a .22 in an urban gang fight. My ruffrida friends didn't want to hear me whine, so I mostly kept it to myself. Went into the dirty apartment's small tiled bathroom, took my shirt off and looked at the little bloody hole in the stained toothpaste splattered mirror. So vivid. I fingered at it a bit, hurt, but I knew I'd be ok. Decided to get back to work. Woke up.

Yesterday I went to visit Mark Fulford, the Garlic Guru . He is the father of Galen Shaw, the co-Founder of Biomatrix Water of Findhorn whom I will work with later this month. Mark lives far off the land (strangely lived in a Copperthwaite yurt for 20 years (but doesn't know him), read below) and is a true homestead farmer. He and his wife grow medicinal herbs, have orchards, chickens, and he is experimenting with an ancient technique newly discovered of planting rice and wheat in a manner that uses 1/10 the seed and half the water of conventional methods. It is called SRI and was rediscovered in the Phillipines, freeing them from Monsanto's clutches. The poor Fillipino locals chased the local Monsanto rep from their land 3 years ago, telling him that if he returned, he would not leave alive. MArk and I transplanted winter wheat plugs all afternoon while we spoke. We discussed the project that I will be supporting with Galen and Mark, a full cycle farm in China offering agricultural products and eggs, with 10,000 chickens, growing grain and bedding onsite, solar and geothermal refrigeration, and water and wast management in a truly sustainable manner. The human workers health and life situation is even being considered as part of the farm's health (not common in China). Feeling honored and so excited to be at the table for these dialogues

The weekend before was spent on North Haven [island] with Jen Porter (Gigi's goddaughter), her husband Dieter at their farm project, my brother and his new girlfriend may work on Jen's farm. They are funded by a well to do gentleman out there, reviving 18th century farmland, which stares across the Fox Isle Thorofare, a nice little inlet between two islands, now looking at the 3 newly erected wind turbines that will power the island communities.

Tomorrow I drive to Castine, outfit the kayaks for a paddle Downeast Maine into the millpond of Dr. Bill Copperthwaite, yurt foundation guru and handmade life professor. My friend Andrew will come with. I will spend a whole day ensuring that our safety gear is in order and we have what is needed to come home safely from a jaunt on the brisk Atlantic this time of year. She is a fickle mistress, that briny dark blue green Mother Ocean.

It will be good to see Bill again, been many years. He lives a dream that is an inspiration to many, a daily prayer, his industrious life akin to the rhythms of the deer and beaver and bobcat that make his land home.

I am sore and hairy and have not had time for yoga or meditation, still getting over my flu/ cold. Thinking of my team and their journeys, what a huge tapestry of energies this part of the journey is weaving, eh?


Global Grace Day - November 9th

On this day, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Today, this day marks a growing event that remembers and motivates peace in the world, Global Grace Day. This began as a movement by one of the founders of Tamera, Sabine Lichtenfels. She defines Grace as being "the power that may overcome all violence because it is at home in the hearts of all human beings.” Today we honor that power and invite you to be part of the movement. I've pasted a meditation text for today below, written by Sabine. I share this with others in my world and will take a time of quiet meditation today to focus on Grace and it's potential within me and the world. WILL YOU JOIN ME?
November 9, 2009: Meditation by Sabine Lichtenfels 
Where there was pain, let healing awaken. 
Where there was anger, let the power for change emerge. Where there was fear, let safety and trust grow. 
Where there were enemies, let the awakening of mutual compassion begin. 
Where there was oppression, let freedom reign. Where nations were divided, let sympathy for planet earth lead to shared responsibility. We have come as a reminder: If we want planet earth to survive, then all the walls of separation must fall, the walls between peoples, between Israel and Palestine, between Europe and Africa, between the so-called first and third world. And likewise with the walls that we have erected in our own psyches, the walls between the genders, and the walls between humans and all creatures. 
May all displaced people find a home. 
May the pure indigenous wisdom and source gain recognition and respect. 
May the people who are willing to risk their lives for truth and justice receive the protection they need. 
May the voice of justice and truth and compassion and solidarity with all beings be heard all over the world, and may it spread and become a powerful movement that stands for the protection for life and planet Earth. 
May the seed of peace communities blossom and may the first self-sufficient communities be a sign and show that it is possible to develop societal systems which resonate with the universal laws of love and compassion, and of truth and abundance of life.  
May we become carriers of hope for all who come after us. 
May we set visible signs which show that the eternal life will win over all systems of wrong power, of destruction and exploitation. We have come as a reminder of the original beauty and truth of life: 
Every living being has a right to be free and to unfold, a right to love, and a right to genuine truth and trust. Let us set examples for overcoming violence wherever we are.  
Let us stand up for life and for love so that fear can vanish on earth.  
Let us form a worldwide circle of power to safeguard all creation. In the name of all those who had to give their lives, in the name of justice and truth, in the name of all that has skin and fur. In the name of all creatures, and in the name of GRACE and the movement for a free earth. 
May this prayer or something better come to be. 
Thank you and Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Findhorn came and went, by Will

Findhorn River

Well, Findhorn came and went without a blog post. Seems pretty typical at this point. It remains a challenge to write a good descriptor of this journey, even when there’s time to do it. So much has happened in such a short/long time. Our schedule is full; incredibly interesting and pretty ripe with unique opportunities. Like at Tamera, our time at Findhorn was long enough to allow us to sink into the community quite a bit.

We began with “experience week,” which is the standard starter course for any first-timers to Findhorn – it’s the pre-requisit for everything else they offer. During experience week we lived at “Cluny,” an old hotel that is now owned by Findhorn and used for programs and residents, a wonderful old place. Experience week was an introduction into group process, community living, “working community,” and many of the other nuances and practices carried-out by the folks at Findhorn.

On par with the rest of BB thus far, Findhorn was full and incredible. After experience week we moved to “the park,” which is the original location of the Findhorn community. We commenced many meetings with many parts of the community, and began holding sessions of our own as well. Findhorn is nearly 50 years old, one of the oldest communities we will visit. Incredible intention has been put into making this unique place function: Findhorn uses a wide variety of alternative building techniques, they power the whole place (160-ish permanent residents?) with 3 big windmills, grow a significant percentage of their own food, and take care of almost 100% of their wastewater (including raw sewage) through a “Living Machine” technology developed in the U.S. And still, Findhorn identifies itself more readily as a "working spiritual community" than an "eco-village" per se.

Though it is a spiritual community, there is not one over-arching dogma, but instead many wonderful individuals practicing their spirituality in their own ways, resulting a gentle sense of the sacred sprinkled throughout just about everything we did. We had a chance to work in the various work departments and get our hands into their world famous gardens. We met with the education department and learned about their many triumphs and struggles with programs and university affiliations. We were able to sit and interview some of the old-timers about how it used to be and what’s changed through the years. We met with the youth leaders and held council with the youth. We held community councils and a council training for the community. We met with the former president of the Global Eco-village Network, “GEN,” who now lives here full-time – a brilliant man with incredible perspective and scope. We helped to construct the new roof of an “earth lodge” on the land, using a “reciprocal frame” model (which is absolutely worth googling right now – an amazing, self-supporting technique). We spent 2 days in a workshop with Joanna Macy. We held evening presentations on Ojai, Tamera, and Auroville in an attempt to cross-pollinate between the communities.

Amidst the rest we also found time for own meetings and councils, visited another incredible and ancient stone circle site from the Neolithic earth-based cultures of old Europe, jumped in the cold north sea, made it to town for a good old Scottish fish’n chips from a place that’s been selling them since 1850, had a little fun, made independent study plans, and tried the scotch.

I love Scotland. It’s obvious from my name that I have heritage here and it feels to be an especially deep place for fulfilling the task of exploring ancestral roots (one of the intentions behind this pilgrimage). Especially important for me has been the chance to discover the indigenous of my own bloodline. It isn’t easy to learn, as a lot of it has been stamped out over the millennia. “Clavas Cairns” is the name of the Neolithic stones we visited in Scotland (there are hundreds of such sites still standing all over the UK). Just to be there – walking through the place, looking at stones erected by hands at least 5,000 years ago… hands that were connected to hearts, minds, bodies, and cultures that had an intimate relationship with the earth. Just to know the work of those hands – to be able to see it – does something for me that no amount of reading or research could ever do.

The standing rocks created circles, aligned with celestial bodies.

The old structures are thought to be burial sites... but no one really knows... and, there is speculation that they may be much older than we initially thought.

After 2 weeks at the park we packed up and left long before sunrise in a van, making our way through twisty roads and multiple ferry rides from the east to the west coast of Scotland, ending on the island of Erraid, where we stayed for a week. Findhorn care-takes the small settlement on Erraid for most of the year, using it as a retreat and residence. Just across the channel from Erraid is the famous Isle of Iona – home of ancient Celtic and Druidic sanctuaries, as well as the place where Christianity entered Scotland long ago through St. Columba: a site of sacred pilgrimage for many. Erraid is a rugged, wet, windswept Scottish Isle, with piles of granite dripping with big bracken ferns and mosses, peat bogs that forbid you to hike without a good pair of Wellington boots on your feet (“Welly’s” as the locals call ‘em), crystal clear blue water with white sand beaches (which are inviting, but the ocean is freezing). It’s a wild, elemental place. We stayed in old stone homes, once used for the families of lighthouse keepers stationed some 16 miles from here out in the Atlantic. Wood-burning stoves for heat and hot water, fresh milk and cheese from the cows, veggies from the gardens, eggs from the chickens, mussels from the sea, meditation twice a day… we were there to work and be in retreat together for our final 8 days before splitting up and heading our separate ways on independent study.

The Isle of Erraid

The old monastary on Iona

Sheep with a view on top of "Dun I", the tallest point on Iona

During this first trimester I have learned incredible things about alternative and life-sustaining ways of living, about community, about human-systems, and some the changes that will almost certainly have to happen in the coming times if we are to make it as a species. And, the real learning seems not to be how to do all of that, but who to be while doing it. Who to be at this time on the planet? Who to be when another species goes extinct? Who to be when the 200-year spike of cheap energy that we’ve been riding crashes? Who to be in myself? Who to be with the land, the earth? Who to be with my friends? Or my lover? With my community? The answer over and over is a mixed bouquet of truth, humility, integrity, and trust, which if lived seems to spell the only response that any of us could ever give… and seems to account for the deepest level of learning unfolding on this incredible journey.

We are now spread the winds on our independent studies... but that's another story...