Birch Creek Arts & Ecology Center


Trillium Farm



DEEP turtle of ecosophy

Thanks and Praises
Comments from past Ecosterians

"Once an Ecosterian, always an Ecosterian!" Fall 2000

        I have had a well rounded experience here.  There has been time to delve into the realms of social issues, spiritual pursuits, philosophical ponderings, scientific learning and ample exposure of the ideals and the practicalities of community living.  I have been allowed many different perspectives on education, ethics and group dynamics, and have had the space to integrate them into my own.  The lessons of this Land, this place and its people will stay with me, they are now a part of the self I am always striving to be, and have always been.  So far from the academia of desks, podiums and dry lectures, this is a primary life experience which will influence the course I will follow in life, and how I go about the adventure of living.

        These two months have cemented the knowledge that an underlying passion for the natural world will forever be a part of who I am, and that one of the only ways I will find true satisfaction in this life will be to know I have done my part to save what I can from destruction.  Moreso, this experience has helped me refine just exactly how to go about maximizing my effectiveness, it has provided a context to work within to initiate the changes I seek.
        The idealistic parts of intentional community living have been made real by partaking in the experience of living here- group dinners, managing of a large organic garden, living an a wild, rural and rustic setting, spending many a sunny day with no one but my thoughts and the butterflies of spring. . .adjusting to the rhythms of the changing seasons, developing a sense of place and purpose.  I have had much opportunity to refine my vision of the land and community I plan to create- from the abstract: goals, unifying vision, philosophy, etc.- to the specific: design of structures, geographic location, rules which need to be spelled out, and guidelines everyone can benefit from.

        The perfection of this place is that it is a balance between raw idealism and the unavoidable realities of life in modern society.  I feel safe saying the most valuable lesson I can take from this place is the resolution of a conflict of desires I have been struggling with for a while.  This type of living dissolves the dichotomy of living in selfish bliss or sacrificing oneself to the cause at hand. With conscious design and clear intentions we can live a rich, rewarding life, working hard and playing hard, and all the while making a difference in the world around us.  This lifestyle is appropriately radical, without being overly extreme.  There is no escaping the system entirely, it seems counterproductive to try overly to do so. Instead, we can work on the periphery to undermine the core.  We can live outside of the rat-race enough to stay sane and true, but embrace the parts of technology and bureaucracy which can be used to the advantage of the Earth.

        This sort of education is very unique, it is all encompassing, and intense in its laidback style. The unconventionality and loose structure can make me forget this is school, but when I step back and think about it, I am learning a huge amount, more real, worthy, useful and practical knowledge than any classroom could hope to produce.  Each conversation leaves me with a fresh perspective and much food for thought, each experience makes real a different issue, each problem resolved is a lesson.
     That anyone can go through four years of college behind desks and computers seems such a shame to me.  This sort of direct life experience is incomparably more worthwhile and productive. To interact in a semi-focused way with elders who spend their lives doing what you propose to do with yours is an incredible opportunity.  You can be catapulted through so many levels of discovery and maturity of views, and begin immediately to deal with the core issues- rather than rambling through trying to learn it all by default on your own.  So much time saved.

        Many good experiences allowing insight into life in a community in general, and here specifically.  Took part in a work party, got down and dirty in Birch Creek, excavating an old dump. Met Martin and Richard as we worked, and helped send away a full to the brim truckload of junk from the land---scrap metal, plastic, glass, car parts, even an old record player, and the kitchen sink too! It felt good to put sweat into reclaiming the land, and was very satisfying to watch the full truck drive away.  Hard work is fun and rewarding when combined with a good purpose and good companionship---I finished wanting to do more.
        That evening we had another group dinner---this time even more excellent because I felt more comfortable, and had put work into the day and the meal.  To be surrounded by people who are open, supportive, aware and in touch is exhilarating and encouraging.   Of course I knew they were out there, but to come and live amongst a group living in basic accordance to my vision warms my heart and makes me glad.
     Again we gathered in a circle and held hands, giving thanks, stating our awareness of what a privilege it is to live in such a fashion, with such people.  Martin led us in a chant, sing along about walking the ancient path, living on sacred ground---I wish I could remember the whole thing, it was perfect for my thoughts.  It is so rare one connects with purity, simplicity and deep, innate reality. The makings of true and everlasting happiness were present that evening, as were the lessons and wisdom of the ancient inhabitants of this land, wisdom which is fundamental, transcending time and place in its importance and raw power.
            I was especially blissed out to be glimpsing this raw glory of connection and belonging, but I was also impressed by the subtlety of it all---it is not so new to the others as to me, they are older and have come to this way of being through long and separate paths, they do not take it for granted, it is just that the understanding of what is real and important in this life and become imbedded, allowing a calmness in contrast to my excitement.  I felt I had tossed myself into the wind in search of others who share my despair, my hope and my understanding, and I was rewarded by finding a center for all I love and wish to pursue.

        The word community has taken on another layer of meaning, has acquired a patina of experience.  An endeavor such as the DEEP program takes on responsibilities no regular school program would approach, such as communication, personal responsibility, accountability, diplomacy, and interactive skills.

        Iíve questioned why I needed to come here.  Simply put, it was a way to preserve my sanity.  I thought that a change of scenery and attitude would adjust my being (and it has, tremendously), but on the walk, I realized that my problems are coming from ME, not the place Iím in, not the school Iím at, not the people Iím with.

ďIn contrast with most academic studies, which are abstract indoor activities, natural history is concrete and requires firsthand knowledge of trees, animals, plant life, birds, aquatic life, marine biology, and geology.  It is an antidote to the excessively abstract, overly quantified, and computerized, as well as the romantic view of nature derived from armchair ecologists.  Natural history forces us to deal with nature on natureís terms.  It also promotes the capacity not only to see but to observe with care, understanding, and, above all else, with pleasure.Ē Ė David Orr (Ecological Literacy, p.136)
        David Orr would be proud of this program; the DEEP Ecostery could not, without a doubt, be accused of being an abstract indoor activity.  Each subject applies directly to the mission of life at Trillium.  The focus of the program may be natural history, but natural history would not be complete without environmental education, environmental ethics, community studies, and conservation biology.  Without any one of these courses the program itself would not be entire, each is so ingrained with the others.
        Education in the Ecostery is not narrowly focused on the education of intelligence in general, but focuses on learning through practical abilities and observation, which allows for understanding and enjoyment of what is being learned.  This is important for the nature of a small program such as this where there are few students and there is frequent individual interaction.  Each student is permitted their individuality, and different learning styles are honored.  Engagement in practical assignments, our applied conservation biology project for instance, are much more conducive to actual learning than a cumulative final exam.

        I realize that it takes a certain kind of individual to be a part of a healthy community.  I thought about a lot of people I know, and many people I hang out with wouldnít be the best people to start a community with.  On the flip side, I can think of a lot of people I know that I donít hang out with that would make excellent community members.
        Working with other members of community is a very healthy, efficient way to work.  Not only do the jobs go faster, but it is a great time for conversation as well.  While working with others I tend to stay on task for longer spans of time.  I also notice that by working hard and fast, the others working with me tend to work at the same pace.
     We hosted dinner at the schoolhouse last night.  I always love the community gatherings at our place.  We had a circle and sang and danced before eating, feeling our positive intentions radiating out of the schoolhouse and into the cosmos.  When a tight group of people circle and truly put their hearts into their song, dance and chants, the positive healing energy goes beyond the circle and into the hearts of others.
     I enjoy talking about community here because this is a community!  Often when others have discussions of community, only the positive things are talked about and the uncomfortable subjects are avoided.  Without talking about all aspects of community (good, bad, easy, hard or any other emotional feelings that come up), you are just dreaming!  It puts a realistic edge on our discussions to be in a community that we can use as an example.

        When J. told me that he understands now (after we resolved our conflict) that conflict and disagreements can bring people together much more then holding hands in a circle, I knew that Iím in the right place.

        The Trillium experience has been very different from my other past experiences in community living.  Unlike living with groups of people in shared housings, training with people during military basic training or engaging in group wilderness expeditions, this experience has been focused on real-life issues in sustainability and intentionality.  Here, we were encouraged to be honest, to listen to one another, to embrace our differences, and to provide a nourishing and safe ground for the seeds of change we came here to sow.  To achieve this type of group process is a great task by its self, even in a setting like Trillium.

        Between us Ecosterians, I feel like weíve been learning how to deal with each other, respect each otherís needs, find mutual passions and interests, and give space and freedom for everyone to be them selves.  It took us three weeks of judgments, distance, suspiciousness, some conflicts, and lots of open, spontaneous communication to finally reach a point where we actually are beginning to like being with each other and share our diversity.  We might not become best friends for the rest of our lives but it sure does feel like I can work with those guys, share knowledge and skills, cook dinners, trust them to be fairly clean, responsible and respectful, and occasionally have fun playing music, go to town, or just have a good one-on-one conversation.  I think itís a pretty good achievement, considering other group experiences I had in the past.

        I see the Ecostery as an evolving experiment, an example of how ďecological wisdomĒ can be practiced and taught.  I see the Ecostery as filling an important niche in our current society as far as vision, action, and potential, and providing an important niche for students who either canít find a place for themselves in the standard education system, are seeking a life-altering experience, or want to push the boundaries of education and what that means.

During the Ecostery, going through the process of check-ins frequently has been helpful both in the practice of showing myself and directing group attention and in forcing me to connect with my in-the-moment state.   Living in community, even during this brief time, has been very fulfilling to the part of me that feels rejected.   Our two-month commitment to forming our community within the one of Trillium has provided a sense of security to me.   It has given me an assurance similar to unconditional love, (and in what we've created, unconditional love itself) that no matter how stupid I sound or how blunderous my behavior, I will still be here and so will everyone else.  Even better, there has been an atmosphere of healing and learning to support my growth founded on love, compassion, understanding, willingness.
        ~ FTJ

     Throughout the Ecostery I was very impressed with the overall commitment to honoring the structures put forth by our instructors and the program.   As I expressed in my application, one of the elements of Ecostery that really appealed to me was the inherent formation of a true community of learners--something I've longed for through my high school and college years.  A community of learners is committed to the processes of learning and other elements that create cohesion within a community of learners.  I was so delighted to find this kind of commitment among my fellow Ecosterians.  

        A high level of integrity was clear to me from the time of our first council.  In a very mature and motivated way we, as a group, facilitated a council in the most productive and thorough way we could with the structure and ideas that had been described to us for this process.  Walking through a community decision-making process, we nominated a facilitator and note-taker; used the chalkboard for agenda and lists; candidly discussed community living space issues after our initial week of living together; and initiated an academic check-in during which we set the intention to support each other throughout the Ecostery by sharing strengths and nurturing each other's weaknesses.  We went deep quick and continued very much in the same vein.  

        Consistently during the Ecostery there was also the intention to help Trillium Community, the Land and the Ecostery in reciprocating ways (enthusiasm for School and Community work parties; also great desire to network with and help out the greater Little Applegate community with efforts at Dog Fork; coming up with suggestions for the betterment of the program and facility).  We honored the "sacred living space ideal" by engaging in a group clean-up of the school each Tuesday before Community dinner and class.  Our group commitment to the highest process was really evident to me the Tuesday night a fawn was killed in the midst of our Community Studies class and, despite the absence of our facilitators, we held a forum on the reading materials and themes anyway.  Finally, we honored guidelines designed to optimize our productivity and presence of mind by not drinking alcohol or indulging in other consciousness-altering substances during the course at the Ecostery.

        During my Ecostery experience, clear realization and foundational implementation of my personal real work has taken flight.  The rich, integrated academic curriculum, practice of making personal and group ethical choices and deep attunement to the land have been the backbone of this process.  Readily unleashing the accumulated knowledge within promotes creativity and strengthens my ability to stimulate vital exchange with human and nature alike.


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