This title acts as a good analogy for the week I spent in Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana as a part of the Byron Fellowship. Coming to Indiana at the end of an adventurous 4 weeks on the road, I was curious about the coming week. I had no expectations. Now I can say that the week went better than I could have ever imagined. Getting exposed to new ways of thinking, learning exercises that allowed us to think creatively, and truly learning 28 people’s names in the matter of a few hours was just the beginning. (If you ever need to learn lots of names real quick, just get out the ol’ frisbee and toss it around, calling the names you know. It’s the least awkward way I’ve experienced thus far.)
Rachel writes for this long exposure in the teepee
After/during a lecture by Luke about place and systems thinking I sensed a feeling of placelessness. This isnt the first time it’s struck me. This feeling has come at seemingly random times, or perhaps it’s timed with when I’m in the middle of thinking about the future and how I’m currently grounded (or lack of ground.) It’s true, I had been on the road for a month prior, so the feeling is not without immediate justification, but when I think about the big picture of life, this is what causes me to feel placeless, and, sometimes it troubles me. This stirring did spur a good discussion with others, though. Harry made the point that one can carry their home within them, and I can see that to some extent. Maybe I need practice. (If you have thoughts – feel free to post!!) Place can also be a way of being…
Harry outlined PLACE as such:
Love – If you love something enough, it will reveal it’s secrets to you (G.Washington Carver)
Awareness – Notice what is stirring in you
Connection – What do I need for recovery/renewal?
Effectiveness – How can I move my life forward?
And then we went for a walk in the woods and the canyons. And I drew hemlocks, beech, stinging nettles, paw paw and the tulip poplar (state tree). You don’t really see something until you study it and draw it!
Good quotes regarding place:
“The trouble with Oakland, is that when you get there, there isn’t any there -there.” – Gertrude Stein
“If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” – Wendell Berry
Luke in the covered bridge.
Rachel's really good at drawing with fire sticks.
I like how small Ben and Malcolm are. Birds have nested in those holes.
Mary McConnell from The Nature Conservancy came to give a talk. I didn’t know much about the organization and was happy to hear of their mission statement (paraphrased): non-confrontational solutions to conservation challenges – looking broadly at all views and focusing on being a conservation organization, not just an environmental organization. Mary finished strong calling us to “Make change become viral in a way that can be meaningful.” I wish viral didn’t have such a negative connotation – it’s a matter of language, once again.
Spider Teepee. The teepee lit from within.
Teepee Moon. This was the first night spent inside.
a place of silliness, deep discussions, and marshmallows.
Mark Boyce gave us a set of contrasting diagrams:
A. Design Priority by code (Imagine an inverted triangle here, such that the cars have the largest end.)
1 Circulation (automobiles)
B. Design Priorities required for sustainability (Now imagine that triangle righted, with the big base on the bottom.)
4 Circulation (automobiles)
Mark Timmons gave us a talk on the forest as a city, as the systems are quite parallel in many ways. Mark said that sugar is the elixir of the forest, of the world, really – sugar is what drives the competition. He also said that all these plants act in their own self interest – there is no altruism here.
found in the river canyon, one of the many pleasures of this place.
Another interesting bit of information I picked up is that the word “crisis” in mandrin is made up of two root words: danger and opportunity. I like this characterization – it opens up the possibilities, no?
team building - blindfolded and suspended
(photo by Ian Davis) Team Building sillies.
(photo by Jen Washburn) Harry's shadow is very valuable!
We watched a short movie called “Everyday Creativity” with the National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. He said a lot of things that struck a cord with me. He if you change your perspective you can more readily see the next right answer. You need to be comfortable knowing you’ll find the next right answer. Being present at the moment of opportunity and being in the place of most potential are also goals we should have. (Here I interject a quote I heard: Luck will visit the prepared individual.) Dewitt finds the extraordinary in the ordinary and turns a win-lose situation into a win-learn one.
This is also where Harry’s talk on creativity comes in. He gave us a framework to think about our creative process. Think of a triangle, with the large base on the bottom, the peak on the top, and these words fitting that scale:
propel – do it!
prime – getting your head in the right gear
purpose – start here
my water color palate, pre-painting
my painting, at the scene of the crime.
everyone's paintings! we are SO good.
Samuel shared so many interesting insights into the Amish culture.
Samuel effectively handled our barrage of questions on education (up the 8th grade), insurance (self-insured, through the church), farming practices (organic), family (10 kids, daughter 19 miles away = 1.5 hours by buggy), history (Samuel is German and still very close to his roots), and values (forgiveness) and helping others (when a family’s home burned, the whole community came to help, and a new house was constructed and livable within 3 days!!)
Rachel Ardeel caught these eyes.
The landscape here was just amazingly dynamic, frozen in place.
Mike had many stories to tell about the Native peoples.
(photo by Ian Davis) Ian has the eye!
Lastly, our ending exercise had us forming chains of writers as we sought each other out to write compliments and reflections on each other’s backs. I didn’t read mine until I was on the plane, and what a smile it brought to me. How lucky we all were to be in the presence of such warm and giving people!
p.s. The story behind the title: On the last morning, while I was writing, reflecting, and soaking up the goodness of the tall tree canopy above me I was sitting on wooden steps that cantilevered a cliff, and I heard a rustling below me. I saw a furry raccoon and in my quiet state, not wanting to scare him, I started whistling to let him know I was there. He proceeded to wander right below my feet. The wooden 2×6 boards of the stairs had 1/4″-1/2″ gaps between them, so, as the coon passed below me, he peered up through the crack, and I down at him. He was little more than a few feet from me and we paused at this moment, scoping each other out. He must have found me plain, for he continued on his way in a matter of moments. Still the look we shared was pretty great. Eye to eye.
Well, I think that will conclude my thoughts at this moment. Please do add comments of your memories, thoughts, and questions!!