Writing Time

Tuesday and Thursday mornings—it says in my electronic calendar: Christina writes… an injunction that spins out through the year and into perpetuity—purposely. This is my commitment for the foreseeable future: save time to write, and use it to write!

Yeah. Right. A review of the past weeks:

Tuesday: PeerSpirit Annual Meeting to set our course for the year.

Thursday: yay—WRITING.

Tuesday: Fly to Austin, TX with Ann to present a day of health care consulting.

Thursday: hanging out in Austin after teaching, visiting friends, talking about circle.

Tuesday: Fly home from LA, after adding a visit with the grandchildren to our business trip.

Thursday: taking my dad to the dermatologist—kicking off a lot of medical decisions about skin cancer abrasions.

Tuesday: over at my dad’s apartment, helping him get carpets cleaned and other tasks.

Thursday: yay—WRITING

Tuesday: Self as the Source of the Story Alumni group convenes.

Thursday: Teaching, consulting with students—and WRITING.

Saturday: WRITING all day—silent time at the seminar. Ahhhh.

Tuesday: Day after teaching: barely talking, writing only a few emails. Breathing in the satisfaction of the class. Listening for my own voice to re-emerge.

Thursday March 10: High winds and two inches of rain in an already saturated season. Ann is up at dawn to check the damage. She discovers water running down the neighborhood ditch has backed up flooding across edge properties, slurry over the bluff, very real prospect of losing our community beach stairs and bulkhead. High tide, high winds, destruction and hammering by water and drift logs against this precious access to our greatest spiritual practice—walking the water’s edge with Gracie.

I’m an English major, but I know impending disaster when I see it. The cliff is in danger of “calving” and burying our 77 steps to freedom, and the 70-year-old bulkhead. Ann has meetings over town we try to make a plan—get on the phone to someone who might know what to do.

My only writing of the day is an emergency email to the community warning everyone to stay away from the stairs and the cliff.

I call the project manager who has been helping us prepare a major repair on the aging bulkhead; he calls the county, the county sends two road crew guys and we all agree the overflow pipe right at the edge of the county road and private property is not working, is behaving like an artesian well. Yup. Water is everywhere. It just keeps rolling downhill the way water does. More rain coming. No other help from them.

I call a private drainage company. It is 3:30. Clouding over. It’s my writing time.

It’s my lifetime. A river runs through it…

This is how it goes.

Life is full of itself. Life demands. We make the best choices we can. We hold focus—and we hold relationship, emergency, replenishment, duty, love. There is an edge to things—people have to figure out how to go forward without understanding how it’s going to turn out. We have to make do with what we have, with what resources we can muster, with the folks within reach who can help. Oddly enough, this is exactly the theme in my novel, though set in another time and place.

My fictional story is full of people of the land, ordinary people who make extraordinary choices… and my reality is full of ordinary people making some extraordinary choices, as well. It took a while for the gravity to register. Water running where it should not run… so disorienting… and the idea that it would not stop running or unplug itself and then what to do??? Waiting on the county road crew, I stick my arm into muddy ice water all the way to my pit, feeling into the dark trying to understand the pipe juncture and where the blockage might be.

I call the young men of Apollo Drainage who have been up since 4:00 AM when the first frantic calls from the storm battered island woke them. They pump the water on long hoses over the bluff and down onto the beach so that the drain hole emerges… and eventually they find the problem, and unplug the drain and the river magically disappears back into its plastic tubing and safely over the edge. But damage has been done. There is a deep crack in the earth at the top of the stairs. There is a slumping slurry of mud on the south bluff face—it’s not done falling down, more rain is coming. The high winds, high tides, have ripped at our bulkhead, huge concrete pieces broken, logs ramming the fragile toe of the bluff.

The power of water rules all. I stand there thinking: you should know this, Christina… it was just a year ago you stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Water wins.

I am president of our homeowners association, Ann is secretary. We have a good board of four neighbors who face this crisis and inform 25 homeowners: the stairs are not safe. We put up Caution tape and buy and emergency lock. It is possible this shared asset is gone forever.

We bought this house because of the tree behind it and the beach access in front of it. I am grieving this loss of spirit and routine.

The storm passes. There is a day of sunshine, calm, rainbows. Another storm approaches. More extreme winds are predicted. It is now Sunday morning. It is pouring rain. We check the drain, watch the amount of flow coming off the neighborhood. We pray. We sing to all the trees around us to “stand strong.”

Writing time: my work in the real world is to accept challenge and change with at least as much equanimity and courage as the characters in my story. That’s why I’m writing: to use another time and place to make a story map, a model of pulling together instead of pulling apart.

A lot is pulling apart: I am focusing on pulling together.

I will post this now before the power goes out.

The community beach access--a river instead of a path.

The community beach access–a river instead of a path.

South of stairs, mud slurry and slumping already pulling down that part of bluff.

South of stairs, mud slurry and slumping already pulling down bluff wall.

Two foot crack  at top of stair landing. Predicted to break away that part of bluff.

Two foot crack at top of stair landing. Predicted to break away that part of bluff.

All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.

After water diversion, the old, buried drain emerges

After water diversion, the old, buried drain emerges

Drain unplugged, fixed, and capped.

Drain unplugged, fixed, and capped.

Calm presence looking across the yard.

Calm presence looking across the yard.

Double rainbow over neighbor's roof and Puget Sound.

Double rainbow over neighbor’s roof and Puget Sound.

Tending Our Trees

Over the weekend the Pacific Northwest mountain snows began, heavy lowland rains returned, and the winds howled through the trees with winter strength. For the first time in years, the wind did not make me nervous.

Huge, wonderful conifer trees that not infrequently shed large branches in the first winds of the season back our house. This shedding is a natural occurrence: a way that trees prune themselves. We are accustomed to driving down the back roads after an autumn wind, and noticing many branches along the forest edge. However, living under them, it’s nerve wracking to hear a crack in the middle of the night, or thump on the roof.

Arborist in our Doug fir

Arborist in our Doug fir

This October, we hired a skilled arborist to climb our trees and do some important and proactive “limbing” and pruning. Two men spent nearly two hours climbing the huge Douglas fir tree that sits within ten feet of our back rooms. It was surprising how many limbs they cut in the process of giving the tree more “sail”—i.e. ability to let strong winds move through the mass. Despite the pile of branches carefully lowered to the ground and run through the shredder by the third member of the arborist team, the tree looks better than ever—still artfully gracing the landscape with drooping boughs and magnificent whorls of branches. In total five trees were cared for.

I know it is important to get trees periodically pruned, but I have been shocked at some of the jobs done by tree services that do not have licensed arborists. Too many people who call themselves a tree service love the notion of climbing trees and using chain saws—yes, and using spikes on their boots to climb up the trunk—and just limb up a tree without considering the balance of weight needed by the whole organism.

It costs more money to hire an arborist, and it took us several years to save for this investment. There’s been a lot of cutting in the neighborhood this year: two new houses going up and some clearing for a septic field. Each tree removed also changes the wind pattern. We decided this was the time we needed to tend the Doug firs and white pine that shelter our house so that we were in a relationship that felt respectful of their needs and ours.

Whatever happens this winter, I deeply value the sense of relationship we have with the trees that surround our house.

Arborists truck and our home

Arborists truck and our home



Welcoming the stranger

In 1952, when I was six years old, my parents scrambled together a down payment on a chicken coop. that’s what we called the strung together shed-like building on half an acre in the flood plain of the Wabash River at the edge of Indianapolis. Linoleum floors, drafty fireplace in a small living room, funky kitchen, big yard, a few climbable trees. My parents put in a garden, bought real chickens for eggs and meat, and we began subsistence farming while my father worked two jobs, and my mother managed the harvest, the chickens, and sewed clothes for three little children aged 6, 4, and 1. We got new underwear for Christmas and one real toy. I thought it was paradise.

In the wider world, I was oblivious then to McCarthyism, Stalinism, nuclear arsenals, the Cold War, the subjugation of women, racism, etc. etc. I was a child in a pocket of relative safety in a difficult age. We all just held on as best we could. And then the Hofmann’s came to live with us.

In that tiny house, we absorbed Doktor and Frau Hofmann, their daughters ages 13 and 17, and their 20-year-old son. I was just learning to read and came home with my picture dictionary, seating myself between these big girls and teaching them basic English vocabulary and pronunciation. They had been living in a displaced persons camp since the end of the War—7 years in a railroad car. Dr. Hofmann had stood up against fascism and spent the war imprisoned and tortured; his son Christofe was so mentally traumatized he required the full-time attention of the Frau. Gisela, the older girl, did housework helping my mother, while Angela occasionally came with me, crammed in a tiny school desk, learning to read. Refugees.

Our family, borderline poor by American standards, was borderline rich by theirs. My parents, stressed and unsure how to make their own way in life, sponsored this family’s immigration and integration into American society. Soon they had an apartment downtown, clothes, second-hand furniture. Eventually the family moved to Iowa where Doktor Hofmann got a job as a medical assistant in a mental hospital, and, hopefully, help for his son. We got Christmas cards over the years, always thanking us for saving their lives.

I don’t know what happened to them (and their names are changed here for privacy). They were part of my childhood. They remain unforgettable teachers who opened my early awareness to the realities of the wider world. And it is through this intimate experience that I watch the current refugee crisis in Europe.

I acknowledge the social, political, economic, and religious complexities regarding what is happening there. I understand this unstoppable influx is overwhelming even the most welcoming countries and raises important questions about what it will mean to be “European,” as the continent becomes more and more multi-racial, multi-religious, and multi-worldviewed. The consequences of centuries, are swirling around: shall we increase the razor wire or increase the dialogue?

Our friends in Europe are on the lines in Austria, Slovenia, Germany, handing out food, helping to maintain calm among exhausted, stressed people who can barely speak a few words of common language, who are looking into one another’s eyes to grab a bit of trust and courage to stay on the path.

I have no idea how my country, state, or community, would react to 10,000 people crossing over the nearby Canadian border every 24 hours, walking down the Interstate desperate to get somewhere…anywhere…safe.

Even if there is “no solution,” there is choice in how we respond. We have turned into a new age and I believe we can show up for this!

What I know is that welcoming the stranger into our homes and communities makes them not a stranger. Six years after WWII, a German family needed help: they got it. They were no longer the enemy. Now people who are largely Muslim, largely from Syria and Africa need help: it is up to us, the white, privileged folks, to stop seeing them as the enemy, and to react with so much kindness that our actions breakdown barriers and misunderstanding.

I am well if you are well.

I am safe if you are safe.

I am home if you are home.

Dr. Hofmann, Frau Hofmann, I hope you had good lives. Christofe, may your suffering have been alleviated. Gisela, Angela, somewhere you are women in your 70’s, may you remember the little girl on the couch earnestly teaching you first grade English. I remember you.


For more information:

This video helps explain and calm some of these fears about immigration into Europe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvOnXh3NN9w

If you want to HELP– support the World Food Programme of the United Nations: wfp.org. They are desperately in need of money to keep feeding the millions of people displaced in the Middle East and elsewhere. This is not the time for them to go broke.


*** BESTPIX *** HORGAS, SERBIA - SEPTEMBER 07:  Migrants cross into Hungary as they walk over railroad tracks at the Serbian border with Hungary on September 7, 2015 in Horgas, Serbia. Thousands of migrants crossed into Hungary today from Serbia near Horgas. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

*** BESTPIX *** HORGAS, SERBIA – SEPTEMBER 07: Migrants cross into Hungary as they walk over railroad tracks at the Serbian border with Hungary on September 7, 2015 in Horgas, Serbia. Thousands of migrants crossed into Hungary today from Serbia near Horgas. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called ‘Balkans route’ has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)



PeerSpirit Archived Blogs

The Voice of Ann, of Christina, and of the work. Read archived posts >

Writing & Story

Christina and Storycatching

Christina writing in her journal

Once upon a time a girl called Chrissie was inspired to keep a diary. She took a school notebook of blank pages and hid in the family’s basement writing 14-year-old secrets and breaking the silence that surrounded the early 1960s. Her life-long practice of reflective writing has led Christina Baldwin to a pioneering body of work as a leader in understanding the power of story to organize life experience.

She began teaching journal seminars in her mid-twenties, and at thirty-one, her first book on journal writing created a new category in the Library of Congress. Her career focused on helping other writers claim their life narratives and craft creative nonfiction. She spoke and consulted on the power of story to influence health care, education, and community building.

While retired from business life, she continues to write—private pages, blogs, and books. As the world has shifted into “all story all the time,” she advocates for the return to quiet corners, a breath and a prompt that leads to the pen on page or fingers on the keyboard. She knows when people are momentarily freed from noise and distraction, the true stories of personal life rise to articulation.

See what she’s up to at www.christinabaldwin.com.


Books Christina has authored, along with many of her journals





Nature, Nurture & Stewardship

Nature and Wilderness

Ann (center) leading a tour for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust

Ann and Guiding


Since Ann took her three-year-old sister, Margaret, on the back of her bike one mile out of town to Seven Springs to look for crawdads and minnows, she has cherished sharing the wonders of the natural world with others. She was 12 years old.

At age 16 she was a counselor at a summer YMCA camp in Minnesota and took 8-year-olds on overnight canoe trips. And on it went—schoolteacher, U.S. Forest Service naturalist, leader of Sense of Wonder workshops for parents and children, kayaking guide, wilderness vision quest guide, land trust tour guide.

For an update on what Ann is doing now, go to her new website:  https://www.annlinnea.com/

Brief history of Ann’s wilderness guiding, including our Cascadia Wilderness Quests

For many years Ann and PeerSpirit led kayaking adventures in a variety of settings: on Lake Superior (MN), Puget Sound (WA), Desolation Sound (BC), Glacier Bay National Park (AK) and Magdalena Bay (MX).

For 8 years, with Anne Stine, she co-led the Elder Quest for women 50 and older in the Inyo Mountains in California. Then in 2010 she joined with Christina Baldwin and Deb Greene-Jacobi to lead a wilderness vision fast at a private retreat center near Carlton, WA. In 2022, the three guides came to the tender-hearted conclusion to stop offering the wilderness fast known as Cascadia Quest. Their announcement of this closure came with the following list of gratitudes.


  • We give profound thanks to the land, the sacred mountain, the far peaks, the forest, the meadow.
  • We give thanks to all creatures from the bees, to birds, to bear, cougar, and wolf who made space for us and accompanied us over all these years.
  • We give thanks to the Methow people, traditional holders of this territory. And we thank Lindsay Swope who tended us the first eight years, and Benjamin Pixie and Maeyoka Brightheart who are the current stewards of this valley.
  • We give thanks for each courageous person who traveled to this place from across the US and Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Slovenia, Australia, seeking a vision of wholeness for themselves and our world and with their presence and prayers, honored this land.

Tribute to our dear friend and wilderness co-guide, Deborah Greene-Jacobi

Deb and Ann hiking in 2022

For eleven years it was our privilege to co-guide Cascadia Quest with Deb. She was skilled in all aspects of wilderness guiding: ceremony, cooking, hiking, nature skills, and deep heart. On November 18, 2022 Deb succumbed to her valiant battle with cancer. Our lives and the lives of those who quested with the three of us are the richer for our time with Deb. We miss her. We thank her for her generous heart.


Suggestions to those who are seeking wilderness quest/fasting guidance:

1) The School of Lost Borders, https://schooloflostborders.org/, is a fine organization with many varied questing opportunities.

2) Earthways LLC https://earthwaysllc.com/ is the organization that our dear friend and co-guide, Deborah Greene-Jacobi, helped form. It is located in Sonoma County of California.

3) Our friend and colleague, Darcy Ottey, has written the definitive book on rites of passage for youth and diversity: Rites and Responsibilities, A Guide to Growing Up, 2022, Lost Borders Press. Her website gives access to some of her offerings: http://www.darcyottey.com/






Our Books

Our titles… Learn more >

The Circle Way

The Circle Way

The Circle Way fosters skillful capacity to lead from your own chair…


The Circle Way is a body of work combining ancient lineage and modern social technology into a refined, lightly structured group process designed by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea. The two founders taught, applied and evolved this work in a world-wide 25-year writing and teaching cycle.

Moving from a founders-held to a community-held model, The Circle Way is now in the capable hands of next generation practitioners. It is expanding into corporations, non-profit and NGO boards, education, healthcare, community activism, and religious communities as a highly applicable form of collaborative governance.

PeerSpirit’s Circle Way resources have been transferred to TheCircleWay.net.

  • For information about upcoming Circle Way trainings, click here.
  • For teaching colleagues/Circle Way practitioners, go here.
  • For Circle Way resources, including basic teaching guidelines that have been translated into several languages, visit The Circle Way Resources page.
  • To subscribe to The Circle Way’s email newsletter, which provides tales of the use of Circle in various settings, subscribe here.
  • For connection into the network and starting a circle – more than 600 practitioners from around the world are united through a Facebook group, where they share circle news, stories, and questions that help them reflect and deepen their practice. To join, click this link, and then, in Facebook, click the green Join Group button.

Christina and Ann’s co-authored book, The Circle Way, A Leader in Every Chair, has been translated into German, Korean and Dutch. It is available in ebook and paperback form through Amazon and via the publisher, Berrett-Koehler. See a description with links to purchase here.

Christina’s foundational book, Calling the Circle, The First and Future Culture, is also available. Read about it here.

At the end of each of their Circle trainings, Christina and Ann would gift participants with Christina’s handout, Circle in the Heart of Stone. To download a copy, click here.