PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
Aldermarsh and Us – A Love Story
by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea
In early 1995, at the local book signing for the newly published Calling the Circle, the First and Future Culture, Joy Moulton, a dynamic and beautiful island character, swirled up to us, draped her arms across our shoulders and said, “Ladies, I just built a retreat center down in the Maxwelton Valley, come see if you want to teach there.” We did. Aldermarsh became our PeerSpirit hearth for welcoming hundreds of people to Circle Practica, Self as the Source of the Story, Nature Writing and Wandering, gatherings of circle leaders working to hold an alternative paradigm in the middle of dominant culture, and “Fire Gatherings” as we called in help for turning our work over to the next generation of practitioners.
And PeerSpirit is just one thread that weaves magic through this five-acre piece of island. It is hallowed ground, cared for with a sensibility often overlooked in other places: the exact placement of stones, windows set to frame a certain view, everything artful, thoughtful, nature-based, but not fancy. This is a place crafted by local love, local men and women called to contribute and sustain the container for what happens here. We know this place. We know how it calms the stressed and hurried bodies and minds of all who arrive here from planes/trains/automobiles.
Enchantment. Forest bathing. Frogs and owls, coyotes, hawks, a magnificent and creative garden, and oh my, the trees. And one tree in particular stands out— a magnificent Douglas fir that stands guardian over the hexagonal teaching space, the Marsh House, in the meadow at the lower end of this place.
We know this place. Where the circuit breaker box is hidden, where to take the garbage, sort the recycle, deposit the compost, how to heat the hot tub, find sand for the bridge, weed the garden, operate the antique sound system, put away the tables and chairs. It has worked for us. It has worked on us. Our work would not be the same without the Aldermarsh.
And the first week of December, Christina held her final session of The Self as the Source of the Story writing seminar in this place.
Joy, now in her nineties, lives up island in a sweet cabin on the horse farm her daughter runs. At just the most needful moment, the philanthropist landowner who stewards the adjoining fields and leases land to The Organic Farm School, bought the Aldermarsh and turned it over to a small nonprofit to tend. The land and the magic survived the transition and thrive on. The valley around it holds a constancy of farmland, wood shops, modest homes, orchards, and neighborliness.
Aldermarsh and PeerSpirit have traveled through twenty-seven years of service together. We know each other in all seasons. Saplings have grown into trees. Alders have stretched skyward and given way to the winds. The old wooden bridge across the marsh was crushed by one of them and replaced with Trex decking. Florence, the original gardener, has returned to the soil.
And we, too, are returning to soil—not yet in the manner that Florence has, but returning to the original gifts and passions that brought us together. It was the love of nature and story that wove in and out and through our years of PeerSpirit and The Circle Way.
Ann is working with young farmers and students, passing on her knowledge and quiet wisdom.
Christina is preparing to support her novel that will be published next year.
PeerSpirit as a corporation will close on December 31. The www.peerspirit.com website will remain as a legacy site and with the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Two new websites will feature our bodies of work and books. We are delighted that Debbie Dix is staying on as a consultant to help with the websites and this newsletter, “The Owl and the Tree”.
May the year turn gently for you. May we trust that the love and work we each pour into the world leads us toward the good, true, and beautiful.