Rose Medicine

Rose Medicine

This article by Westgarden Steward Jules LeDrew introduces rose medicine: Flower and Hips. Harvest is early June through Summer Solstice and fall.

This time of year most plants show their full identities and character through their unique and colorful displays of flowers. You will find our native wild rose, Nootka Rose, on beaches and holding up hillsides in sandier soils across the PNW. While she may be less eye popping with smaller light pink flowers, her medicine can be as significant as some of the most prized roses in the world. These include the Damask rose, at home in our own Westgarden. Rosa Damascena is native to the Valley of the Roses in Bulgaria, which is also the heart of the rose essential oil industry trade. Records of its huge popularity go back to the Ottoman Empire. Rose medicinal use stems from many cultures, including ancient Greece, and dates back thousands of years. Read More →

June 30, 2020

The Journey from Head to Heart

On Wednesday, June 3 we launched an Open Zoom series. These lightly facilitated, social calls are open to all and run from 10 am to 11 am weekly.

Three folks attended our first Zoom call, and conversation focused primarily on racism. As white people we discussed how to overcome our own internalized white privilege, how to help other white folks be less harmful, and how to be authentic, repair, and heal. We talked about the role of trauma as a root cause of so much violence, and we talked about the death of the illusion of individuality and the myth of American exceptionalism.

A quote from the call:

“We need to make the journey from head to heart.”
—M.F.

A resource mentioned during the call: The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture

Read More →

June 11, 2020

The land welcomes you

I don’t know about you, but I entered this week with a surreal feeling. Anxiety and hope are both present in me—anxiety for the health and safety of the many, and especially those who are especially vulnerable to illness or to food and shelter insecurity in the days and months to come. Hope for what is possible when we awaken and live into our interdependence with one another and with Earth. In this spirit, I spent part of my weekend planting seeds. Read More →

March 16, 2020

Hilltop Reflections: Greeting the new year in Legacy Forest

by Marnie Jackson

I welcomed the new year with a day of rest, reflection, and solitude in Hilltop Cabin. The cabin, owned and offered by Whidbey Institute founders Fritz and Vivienne Hull, is nestled in the center of our 106 acre conservation forest near Storyhouse Meadow.  I arrived in the cozy, bright space and had a quick orientation from Fritz, who showed me the amenities—heaters and a wood stove, a little kitchen for making tea and warming up my lunch, and a fantastic library of works from poets, philosophers, naturalists, and eco-theologians. When I asked him if he had any particular advice for me to make the best use of my day, he encouraged me to spend time among the trees. 

My day began simply enough, and I spent my first hour riffing through the notebooks that Fritz and Vivienne have compiled on subjects like Celtic Spirituality, the Life Wheel, and the life and work of Thomas Berry. In that reading, I was struck by a profound sense of continuity. The Chinook Learning Community, founded by Fritz and Vivienne in 1972, didn’t just give way to the Whidbey Institute—it became it. Thomas Berry Hall was not named by accident, but as an entreaty to remember and carry forward the work of this man who wrote, “the natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.” The Hilltop Cabin itself has a clear purpose and its construction and siting was sincerely intentional: it is a place for immersion in nature, for reflection on Self and Earth, and for rediscovering how to be human in these times. 

The Hilltop Cabin has a clear purpose and its construction and siting was sincerely intentional: it is a place for immersion in nature, for reflection on Self and Earth, and for rediscovering how to be human in these times. 

I had come prepared, with colored ink pens, a blank journal, washi tape, and dozens of year-end journaling prompts. Fritz and Vivienne had provided even more resources, including a wicker basket of art supplies and reams of blank paper. I was ready to sit and reflect, making a fresh start for a new decade with clarity of purpose and power of intention. Then, a funny thing happened. After sitting and doodling for half an hour, I felt complete with my journaling. 

As a professional writer, I spend most of every day putting words to paper. As a mother and partner, I had spent the week between Solstice and Christmas drawing, painting, and creating vision board collages with my family. I was all journaled out, and therein lay another gift of Hilltop Cabin—the freedom to discover what I needed most. I didn’t need a colorful calendar, a cheerful goal list, or a revised personal purpose statement. I needed to be quiet—in body, mind, and heart. I needed to be alone in the woods.

I took my camera and my coat and made my way down the forest path to a stone circle, ringed with trees and lying just a few dozen yards from the Hilltop Cabin. A weed-suppressing barrier had been laid down, and white stones had been placed atop it. I noticed the persistence of new plant life, pushing up between the stones and reaching little green needles toward the light. 

Plants are agents in their own lives. I once read that the compounds released by plants into the atmosphere actually change the quality of the light those plants receive, increasing photosynthesis by diffusing light in the forest. A Guardian author summarizing these findings wrote, “plants have evolved a clever trick to redirect sunlight and bring the weather they want down into the forest understory.” These trees are not inanimate features of my habitat, but co-creators of ours

Therein lay another gift of Hilltop Cabin—the freedom to discover what I needed most.

I sat on the Earth in the center of the circle, contemplating the coolness under my seat and the vastness of the forest canopy. I listened for birds, close in and far off, and for the tiptoe of who-knows-who—Doe? Squirrel?—through the underbrush. 

After some time, I stood and continued my walk, eventually finding myself back at the cabin. It was now midday, and I warmed up tea and soup before settling on the couch with a novel I’d been longing to reread for years. I made it through 75% of the book, then dozed off for my first nap in at least a decade. I woke up refreshed, to the sound of a woodpecker knocking nearby. 

By the end of my 9 hour stay in the Hilltop Cabin, I felt like a human BEing—just being. No doing, planning, producing, delivering, or performing. It was not what I’d set out to achieve during this one precious day alone, and yet it felt like the most important possible work.

After a day of solitude in nature, it felt right that I got on my bicycle to return home. I couldn’t imagine climbing into a car, closing the door to the forest, and turning on a gasoline engine at the close of such a day. If my day alone taught me anything, it is that the patterns of human activity that are at odds with nature are at odds with our own being, and that what is healthy for my planet is indistinguishable from what is healthy for me. 

Hilltop Retreats are offered to the public. Visit the website to learn more and book your day-long retreat.

January 9, 2020

Hiking Close to Home: a conversation with trail guidebook author Maribeth Crandell

Hiking Close to Home, a new guidebook from local author Maribeth Crandell with Jack Hartt, features trails at the Whidbey Institute as well as trails throughout Whidbey, Fidalgo and Guemes Islands.

The book was conceived after Maribeth was asked to prepare a presentation on local hikes for the library. “Every time I offered the presentation, people would come up and say, ‘what about this hike? What about that one? This expanded my perspectives and got me digging, learning about more hikes.” Now, with over 50 hikes in their newest book, Maribeth and Jack have traveled on foot all around Whidbey and the surrounding areas. “We’re revising the book because we’re almost sold out,” she told me. “Our new batch will be ready in February and will include 61 hikes.” Maribeth added that it will be featured at the Sound Waters Conference on February 1. Read More →

December 22, 2019

Grounded Gratitude: An interview with volunteer Sarah Goettsch

I  recently connected with Sarah Goettsch, a Whidbey Institute program alumni and volunteer who comes up from Seattle whenever she gets the chance. Here’s our conversation. —Marnie Jackson

 

What got you interested in volunteering with the Whidbey Institute?

I came to know the Whidbey Institute through Powers of Leadership (POL) in 2017. That came at a time of pretty big upheaval in my life, personally and professionally. Looking back, I see that I knew at the time, “this is the place that’s going to help rework who I am becoming.” I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have the grounding of the Whidbey Institute and Powers of Leadership at that time in my life. One of the things I’ve found about the Whidbey Institute is that all of you—staff, participants, volunteers—are filled with generosity and care. It’s a certain way of being in the world that allows individuals to shine. I’ve felt so cared for, and without a lot of funds it made sense to consider volunteering as a way to stay involved. Read More →

August 7, 2019

A Guiding Question | June 2019 Newsletter

“What if your every action was guided by the question, ‘does this support the conditions for life to flourish?'”

—Heather Johnson
This issue includes news about the book Intrinsic Hope; an interview with Karen Schwisow of Mindfulness Northwest; photos of our June Volunteer Days volunteers and our new garden gate; and a call to action on behalf of orcas.

Click here to view the issue and read on.

June 10, 2019

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Mira Steinbrecher

Mira Steinbrecher and I first met at a Timber Framers Guild conference in Port Townsend. We came together again through our work with the Whidbey Institute five years ago, and we recently sat together to talk about her long history with the Whidbey Institute. Here’s that conversation. —Marnie Jackson

 

When Mira Steinbrecher arrives on this land, she feels the same spirit that captured her attention decades ago when she first came to a potluck and sauna. “The land keeps drawing me here,” she said. “I still remember the first time I drove down this driveway. I got out of the car and thought, ‘whoa—where was the veil I crossed?’” Read More →

March 30, 2019

The Longest Night | December Newsletter

Forever Protected: 106-Acre Conservation Easement Finalized

On November 29, a longstanding dream came true with the establishment of an expanded, comprehensive conservation easement at the Whidbey Institute. We owe a debt of gratitude to Board Chair Kate Snider, the staff and board of the Whidbey Institute and Whidbey Camano Land Trust, the Island County Commissioners, attorney and neighbor Doug Kelly, and many other neighbors and friends who brought this project to completion.

The easement was made possible by an Island County Conservation Futures Fund grant and a sizable donation of land value from the Whidbey Institute. It provides permanent protection for 106 acres of forest and wetland, including critical habitat and the headwaters of two creeks feeding the Maxwelton Creek watershed. Click here to read more about the easement.

Also in this issue: Introducing Meg Gluckman and an interview with Breeze Gabrielson.

Click here to view the full issue and read on.

 

January 17, 2019

Everything is Thriving: Meet Breeze Gabrielson

Breeze Gabrielson joined the Whidbey Institute team as our Westgarden Intern this summer, and in that role she helps with the huge job of maintaining and improving the Westgarden. Breeze is currently focused on learning more about medicinal plants alongside Westgarden Steward Jules LeDrew, with the goal of incorporating the healing power of plants into her own life in order to help others do the same. Read More →

December 19, 2018