“We come together at the Whidbey Institute because we need each other. The work of maturing ourselves, our structures, and the cultures into which we invite new generations is urgent and ongoing." —Heather Johnson

Loading Events

« All Events

Circling in the Wild

August 13 - August 17


This program is offered by the SOUND INSTITUTE FOR COMMUNITY RESILIENCE / An Action Group of Local 20/20, Jefferson County. Their mission: Working together toward local sustainability and resilience – integrating ecology, economy and community through action and education.

This all-volunteer grassroots organization is dedicated to promoting self-reliance, sustainability and resiliency at a community level, moving us toward a lighter environmental footprint and a greater capacity to adapt to the challenges of climate change, peak oil, and economic instability.

“There is a world behind the world we see that is the same world but more open, more transparent, without blocks. Like inside a big mind, the animals and humans all can talk, and those who pass through here get power to heal and to help. They learn how to behave, and how not to give offense. To touch this world no matter how briefly is a help in life.”

— Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild


Council is an ancient practice whose roots run deep in the natural world, spanning myriad cultures, times, and spiritual traditions. Sitting in circle, we remember to listen to the whole: the people, the place and all living things. This timeless ceremony opens us to empathy & kindles a deep sense of community. We recognize that each voice has value, each person a gift, a piece of the puzzle. And as we share our personal stories, a collective story emerges, and it is in the mirror of this telling that we met each other and know who we are, once again for the first time.

In our 5-day course, we will live and breathe Council. The multi-day arc of this training gives us time to explore Council as both a communication technique & a spiritual practice. We will use the teachings of Mother Nature to guide our way through the wilderness within and without. In addition, we will have the opportunity to weave self-generated ceremonies into our personal journeys, inviting us individually & collectively into a liminal place between the worlds.

Here the questions we are living, and the experiences we each bring with us, will shape our time together, as will the shadows following us here. In a world in which everything is connected to everything else, even weather and the wildlife surrounding us are part of our circle, influencing our moods and movements.

This program combines both introductory & intermediate levels of Council training & is intended for leaders and change-agents, caregivers and caretakers, and those longing for and creating community. It’s designed to support facilitators working with young people and elders, as well as guides using Council with rites-of-passage.

We will introduce & practice the basic forms & intentions of Council; plus we will clarify the key differences between Council & other forms of circle work. We will explore how to use the various formats, exercises and techniques of Council in intimate relationships, as well as in families, schools, communities & organizations.

During our time together, the Salish Sea watershed will be our home. There will be both solo- & group-activities. Many, if not most, of our sessions will be out of doors, inviting us to open to the teachings & wisdom embodied in the natural world. You will have a chance to explore facilitation challenges, working solo, with a partner, and with the whole community. With vulnerability and a little grace, we hope to enter that moment where serving self, serving others, and serving Creation, is spoken with one voice.


Marlow Hotchkiss is a poet, council trainer, naturalist and wilderness guide, with over 40 years experience of circle work with young people and adults in classrooms and in nature. He was a founding member of the Ojai Foundation’s Leadership Council, and continues today as a senior teacher and member of its Elders Council. Marlow is a member of Local 20/20, a chapter of the Transition Town movement here in Jefferson County, and founder of the Sound Institute for Community Resilience. A family-man, he is father to six children & grandfather to three, & sees himself as a sort of Elder in search of his tribe.

Leslie Roberts has roots in the healing arts, harvesting fruits from practices as diverse as Bioenergetics and Gestalt, Jin Shin Jytsu and Hospice. A passionate gardener, she has studied structural bodywork, movement therapies, and sports medicine. She has ventured into Co-Counseling, Permaculture, graphic design and ceramics, as well as working with horses and wolves, and raising gardens in multiple bio-regions. A mother of two daughters and one granddaughter, she has a life’s practice of swimming meditation, to fuel her soul. Leslie has been a teacher & trainer, deeply involved with the Ojai Foundation’s way of Council and ceremony for over 20 years.

Location: The Whidbey Institute, on South Whidbey Island. We will be staying at Granny’s, a large turn-of-the-century homestead, with shared kitchen, spacious community room, & bedrooms for up to 13, plus adjacent campsites & access to Institute trails & near-by wild places. Beds or camping are on a first-come-first served basis.

Tuition: $460 per person, including housing/camping. Non-refundable deposit: $150. Some scholarships available on a need-basis. Make checks payable to SOUND INSTITUTE / Local 20/20 ~ 1240 W. Sims Way #12, Port Townsend, WA 98368.

Meals for our 5-days will be mostly ‘potluck’ & self-organized by the group. Come with a cooler full of your favorite eats to share; plus there will be limited opportunity to shop for additional supplies.

Program prerequisites: a brief (1 page or less) Letter of Intention, spelling out any previous Council or circle training & facilitation experience, plus what you hope for from this program. Read: The Way of Council by Virginia Coyle & Jack Zimmerman.  (Available through Lost Borders Press, Amazon, etc.)

Information packets, including logistics, directions, camping and accommodation information, plus equipment recommendations, will be sent to registering participants. For questions regarding the program, prerequisites, or to register contact: marlow@L2020.org



August 13
August 17