We at the Whidbey Institute were joined in February, 2014 by Thomas Anderson in the role of Resident Caretaker. With his deep love of the land and people at Chinook and his ten year history participating in and facilitating work at the Institute, he was a natural fit for the role. He is a rich addition to our land and office teams. Here is his story:
Marnie: Can you tell me a bit about your background?
Thomas: For most of my adult life I’ve been a solo performing artist, touring my work as a contemplative juggler and visual storyteller to theaters, conferences and schools around the country. Early in my career a series of injuries that kept me from performing for many years led to a study of human movement and development that culminated in graduating from a 4-year program in the Feldenkrais method of movement education. That work and my own personal kinesthetic investigations have had a profound impact on the quality and flow of my art and life.
More recently I’ve been touring with a participatory performance engagement seeking to facilitate an imaginative connection with our living planet. Using photos of “faces” I find in nature, I help facilitate a process giving human voice to the soul of earth. It’s kind of hard to describe, but maybe we can share a link to a video of these elemental figures in my art. (https://vimeo.com/62441277)
Marnie: I met you here at the Institute when I was a new staff member, before you applied for the Caretaker role. Can you tell me more about your history with the organization?
Thomas: For the past ten years I’ve been coming to the Whidbey Institute as a participant and presenter for a number of seminars and conferences. This place has always felt like an active force for social transformation and a great place to come for inspiration, learning and recharge. The vitality of exploration here feels well grounded in a subtle spiritual depth and of course the awesome natural beauty of the land. What a great combination!
Last autumn I helped to facilitate the 40th anniversary celebration of Chinook and the Whidbey Instititute. During that weekend I experienced a shift in the energetic quality of this learning community. There is fresh buzz of excitement flowing through the many folks here looking to realize the vision of creating a better world. I recognized in a new way the potential of the Institute. I saw what is unfolding here as a living stream helping to shape the landscape of our culture and thought, “hey, I want to be more involved with that.”
When I heard the caretaker’s position was opening I thought I’d check it out. I discovered that the role was shifting into work that felt connected to some of my gifts and skills. And so I stepped forward to see if there was a fit for me in the mix. And here I am!
Marnie: How are you enjoying living and working at Chinook?
Thomas: I’ve been living in the caretaker’s cottage on the land now for almost two months. I am feeling such gratitude for the opportunity to deepen my connection to this community. My soul is nourished here in my kinship with the wild nature of Chinook and the garden and the beautiful built structures of the Institute. Working with the incredible staff to steward the potential of this place is an inspiring challenge.
Marnie: Is there anything else you wish to share with our readers?
Thomas: I step into this new role feeling like beginner and look forward to learning with all of you. Stop by my cottage on your way to the labyrinth sometime and introduce yourself!
One note for those curious about my name. Arthur was my middle name at birth and I adopted it as my stage name when I moved to Seattle. As I settle into this next phase of my life I feel ready to return to my given name, Thomas Anderson. After many years living a nomadic lifestyle I have a deep sense of returning home here and have a personal desire to honor my roots with this change.