Monthly Archives: February 2012

Pottery with Penny

On Sunday February 5th staff and students all piled in the van and headed to Willow Springs to meet Penny St. Claire. (Thinking back, it was only our second expedition together.) As a local ceramicist, Penny makes pottery herself to sell and also teaches the skills to others. We had quite a range of levels in our group: some of us had never worked with clay before, while others felt very familiar with it. Penny was patient, enthusiastic, and generous. We had three goals: to make bowls for a local fundraiser, to make a bowl or plate for ourselves, and to have fun! Two hours later we left smiling, each having made two pieces. Being able to make more than one piece allowed us to experiment with varying stamps, sizes, and shapes.

A week later we went back to glaze.
Penny spread out lots of samples of glazes for us to choose from and explained how unpredictable some glazes can be. She showed us an incredibly beautiful ‘happy accident.’ Where the white and green glazes met, the coloring on the bowl had surprisingly become a speckled creamy brown. It was a great example of how glazes can be unpredictable.

Penny donated her time to help us and we each contributed a bowl for The Empty Bowl Supper fundraiser the local Hospitality House is organizing. The Grass Valley Hospitality House is a non-profit program that organizes and offers shelter services in Nevada County. Hospitality House organizes a ‘winter only’ shelter and follows the nomadic style where individuals utilize different locations on a rotational basis. Churches and other local organizations offer their space when they can, but Hospitality House has yet to have one building where all can stay.  The money they raise from the fundraiser will be used towards operational costs as well as going towards their new building—the first homeless shelter in Nevada County. Having one building to use as a year round shelter will be great for a number of reasons, for details go to: The new building is named “Utah’s Place” after U. Utah Phillips a co-founder of Hospitality House and a renowned folk singer-song writer, storyteller and labor rights activist.  The Empty Bowl Supper fundraiser is being held on February 25th—the day we load in the van again to start our journey to Mexico.






Student and Staff Bios are up!

We just updated our Student and Staff pages to include biographies and photos of Finding the Good 2012.

More to come soon!

Welcome to the Spring Semester

The past few days I’ve felt like I was on the edge of a precipice, waiting for the students to arrive. And now…they are here! Jumping off a cliff has never felt so natural. Really looking forward to getting to know everyone better, do a little cooking and learning together, and spend as much time sitting outside in the sun as possible.


Transitioning into Finding the Good was surprisingly smooth. Everyone here is laid back, fun and understanding; it’s a very warm, welcoming community. I’m excited for all the adventures we’ll have and journeys we’ll go on together.

On another note, I’m starting to realize what this experience means. I know I’ll have to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, and being in a new place with new people will take some getting used to, of course. It’s overwhelming at times, but I know we’ll find our flow and that this will be a remarkable experience for me.


After waking up to Tom’s melodic knock, we ate a simple breakfast of Granola, and then headed off on a four mile hike along the South Yuba river canyon. It is a beautiful day out, but somewhat chilly. I wore my new shoes that I had gotten fairly recently; they fit fine, except for a rubbing pinky toe on the right side, but this was easily remedied by a band aid. I am writing this entry on a large rock roughly 15 feet above the frigid waters of the Yuba River. The rock is covered in light blue lichen and dark green moss, and I am lichen the lichen. In a few minutes we will head out on the two mile hike back to the van. I have been enjoying my time here a lot, and I am looking forward to the next four months.


Arriving at the banks of the Yuba, we are overwhelmed by the ladybug clusters surrounding us. We acquaint ourselves with our surroundings amid exclamations, explorations, and surprises, and share in a delicious lunch of sandwiches; avocado, cheese, carrots, peanut butter, GORP, and fruit. Scrumptious. Eyes and mouths full, we discuss the designation of “wilderness” from an indigenous perspective, and then disperse into different corners of the beach for some journaling, with the constant flow of the river serving as an auditory backdrop for our thoughts…

We began the semester with a discussion about the interplay of sanctuary and pilgrimage. Sifting through these dense topics, we established a connection between sanctuary and the hardships encountered during pilgrimage; this sense of an almost sacred place of safety coming from an understanding of the difficulties that exist in other parts of one’s life. The question that arises is one of time. How fresh do the recollections of these hardships need to be in one’s mind for a place to retain its state of sanctuary, rather than remaining just another physical location that we inhabit?

Our world has seen many variants of conservation and environmentalism, and with my interactions with the current state of these movements, it seems there is a heavy focus put on the state of dilapidation our planet is falling into. While it is certainly important to have a fairly concrete sense of the wrongs currently committed, I am curious to see how the rhetoric of our movements will change as they (hopefully) attain their goals. If we reintegrate with our planet and our communities on a healthier, more sustainable level, I believe our role will change from an endless consumer of natural resources to one of “moderate interaction,” a term used by the author Debra read to us earlier. At this level of experience, where human involvement in our surroundings is based on respect and integration, the term “conservation” becomes null and void. Our goals attained, the very concept of what we are now fighting for will disappear into the ether.

It appears that this is our greatest goal: to create a sanctuary for the future that, in their eyes, will seem merely status quo.


North Canyon Spur.
Ladybugs cluster.
Humans move about, stomping, laughing.
Mike speaks to us of treading lightly, careful of the plants, the moss, the fragile soil.
Tender stalks. Lives and homes beneath our feet.

On our walk here, Chrissie and I pick bay leaves for sauces and soups later. We will pick more to dry and bring to friends in Baja later next month.

The river is quieter than usual, for January. The sun warm, but weak. Nine travelers are we. Four students, three teaching fellows, two directors. Nine students in all, nine teachers in all.

Travelers, seekers, everyone of us a rebel in some way, otherwise we would not be here. Brought together by circumstance or design, depending on your point of view. We have work to do and not a moment to lose.

Whatever has brought us here to this place, this unlikely constellation of souls, is a ponder. Our journey will unfold. Welcome.


Too excited to get there.
Too scared of leaving things behind.
We go on a tour.
My mom cries when she leaves.
Seeing Fonzi reminds me of my dog Chuy.
After dinner I realize it’s going to be a fun four months.


So much beauty—and the kind that I appreciate and feel inspired by!


I am sitting with history all around me (as Connor pointed out). The California sun is so nice!


We hiked about 2 miles (one way), discovering, learning/teaching, and taking photographs.


I like this set up of feeling responsible while still being supported.


In knowing that we are going to spend the next four months together, the first day of introductions and starting friendships is different. – I like it!


The sound of moving water is constant but not enough to make me have to pee all the time. Peaceful, yet strong.


I feel healthy: moving around, lots of outside time, laughing and learning, while living very much so in the moment. Sure I have thought of people that I am not with, but not in a sad way. I am where I am both mentally and physically, and the transition is coming easier than I had originally and realistically expected (although it is only day two 😛).


I am really loving the fresh, clean air. Even if I am not always not cold, the cool fresh air is really worth it. I will say I do miss my warm flannel, but I am extremely glad that I brought my blue fuzzy sweater.

The sun is setting. It is about to disappear over one of the mountains near the South Yuba River. It looks so amazing seeing the brightness of the sun shine and create countless tree silhouettes. There are so many different textures to look at.

I picked up an acorn cap while hiking, and it is very different from the acorn caps back in PA. (Mom would be proud: I wrote “different from” rather than the grammatically wrong “different than,” which she catches me writing and saying often.)



Yesterday the students arrived. The past several weeks have been about acquainting oneself to change, to new routines and new views out of one’s window. It’s like going off and finding that perfect place to write: a mixture of intuition and impulse and then a fair amount of readjustment and second guessing once you are there. The view you have of a place is never the view you have once you are seated in it. Each time I find myself somewhere new I have new information about how best I can create a home there, whether that means I want to know the most minute details of the Bay Laurel tree or those of a new roommate’s last apartment. This is a transitional moment for me, recently out of school and at once wanting to find something steady, reliable, constant, and also to keep moving and exploring: sanctuary and pilgrimage. Here are a few things I do know are important: warm bed, warm food, unconditional dog love, fresh air, a useful feeling, and – perhaps most importantly— a room full of people laughing so hard that their stomachs hurt. I’m looking forward to learning how to transition with everyone, from life here to life in Baja and back to here, on farms and on roads and on rivers.