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.


2 responses to “Welcome to the Spring Semester

  1. SO happy for you all… I love the blog and will enjoy reading your posts and thoughts.
    Happy journeys and learning in our big wonderful world!
    xo Lynn (Connor’s mom)

  2. As a lifelong environmentalist, I really resonated with Mike’s blog: “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.”

    There has been a sea change in the environmental movement, in that it has largely been hijacked by those who can only decry the problems, to the extent that they are unable to have any optimism, nor see some of the actual progress that is taking place.

    You may wish to visit the website Greenspirit.com, or read Michael Crichton’s essays (http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/commentaries_essays/crichton_three_speeches.html) for some very thought-provoking essays that strike a balance to the “the sky is falling” scenario promoted by the alarmists.

    Your generation is clearly growing up in a world that is hitting the ability to absorb the environmental impact of seven billion human organisms, all hungry for food and resources. But it will require optimism and ingenuity to solve (if possible) the problems that you will face.

    I was taken by Mike’s quote: “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.”

    My motto is “respect all things.”

    Could anyone send me the citation for the essay by Debra of which Mike speaks?

    Randy Oliver

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