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Growing Season I: Humans and Nature

There was a time when I teetered precariously with an awkward foot in each of two worlds--the scientific and the indigenous.  But then I learned to fly. Or least to try. It was the bees that showed me how to move between different flowers--to drink the nectar and gather pollen from both.  It is this dance of cross-pollination that can produce a new species of knowledge, a new way of being in the world. After all, there aren’t two worlds, there is one good green earth.

That September pairing of purple and gold is lived reciprocity; its wisdom is that the beauty of one is illuminated by the radiance of the other.  Science and art, matter and spirit, indigenous knowledge and Western science--can they be goldenrod and asters for each other? When I am in their presence, their beauty asks me for reciprocity, to be the complementary color, to make something beautiful in response.

--Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

A broad tradition in Western thought and culture has for centuries held that nature and humankind are fundamentally opposed to and in conflict with one another. Whether in folk tales filled with dark forests and dangerous animals, or in economic drives to drain the swamps and subdue the virgin soil, or environmental narratives of humankind as a disease infecting and polluting the purity of wild nature, the story told in Western culture has long been one of unceasing warfare between ancient and irreconcilable foes. At this moment of unprecedented ecological crisis, the need to answer Wendell Berry’s urgent question “What are people for?” on both a personal and a societal level has never been more critical. Fortunately, many promising seeds have been planted for a holistic reconciliation of the nature-human dichotomy. These include the wedding of indigenous wisdom to the spirit of scientific inquiry, such as that found in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, as well as efforts to integrate an appreciation for ecological wisdom into traditional religious theologies. These also include the growing movement to reimagine and restore balance to the ways in which we produce food and steward land, such as we find in regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and biodynamics.

Above all, the work before us seems to involve cultivating a form of empathetic thinking that can transcend the seeming split between the subjective and objective modes of knowing. The nature writing of Henry David Thoreau, the spiritual scientific research of Rudolf Steiner, and many other contemporary efforts suggest that we can retain scientific rigor while entering into a greater living and sacred whole that embraces both nature and humans. In Growing Season I, we will immerse ourselves in the question of our relationship with nature through study, observation, contemplation and lived experience, seeking wisdom from ancient traditions, great thinkers, from one another and from the Great Work of Nature herself.  

GROWING SEASONS: HUMANS & NATURE CURRICULUM

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G R E A T B O O K S :

  1. Braiding Sweetgrass- Robin Wall Kimmerer

  2. Sand County Almanac - Aldo Leopold

  3. Saving the Appearances - Owen Barfield

  4. Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu

  5. Epic of Gilgamesh

  6. Walden - Henry David Thoreau

  7. Life is a Miracle - Wendell Berry

  8. The Driftless Reader – eds. Curt Meine and Keefe Keeley

  9. Silent Spring - Rachel Carson

  10. Agriculture: Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture- Rudolf Steiner

S H A R E D L A B O R :

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The Thoreau College Labor Program sees the work of the hands and the work of the mind as equally vital components of a life worth living. The thinking in academics and the empathy needed in self-governance would not be able to fully flourish without the movement of the body carried out in labor for the community. The balance between these three pillars of the curriculum provides a foundation for each individual to create unique pathways and connections across every aspect of the program and carry these onward into the lives they develop afterwards.

Some Labor Program components include:

  • Planting and growing food in the Thoreau College gardens

  • Planning and cooking communal meals

  • Maintaining and improving Thoreau College facilities

  • Building tent platforms at Bear Creek Farm

  • Working with a local food recovery organization, providing food equity to families in need 

  • Spontaneous local needs for service, such as disaster relief

E X P E D I T I O N S :

"Expeditions ask us to step up to our lives, take initiative, problem solve, work together, and live into the truth that the only way out is through.  Arriving at the end is never the true goal, only the means to a richer and deeper experience. They are meant to be uncomfortable, meant to challenge us, meant to take us new places--within the world and within ourselves.  Our lives are full of journeys. At Thoreau College we embrace the wisdom of journeys as mirrors, reflecting the qualities of our strengths and clarifying the steps we have yet to take toward our best selves.

We camp.   We take retreat in the woods.  We live communally. We govern ourselves.  We challenge each other. We grow with the seasons.  We take the next step. We say yes." Dave Puig, Expedition Faculty and Student Mentor

During Growing Seasons I, there will be week-long expeditions in the fall and spring, as well as several guided overnight solo experiences in nature. Expeditions will give students time away from the established context and routine for reflection and renewed perspective on themselves, our environment and our work together. Dave Puig, who has 14 years of experience as a wilderness instructor,  will lead our expeditions as well as mentor students individually and advise the student body about self-governance and community living.

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