During the Autumn, the summertime annual plants die away and leaves cascade from the trees to expose the bones of our landscapes. Perennial plants may also appear to die away as they send their vital energy into their roots under the earth to weather the harsh winds and frosts of Winter. This period of hibernation is what allows many plants to survive and build strength to burst forth once again with renewed vigor come Spring. Mirroring this natural pattern, this is the best time of year for humans also to turn inward towards rest and reflection, nurturing the Self and stoking the hearthfire, as well as leaning into study, planning, and design for the year ahead.
Ryan and I have ‘returned to our roots’ for the winter, as we have travelled back to the Lowcountry of South Carolina to be with our friends and family and to tend to work and connections at home. We reflect with gratitude on the season spent at the Mountain, where we were fortunate to find relative refuge from the chaos of the pandemic, the opportunity to engage in meaningful work, and best of all a welcoming and supportive community of genuine and talented individuals.
During this season at the Mountain, we met many challenges and transitions with creative and resilient spirits. From the global pandemic that put a halt to gatherings and activities as we had known them, to rising national social unrest and political uncertainty, to designing and implementing a plan to adapt the Mountain programming to survive and thrive during these challenging times, and finally through a sudden change in administration, this year has been anything but ordinary. However, the Mountain remains what it always has been—a brilliantly magical place, close enough to Nature to hear the quiet voice of God, and populated by a loving community of humans who prioritize respect, harmony, and collaboration. Spending time at the Mountain affords the opportunity to listen deeply, to reevaluate our social systems as well as our roles within them, to assess personal behaviors and goals, and to reimagine a world where freedom and justice belong to all beings.
The Many Hands Peace Farm at the Mountain has grown this year. We were able to continue hosting outdoor educational workshops, foraging tours, and private farm dinners as well as attending open air farmers’ markets in Highlands and Cashiers. We established a pilot self-service farm ‘shop,’ continued to develop our Food Forest, and shared excess produce with the Mountain’s dining hall kitchen as well as a local food pantry. This winter, we are developing curriculum for new workshops on the topics of herbalism, permaculture, and organic gardening. We are working closely with the Mountain’s Kitchen Manager to coordinate a more productive and effective farm-to-table relationship for the year ahead. As time progresses, more people are coming to understand that our modern world system is not environmentally, socially, or spiritually sustainable. MHPF and the Mountain itself have the opportunity to serve as effective educational models for just and sustainable community development as we forge a new future.
Finally, I want to honor the personal impact the Mountain has had on my life so far. As Field Manager, I have had the opportunity to experiment with regenerative agriculture after years of working in more conventional-style market farms. I am gaining experience in managing production while prioritizing soil health, biodiversity, and community. Here, I am stretching my legs to eventually begin a permaculture homestead farm on my late grandfather’s land in the Lowcountry, where I am grateful for the opportunity to steward family land as my parents age and to share produce and skills with our community back home. Further, the relationships and community I found here at the Mountain have touched my heart and spirit in such a way that I feel reassured of the path I am choosing. I know that these connections will grow and evolve into the future, and continue to enrich my life as they have this past year. In the Spring, we will return—I hope to contribute as much to the Mountain and MHPF as it has afforded me!