In 1959, Pete Seeger wrote a song adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” King Solomon, who is credited with writing the original poem 3000 years ago, was waxing philosophic about there being a season for all things: birth and death, planting and reaping, weeping and laughing, war and peace—you get the idea.
I think it’s cool that a guy who lived 3000 years ago could pen the lyrics of a rock song that topped the charts in 1965, but that’s not why I raise this historical anecdote. I’m thinking about seasons turning right here in the mountains of Oregon, and times for every purpose under heaven.
Seasons turn. It’s winter as I write this. Snow lies thickly in the boughs of the trees and upon the land to the river’s edge. Just past winter solstice and the holidays, these are among the shortest, coldest days of the year. But I know […]
I’ve been reading a new book recently, Birth of a Psychedelic Culture by Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner. Having lived within the chronological and experiential realms of said culture, I have a greater-than-casual interest in it, and its cascading social effects. In the memory banks of this book you meet professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert at Harvard University, and their 1961-62 psych-lab experimentation with human consciousness, spiritual dimensions and LSD. It didn’t take long for the experiment to “go viral”, and what started as a small group of academic true-believers quickly morphed into a generation of psychonauts using psychoactive substances and dreaming into universal oneness, planetary peace, and political progress. People came together and pretty soon co-ops and communes emerged like magic mushrooms out in the country and deep in the city, challenging and redefining established notions of personal style, family, gender-roles, economic relations, service, citizenship-—in […]
There is a concept, explored for centuries, of the “Perennial Philosophy”, or, as described in wikipedia, “philosophia perennis – the notion of the universal recurrence of philosophical insight independent of epoch or culture, including universal truths on the nature of reality, humanity or consciousness.” Over the years, I’ve studied (dabbled in) the history and development of this idea—that there is a common, eternal philosophy, innate to human consciousness, in its essence mystical and underlying all religions. In a world divided and savaged by fundamentalists, there has thankfully always been human intuition and initiative towards spiritual unity and cooperation.
I believe that our own time in human history is characterized by an expansion of the role of the Perennial Philosophy. Those universal truths on the nature of reality—an esoteric sideshow for so many centuries—now seed visions of sustainability through unity and cooperation, inspiring and informing educational programs, holistic endeavors and social organizations all over the planet.
In the center section of this catalog you see the faces of many who make up the current Breitenbush Community. Here we are, young and old, with a wealth of life experiences, skills and social philosophies, living together at this old hot springs resort in the forest. Collectively, we are the latest incarnation of the “intentional community” that was born in 1977 when the abandoned resort at Breitenbush was bought and brought back to life
The foundation idea—to create an intentional community—came out of the practical and applied idealism of the 1960’s, which in turn had its roots in the utopian communities and the empowered workers movements that go back for centuries of human experience. Ultimately, there is an inextinguishable longing in the human soul (at least some human souls) to be free and freely creative, to live by […]
We have just passed through a year of work projects, at the same time pursuing a demanding planning process with Marion County to create and win approval for our “50-Year Plan”. Taken together, these efforts define what the straight world calls “development”, and what I think is more precisely described as restoration and evolution. Restoration—looking back and honoring the designs & dreams of those who came before us, people who, against the odds, lived at and built this place that we, the current crop of human creatures, like to visit, or call home. Evolution—looking forward, designing and building what we have the vision and initiative to add to this creation.
In the realm of restoration, we continue what seems to be our endless work to bring back to life this beloved quirky resort. It’s an aspect of our endeavor to preserve sanctuary. New foundations on old buildings, new valves and pumps where old ones have […]
The community at Breitenbush is entirely “off the grid”, meaning no access to electricity, natural gas or other utilities provided to metro-America. We’re on our own. We use the river to generate electricity. And we use the hot springs to generate heat for our buildings.
Breitenbush’s heating system was developed in what we call our “pioneer period”, between 1977 (when we bought the abandoned ghost-resort) and 1981. In the most basic view, there are six components of our heating system: geothermal wells, heat exchangers in the wells, underground pipes connecting buildings to the wells, circulation pumps, cast iron radiators, and finally the buildings themselves, i.e. the envelope that surrounds the radiators. We humans inhabit those heated envelopes.
First we bought an antique well driller (circa 1946) and learned to use the thing by drilling geothermal wells (a time-consuming and dangerous enterprise). We hit spectacularly on two of […]
The river now is unlike any summer flow I remember—it’s running high and fast, crystalline splash, unusually refreshing. It’s a foot or better above normal level for this time of the year, a testament to the immense snowfall of the past winter that is still being melted above us at higher elevations. We didn’t even have to go to diesel switchover from hydroelectric power generation during the Summer Solstice Healing Retreat, our largest event of the year in terms of sheer numbers of humans on property, with accompanying energy needs.
Though the river carries vestiges of winter’s extremes, we’ve moved on, into this summer’s building season. The projects seem endless, but we’re plowing through them anyway. Many of these projects seem over-sized and under-capitalized, but . . . that never stopped us before, so here we go again.
Big on the projects list is the Lodge foundation. After 80 years, the posts & beams holding […]
Dear Breitenbush Community; Thank you so much for all of your hard work keeping the Retreat Center open during this snowy winter! The students from OSM had a magical time and I, as their teacher, am so grateful we were able to come up. The shoveling you had to do was overwhelming! The caravans accommodated us all marvelously. Thank you again, ~ Lisa Garofalo, OSM Massage Instructor
I was out walking recently and came upon a flourish of new blossoms, wet with the mist of early morning. I leaned my face into them, then breathed slowly and deeply, inhaling the moisture and fragrance. All at once I found myself laughing like Rumi and weeping like the fool on the hill — the natural world finally expresses itself in colors other than white! What a relief!
This past winter, we endured a storm that lasted from Christmas into […]
“Our community is committed to a lifestyle conducive to holistic childrearing and personal growth.” – from the Breitenbush Credo
For almost six years now, I have had the honor and privilege of serving as the Childcare Coordinator for the children who live at Breitenbush. To me, “holistic”, as it appears in the Credo, means the unbroken connectedness of life, community, and environment. The world is our classroom. Learning doesn’t flow from a canned curriculum created by some educational publishing company, it evolves out of what is important in our world. Our childcare program is committed to loving and respecting children as complete human beings, as much teachers as they are learners. All of us here in community benefit from the presence of our children.
The children and I focus on participation in the wonder and beauty of our natural environment, as well as supporting the […]
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” goes an old saying. Recently we took a ride down that road to catch the view. Upon inspection, the hell realm we expected to see wasn’t such a bad place—like most worries, it was mostly made up of fear of the unknown.
This story begins last summer when I welcomed both the State Fire Marshall and the chief of Marion County Building Inspections to Breitenbush. They hadn’t been on property for 20 years, and it was time to update the relationship. Turns out, they came with an agenda, and because they represent the state, their agenda soon became our agenda.
The story really began last spring when, with every good intention, we planned to replace our old fire alarm system (it sounded like an air raid siren from the London Blitz, World War 2). This new $20,000 state-of-the-art […]