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 […]
On November 1, 2006 old friends Alex Beamer and Peter Moore met to reflect on Breitenbush.
Alex Beamer is the visionary who founded the Breitenbush Community in 1977. He spent five years at Breitenbush, 1977 to 1982 and returned in 1988 to serve as general manager until 1992. Peter Moore came to Breitenbush in 1978 where he lived and worked until 1985. He returned in 1988 as Booking & Marketing Director, leaving in 1993. In 2004 Peter became Business Director, a position he continues to hold. The following are excerpts from their meeting.
Peter: I remember the first day I got to Breitenbush, in the spring of 1978. After a day working together, we spent some hours talking. You spoke of forming a community with a way of living that is an expression of one’s principles, unmediated by any leader or priest or shaman. […]
Life in the village. Rhythms of the tribal corporation keep us moving, dispelling the nonsense that passes for normal in the “real” world. These rhythms regularly produce real results at the springs, including a few bright new buildings on the land this year. After replacing the heat exchanger in Wellhead #1 (big project from last winter), a beautiful geothermal temple was built to house the heat exchange plumbing located within. Then, in the fall before winter’s grip, the Compost Pavilion rose up and two Earth Tubs were placed within. There they are, churning, turning 50,000 pounds of kitchen waste per year into black crumbly compost for garden starts. Nearby, at the nexus of trails leading from main camp to guest cabins, a spacious new information kiosk was built. Now you can view trail systems on the maps and read up on other community news & views, history […]
The great thing about governance at Breitenbush is circles. We’re not squares up here, nor do we move in straight lines, and we certainly don’t rely on the pyramid for our power structure either. At Breitenbush it always comes back to the circle, both symbolically and in applied practical terms. Meetings provide a good example. We have lots of them, (it’s how this organism of a worker-owned co-op communicates with itself), and they always take the form of a circle—doesn’t matter if it’s the office team of 6 people on a Monday afternoon or the full membership during Business Renewal Days in February. Each meeting begins with a circle of hands and silence—to ground the energy and attune the group—then progresses into personal check-ins, followed by the agenda, finally closing with another circle of hands and silence.
There are circles within circles here and governance flows and spirals through them all. Ultimately, the power rests […]
Breitenbush has always been a bit “woo woo”, we’ve known that since we first bought the ghost-town resort in the 70’s. But recently, when the Chief Ranger of nearby Detroit Ranger Station called us a “Wooey”, it piqued my curiosity. He explained it’s an acronym that stands for “Wildland Urban Interface.” A WUI is a permanent human population center deep in the forest and mountains—a modern frontier settlement. The Chief was talking about Breitenbush’s unique situation in the canyon, and he was concerned. We’re 10 miles from the nearest town and electrical grid, 50 miles from the nearest fire department or hospital. We have 125 buildings on our land and half as many staff who live here year round. At any time during the year there may be 100 or more guests on property. Close by, scattered along Breitenbush River and Devils Creek, are 72 “Summer Cabins” […]