There is a magnetized sign that sticks to surfaces in my kitchen, it says, “Kindness is My Religion”. It gives me joy to see it. I tell my daughters that joy is the most revolutionary act possible if the heart remains open to the suffering out there, without denial. I don’t know if my daughters entirely get it yet, but I observe they’re taking it in. It’s a practice, living intentionally with kindness and joy.
Breitenbush Hot Springs was envisioned as an intentional community at our beginnings in the late 1970s. Kindness and joy were assumed to be at the heart of the community co-op, even during the inevitable disagreements over personalities, principles or practices. You can find kindness and joy embedded in our Credo, written in 1978. 35 years later, these qualities have found expression in a covert sort of way in the Breitenbush Facilities Council Charter, adopted in 2013, wherein the final principle is “Celebrate Success”.
To celebrate success and live with kindness and joy — this is not a conventional approach to conducting business in a cynical world. But I’d say we’re doing alright so far.
We have been doing a lot of big projects over the past few years, replacing or upgrading existing systems or structures, some from as far back as the 1920s and 30s, and it’s time to celebrate our success. Essentially, we are designing/installing for the future using models from the past. If you have visited Breitenbush Hot Springs over the last few years, you’ve seen what I’m talking about — new structures to accomplish old purposes such as greeting guests or filtering river water to make domestic drinking water, and miles of trenches with pipes and conduits, repairing or replacing systems installed decades ago that have come to the end of their useful life.
People who live at Breitenbush Hot Springs are ineffably drawn here, either by what the place needs (skills and/or selfless service) or by some mysterious self-selection process, probably both. What pulls us to live and work at Breitenbush is community in a forest village, the opportunity to hone skills and be in service to something greater than ourselves, and maybe the challenge of installing and maintaining technical systems that serve basic needs – shelter, warmth, food, energy – where it’s not easy to do so. Less obviously, we in the Breitenbush community of today are linked in fascinating ways to the people of the past and, by extension, those of the future. From that point of view, I’d say part of our essential challenge is to create a foundation for the community as far out into the future as our present community was to the people who originally built the Lodge, cabins, roads, bridges, pools, and first utilities infrastructure back in the 1920s and ’30s. How long ago was that? Almost a century? And how about the community of the future? What can we do for those people many years from now to pay it forward, just as the people many years ago did for us? That is, in part, what these projects have been addressing and, as I say, I think we’re doing alright.
Meanwhile, we honor the current community by celebrating our accomplishments, which are many. Trenches are filled, the grounds replanted with native species, beautiful and functional structures stand as if they’ve always graced the land, basic needs are met. And the work continues, adding a new initiative based in permacultural design to develop the Highlands, a part of the original Breitenbush homestead profoundly disrupted by a previous owner. The question there becomes, how to make the most environmentally disturbed land into the most beautifully tended for the benefit of all species including us humans? Creation — beginnings and accomplishments, a memory, a finishing — manifests an emergent vision on the physical plane that honors all who participate in or witness it. We’ve got a lot worth celebrating here.
By Peter Moore
Breitenbush Hot Springs