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February 10, 2011
From Don Edward Morris comes this bit of background and poem celebrating the birth and spirit of the Redwood Men’s Center Annual Conference as embodied in this year’s location, the Mendocino Woodlands:
“The Redwood Men’s Center was in fact conceived at the Mendocino Men’s Conference in 1987. That was the year I got started in men’s work. I went to the conference mainly to meet my hero James Hillman. On the drive back to Santa Rosa my soul was so full in my head was bursting with the thought that we could do this in Sonoma County, we could have our own men’s gatherings. I contacted Mert Preston who was Mr. men’s work at the time in Santa Rosa and the two of us started planning the first Sonoma Men’s Gathering. Two years later Aaron Kipnis, a fellow psychologist and I started talking about a gathering for therapists and men who were actually doing men’s groups. We called it the Professional Conference. Hari Myers’ excellent history of the RMC in your blog takes it from there.” [Available here on the blog.]
Only Memory for a Map
Wonders if you’re still there?
I search with only memory for a map.
First, east from artsy Mendocino
looking for a Little Lake Road,
steeply climbing into a dreamscape
abruptly abandoning hardtop’s
as if a stone destined by gravity
rolled down and down a gravelly recollection
feeling like wandering lost
dragging behind a train of dust
around stagnant lily ponds
past meadowed clearings
amidst the thickening trees
and peeks at creeks
still trickling in mid-summer,
giving up hope
that you were ever real
until the bend.
There you are, standing as a
dark and darkly beautiful
child of redwoods like a
specter from a misty tale told by heart
of beating drums, a Lodge tangible
only to folk of a particular fate
who must go into mountains as simple
where fog is an unbreakable habit
called in each summer evening
by a sea who hates the dry inland heat,
to cool the peaks
and wipe clean the canyons
leaving silence and fragrance
of Laurel Bay and damp ferns
eager to sleep until noon.
There you are! You still carry yourself
stoutly with rafters and beams,
your eyes like small windows
reveal as much as they hide
and your heart like a fireplace
big enough for three bears.
Breathe in! This could be a time before time
or just another time
watched over by hawks and peregrines,
at the far end of coastal California canyon
carved out by an infinitely patient
creek sheltering rainbows and steelheads
and cobbled with countless small stones.
The waters keep their music
hushed so I can hear
our years-ago songs on the wind.
– DEM ’03
February 9, 2011
From Brother Bill Denham:
The road in . . .
The road in, down through the redwoods is probably thirty minutes.
I didn’t clock it back in October when June and I drove up from Oakland to see first hand what our new home is like.
I mean the new home of our Redwood Men’s Center annual conference—The Mendocino Woodlands, Camp III (www.mendocinowoodlands.org). Many of you know the place already from attending events with Michael Meade or others but I had never been there. And since I had lobbied so hard for this location, I wanted to see it first hand.
Thirty minutes was just enough time to adjust to a slower pace, off the highway—no smooth asphalt but a washboard dirt and gravel surface that dictated the pace and an overwhelming sense of going away from civilization—no dwellings, hardly any indication of a modern human presence—down through a forest—no pastures nor clearings that I recall—simply a slow and sometimes windy descent down into the bottom of the North Fork of the Little River canyon.
Camp III is the most rustic of the camps and is located another two miles beyond Camp I on the road through the forest that follows the lay of the canyon, curving and switching back at times until it opens on to the flat stretch pictured above.
I will have more photographs and thoughts about our new home to share from time to time as we approach our 21st year of convening in community, the way we do.
There are many things to like about the Woodlands—some of which are cerebral and come from reading the website—the educational mission, the non-profit status, the community involvement, the commitment to stewardship, the history—and from talking to the people who run the place—all of whom I have liked.
These connections with the people make the cerebral concrete but move beyond the cerebral, as well, to the visceral, to the feeling level, which is the level the place itself seems to encourage—the going deep down to the valley floor, the stepping away, the literal distance and the effort made to travel there and once there the unspeakable beauty of the forest, regenerating itself around the massive stumps after these ancient trees were taken.
There is the inevitable comparison with Gualala—similar in some ways, quite different in others. Embracing a new home does not end the grieving our loss of such a magnificent place but it does open us to these new experiences building new connections.