More morning musings from the Land of the Open Heart

September 14, 2012

From Brother Bill Denham:

I have told the story before of how I discovered Ich und Du on a bargain shelf at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland back in April.

I had known of Martin Buber’s little book since my college days but had never read it. Now I have and just how deeply his words resonated with me and within me is indicated by my picking it up again this past week and starting our second journey together.

Though, I and Thou, as it is commonly known in its English translation, is a prose work, it is certainly poetic prose and offers huge challenges for the translator. I am reading Walter Kaufmann’s translation and have found his thorough and thoughtful Introduction illuminating. Here are the final words of that Introduction:

Ich und Du speaks to men and women who have become wary of promises and hopes; it takes its stand resolutely in the here and now. It is a sermon on the words of Hillel:

“If I am only for myself, what am I?
In not now, when?”

As is the case with any relationship, the connection informs and changes who we are. My fledgling connection with Martin Buber is no exception. I will share a short poem with you as is my custom. This time it is one of my own. It is an expression of where I am in the here and now and part of me has been informed by reading Ich und Du. I make no connection between my words and Buber’s words beyond saying we are now in each other’s company. And as with any work of art or poem you bring yourself to it and find in it what is yours to find.

Stars and black holes

Were the gods to take
all the moments of our lives
and scatter them across the heavens
like stars, for all to see,
could we bear the beauty
and the majesty and the mystery
of our ordinary being, made visible so?
Could we?
And could we then approach
holding the invisible, as, also, a part of ourselves,
the insatiable black holes that devour
the very light of our lives,
suck it down
out of sight?
Could we?

                                                -  BD 6/24/12

Essence: Poetry of the 2012 Conference, Part 4

July 4, 2012

From Brother Bill: Of course, there were tons of poems and songs laid out at the Slug Clan on Sunday afternoon–all of which are worthy of passing on. Here’s one I laid out by Marge Piercy.

To be of use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

###

Essence: Poetry of the 2012 Conference, Part 3

June 30, 2012

From Bill Denham:

 Point Reyes—wild oats in the wiind

for JQ

As if it were the holy spirit
engulfing me,
as if I even knew
the nature of such a thing,
as if I might even be able to tell you
the mystery of a moment that pushed me
to the very edge of . . . of . . . something,
calling loudly without words for me to simply open up—all the way . . .

We stood together in silence,
in the midst of things,
on the headlands, high above the surf,
a dusty trail beneath our feet
crisscrossed from time to time
by slow moving, shinny black beetles,
while stationery, high above our heads
a hawk lay just beneath the cold gray blanket
that covered everything on this tiny slip of land
sliding northward, sliding always northward.
And everywhere it was wind—
the air moved, ruffled clothes and tousled hair,
made soft staccato pops and flutters in our ears
that almost hid from them
an exquisite, near silent song.

Had we not seen the wild oats dancing,
delicately dangling their tiny, hull-covered seeds,
atop straight golden stalks,
that bent down in the wind,
as if to say, namaste, to everything,
lightly touching one another, then,
like bows and strings—
had we not seen them dancing so,
we would have missed their music,
their heavenly music,
the intricacy of which,
the joy of which
went well beyond
what human hand
could make
or these human words
describe.

Oh, the wind and the song of the wild oats!

BD 7/9/10

Essence: Poetry of the 2012 Conference, Part 2

June 27, 2012

Spoken by Bill Denham:

Lead

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came  to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.

Mary Oliver

More morning musings from the land of the open heart . . .

May 3, 2012

The shadow knows . . .

Recently I found myself, in the spirit of fun and brotherhood, saying something to a good buddy of mine, in a public setting, among friends, quite willingly and even with a bit of a rush at the saying of it, that was not very nice, even hurtful. But he didn’t miss a beat and fired back, all in good fun, a jab to put me in my place. Laughter all around and the evening went on.

Some twenty odd of us had gathered on that evening to share a meal and camaraderie together, fellowship among men of like mind and heart—lovers of beauty and song and the spoken word—soulful men, all, gathered with intention to celebrate each other and our common loves.

I had looked forward to the evening for a number of weeks and had scheduled my return flight from Portland in order to arrive just on time at 7:00PM. I knew everyone there at least by sight and felt privileged to be among them. How is it, I have asked myself since, that in the company of such conscious men that I behaved in that way?

I will tell you what I know.

To begin at the beginning

I can’t say I actually remember
holding back the tears,
stamping my foot defiantly,
asserting, “I was, too, borned!”
But I know I must have done
and I can certainly imagine it.

I know my older brothers
used to tell me that,
taunt me with words—
You weren’t born—they’d say.
And as it turns out
they were right.

Like Caesar, I was pulled into this world—
the bleeding left no choice—
pulled by Dr. McClellan on that Sunday morning
just weeks before Pearl Harbor,
the fourth and final son
of Chester and Louise—
a Southern Presbyterian preacher
and his North Carolina farm-girl wife.

Yes, they were right, my brothers,
and I knew, in spite of myself,
I was different—somehow.
As much as I was the same
and shared the genes
of Chester and Louise,
of Will and Mary and Will and Ada
and on and on, all the way back,
I felt that difference,
about me, inside me
and from that place, then,
I chose a different path,
I chose to leave
my place of birth,
I chose exile—
knowing and
not knowing
my sameness,
my difference.

BD 12/17/02

I tell you this that you might know a tiny bit of who I am as I unravel for you my own behavior on that evening.

The evening was full of merriment and laughter and quiet and not so quiet conversations among small groups within ear shot of each other, renewing old connections and exploring new ones and men making heartfelt toasts to one another and speaking poems from the heart. One among us, Barry, rose in jest and seriousness to toast himself, setting of a raucous peel of “ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! . . . ” When the laughter subsided, he spoke of his life’s work. In a self-effacing, “shameless self-promotion” he pitched his book, his gift to the community and to the world, the fruition of a lifetime love affair with Greek mythology and ten years of dedicated labor, triggered by the events of September 11, 2001. Clearly he wanted people to read his book. Clearly it was a desire linked to his deep love of the world and his anguish at current conditions—I don’t think I project here.

When he was done another man rose and spoke of the book, saying, “I have read every word . . . ” and he went on to praise it in eloquent fashion. I rose next to speak praise of the book in the same manner. “I, too, have read every word of the book. It is a difficult read . . . ” at which point, the Barry interrupted me, saying, “You should have gotten the English version!” Laughter, all around. Shaken, taking it on, unable to parry the moment back into a realization of my original intent, I sat down without completing my thoughts.

Not too long afterward when my good buddy, Maurice, had risen to share a poem from his native Australia, a nineteenth century poem that needed a bit of a context, I interrupted is earnest sharing with a sarcastic question, “Were you saying something, Maurice?”

My words need no gloss but for the record they were meant to annihilate.

I had felt annihilated, much as I had as a younger brother, perhaps, and I simply passed on the feelings to another, feelings of not having been seen or heard, feelings of anger at not having been able to stand my ground, to absorb the joke—not designed for annihilation, like mine, but more likely coming from a place of discomfort at all the praise and a desire to be out of the spotlight—mission accomplished, however indirectly—and go on to deepen the conversation as I had intended. I had wanted to say to all present, that the book calls for effort from the reader and to honor the author’s effort we must be willing to bring equal effort—to experience the book as fully as it deserves, we must match the author’s effort with our own.

There are powerful forces at work, within and around us. I need to be seen and heard. I need recognition and validation from other men. I need to feel a part of the group. In my experience, humor among men is often of the type I describe here—sharp, sarcastic, critical, competitive, calling for a like response—certainly the opposite of open, direct, honest, not to mention vulnerable, communication.

It is hard to stay conscious. Cultural norms are powerful.

Feeling cut down (not that I was—I could have acted otherwise) I told myself, “You want to play that game? I can play that game!” removing myself even further from my real feelings. It looks so simple now, but it took me a while to see myself and how my shadow spoke.

Maybe next time I will make a different choice.

Brother Bill

More morning musings from the land of the open heart . . .

April 28, 2012

I live atop a hill in Oakland but . . .
If I walk through my front door,
step off the stoop,
swing my body to the left
and start toward the hills,
the hills that hide from me
the sun’s early morning rays,
the ground beneath my feet falls away,
slowly at first, then with more speed,
till it bottoms out at the first cross street
and begins a rapid ascent
that takes an effort to mount.

And if I stop to catch my breath
half way up this steep slope,
and if the day is over
and the sun is dropping
into the sea
and all around me
will soon grow slowly gray,
and if I turn, as I rest,
look back over the pass,
I have a near clear view
through the crisscrossed wires
that hang from poles on the edge of my sight,
of that familiar shape the earth takes—
the rise and dip and rise and fall
of Mount Tam across the bay.
And if the sky is cloudless,
the summer evening air crystalline and cool,
I see the edge of the earth glow red
along its dark, rough spine—fire red,
as air burns to touch the mountain top,
cools to magenta, to mauve, to light pink, to nearly white,
this thinnest of blankets, this rarest of good night kisses
from the deepening, clear, gray, blue, early evening sky.
And if I turn again toward the hills,
I find a lightness in my step,
a joy in my breath.

This morning, I swung my body to the right, just as the sun’s rays came washing over the hills and I headed down the hill toward Gold’s Gym on Grand Avenue, in the flatlands, there, by Lake Merritt.

I do this three times a week now, as I am determined to arrive in Portland next year as strong and healthy as I can make myself, given what I have to work with, of course—a gimpy left knee and a post-spinal surgery back, among other things.

I love walking to the gym in the early morning, doing my workout and feeling the healthy tiredness of my body, my quads burning as I climb back up that steep hill to my house.

I love looking at the neighborhood, the houses, the trees, the gardens—the things people are working on–the shops on Lakeshore Boulevard and the smells that emanate from Pete’s Coffee and Arizmendi bakery/pizza shop, the early morning quiet beginning to shake itself awake, and on weekdays, walking past the ride-share queue under the massive concrete I-580 overpass, cars lined up all the way to the end of the parking lot, pedestrians making their way briskly to meet their rides, hop in and take off, the queue moving up one car at a time, and then on Saturdays, like today, the Farmer’s Market spread all the way along the Eastern side of that overpass across from the giant marquee of the Grand Lake Theater with it’s political messages along side the current attractions, and then to come out from under that mass and see the grassy expanse stretch out in front of me with grazing geese and morning exercisers doing their thing on the monkey bars, or crab walking together to the barking instructions of a trainer that I imagine they must have hired to help them get in shape and every color and every shape are there along my walk—it’s Oaklanders in the morning and in the gym its the same mix of shape and size and color and it is beyond comfortable to be among these people. It is uplifting. I don’t mean to say the shadow is not there, it is there. I’ll talk about that another time.

This morning, I had a copy of Marge Piercy’s poem To be of use, folded and stuffed into the pocket of my gray sweats along with my key ring and my Gold’s Gym bar code key tag. I take a poem or more than one with me each time I walk and work out and I commit them to memory by speaking them aloud as I walk—sometimes full blast, sometime quietly, depending on where I am and who’s around. Larry Robinson had sent this poem out recently and it grabbed me. This morning I worked on the first two stanzas.

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Sometimes I take a book to read as I ride the recumbent bicycle. This morning I had Martin Buber’s 1923 book Ich und Du, in English, I and Thou, translated by Walter Kaufmann who points out how inaccurate and misleading it is to translate the German word “Du” as “Thou,” for du is personal and intimate, whereas thou is formal and distant. Though I had known of this book since my college days, I had never read it.

In the way of things, when I was in Portland, June and I made a trip downtown to the famous Powell’s Bookstore on Burnside Street to purchase a signed copy of Ursala Le Guin’s Blue Moon Over Thurman Street for Ciara’s seventh birthday, which is tomorrow—Ciara is Sean and Jen Morris’ daughter. Hard to believe she is seven years old. The book is a collaboration with photographer Roger Dorband that tells the story of the street in Portland where she lived. While at Powell’s we visited the huge poetry section and simply wandered around the various floors and half-floors and rooms and corridors crammed with books and everywhere were stands and shelves with books on sale for a reduced price. On one of these stands, in the Blue Room, I saw a title that grabbed my attention. It was I and Thou for half price. I bought it and had begun reading it in Portland. Buber’s thoughts, channeled through Kaufmann’s careful translation, have resonated deeply and make me know again the power and magic of words that can bring me into the presence, into the mind and heart of this early twentieth century German Jewish philosopher.

Pumping away on the recumbent bike at 65 to 70 rpms, I read Buber aloud to myself. I like reading aloud. It slows things down and it makes the words feel more immediate, makes me feel more like I’m having a conversation. I came upon these words

When we walk our way and encounter a man who comes toward us, walking his way, we know our way only and not his; for his comes to life for us only in the encounter. (p. 124)

And I thought how true. We cannot know another without an encounter. And I thought of our times together under the redwoods where we consciously try to create a safe place to encounter one another. And I thought how precious these times have been in my own experience, how blessed I have been to be allowed to open my heart to you, my brothers, and how privileged I have been to be able to bear witness to your opening your hearts. And I thought of Jay Jackson laying it down in our small group that time a bunch of years ago, telling us, “We need to take our open hearts back to our lives, our families, our communities.” And so I have offered, using this medium of electronic communication, using words as Martin Buber uses words or Marge Piercy uses words to connect—heart to heart with those others among us who seek a heart connection—an encounter with another soul, another spirit—I have offered what I know of myself, what insights have come to me as I walk my way. I tell my story that I may hear yours—that’s all.

Stories and sacred space

We never know for sure—
for certain, I mean,
if our experiences
are the same as other men’s
(or women’s, for that matter)
but we tell our stories anyway
and sometimes
they resonate
with another,
allowing us to feel
connected,
not alone.

And that’s about as close
as I can get
to that part
of what is
sacred.

BD 3/9/07

So I look forward my brothers, to joining you again under the Mendocino redwoods on Memorial Day weekend, May 25th to 28th where we will share encounters, share our stories and think and talk and eat and sing and play and be quiet together and through it all discern what is ours to do, individually and collectively, in this needy world we live in, how our open hearts might manifest when we leave each other, having had these deeply moving encounters. Let us each find our real work! May we be so blessed, my brothers!

Brother Bill

More morning musings from the land of the open heart . . .

April 17, 2012

Brothers,

It has been some time since I have taken time to sit down and visit with you.

This morning much is on my mind but I am especially aware of how quickly our annual conference is approaching–Memorial Day weekend, May 25th to 28th — Friday afternoon/evening through Monday morning, beneath the towering redwoods in Camp 3, nestled in the valley of the North Fork of the Little River — more like a stream than a river — between Camp 1 and Camp 2 at the Mendocino Woodlands, a twenty or thirty minute drive  inland and down from the South end of the town of Mendocino — certainly we arrive at a sacred space at the end of that descent.

As I write to you I am sitting with my laptop in Portland, Oregon, in the home of my one time high school classmate, June Quackenbush, where I have come to visit each April for the last three years and where I will move in early 2013. Obviously, the land of the open heart is not limited by geography but geographic distance does have a profound impact on how we experience connection with each other. Relocating to Portland will allow the intimate daily partnership that June and I have, by some miracle,  been graced to discover with each other. At the same time the profound, certainly life changing connections and even the more casual ones that I have been blessed to make and develop in the Bay Area over the last twenty years will be wrenched and stretched by this new distance — challenged to be redefined, cared for and developed in new ways.

Even as I embrace the gain, the joy of my new life, I embrace the the loss, the sorrow that is there. In fact, it is only by the constant acknowledgment of and holding of and the grieving of this loss, that I am free to love the new life I am already living.

The Jimenez poem on the front of this year’s conference brochure represents that moment of profound awareness, that, in turn, raises the question for us, “Are we already standing in the new life?”

My answer is, “Yes, we always are!”  Embedded in and central to this affirmation is an acknowledgment of our loss that must be grieved as surely as our new life must be embraced, if we choose to be alive at all. As in the Jimenez poem, moments of insight are passive but they always allow a way forward, allow for action, even call us to action. So my question is always, “What is mine to do in this new life that is constantly becoming old and then new again and old and new again?”

There are many ways to go at this point but what comes to mind as a kind of companion piece to Jimenez — and I’m not entirely sure I could explain why it comes to mind — is Rilke’s poem:

 

The Man Watching

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when  the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

 -Rainer Maria Rilke

 

What I do know, my brothers, is ours is not a passive “standing” in that realization but an active wrestling with the large angles in our lives as we try to figure out how to engage and manifest personally, among our friends, in this community and in the broader world which teeters always on the brink . . . what is mine to do? What is ours to do?

Looking forward to joining you and wrestling together under the redwoods. Until next time, I hold you in my heart,

Brother Bill

 

 

From Brother Bill: Food for the Body, Food for the Soul

May 5, 2011

Brothers,

I have previously sent you a poem by Mary Oliver and asked of you that you spend some time with it and take it in.

There’s a bit of a story behind my selection of this particular poem that relates to the up-coming conference at the Mendocino Woodlands Camp III in less than three weeks–Thursday May 19 to Sunday May 22 where we will gather in community for the twenty-first time and the very first time in our new home, deep in the Mendocino forest, among the tall redwoods that filter the sun’s rays as they fall through the branches as only redwood trees can.

It is a protected and cared for historic public setting, whose unique history and current scope is well documented on the web site of the Mendocino Woodlands Camp Association ( http://www.mendocinowoodlands.org/home.html). Many of you know the three camps already but for those of you who don’t. I urge you to visit the web site. It is inspirational.

But back to the poem.

Another first for us this year is our hiring of a professional caterer to provide us with nourishment for our bodies commensurate with the nourishment we always find for our souls when we gather together in community the way we do–year after year. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Chef Oscar of The Phantom Cafe who will be preparing our meals for us. Hari Meyers and I met her back in October of last year in Ft. Bragg when she agreed to be our chef. Yes, Oscar is a she, Oscar Ann Stedman, her first name having been chosen by her grandfather, she tells me.

With the conference just three weeks away, Chef Oscar has begun to do the shopping, laying in some of the non-perishable supplies essential to the practice her art and we have had several conversations and have chosen menus selected from the multiple options she offered us. I will not reveal everything to you–the smells that will be emanating from the large lodge kitchen as we go about our work and play together will titillate more than any words I could find to describe this menu or that one.

But since I’ve promised to tell you how I happened upon Mary Oliver’s poem, I will tell you this much. The committee decided to spend a little extra money to have Chef Oscar present us with one of her premier specialties, a fresh caught King Salmon banquet. When I told her this, she was very pleased, telling me she was just that morning talking with local fishermen who were thrilled to be able to begin salmon season for the first time in several years on this very Sunday. She went on to describe her method of baking the salmon–topped with seasoned breadcrumbs, resting in a bath of white wine and lemon juice, which makes it poached as well as baked and through some miraculous chemical or alchemical process of heat and moisture and flesh, the grain of the fish flesh rises to a vertical position, as if the fish itself were a souffle rising, at least that’s the best I can remember what she said. I needn’t tell you I was actually salivating by the end of her description.

But there was another thing that happened–I remembered, vaguely, Mary Oliver’s poem about the bear and the salmon and so it was on my mind this morning as I was thinking about sending out the call for our first Wednesday of the month spoken word gathering. I looked it up and loved it, again, as I most often do with Mary Oliver’s poems. After all, it was her poem, The Journey, the first poem of hers I had ever heard, when Doug spoke it on Memorial Day in the Temple of Melodious Sound at Camp Gualala in the year 2000, that launched me on to my own journey toward being what I was born to be. You may remember this. I have shared it before . . .

The singing

The singing had stopped

and with it, for a moment,

our very breath,

as if life itself had been left behind.

In that deep, transported silence

beneath the old growth canopy

where forty men

like ancient monks, in filtered light,

had sung their morning ritual,

a voice—a knowing voice,

deep and rich in timbre, spoke:

 

“One day you finally knew
What you had to do . . . ” 1

 

Like the spirit of God hovering above the deep,

these spoken words

and those that followed

breathed life once more into my soul;

and there began, again my journey

BD  8/20/02



1. From Mary Oliver’s The Journey



Such life changing experiences that happen when we come together in community are not unique to me.

So I simply want to remind you each of the richness of experience that awaits us in Mendocino and ask you each to consider coming to join us if you have not already made that decision. Who knows what miracles, what changes within and what connections may be forged among us if we step into this experience together. Think about it and come, if you can. You owe it to yourself and to those whom you love.

Brother Bill

Night and the River

May 1, 2011

Listen! Listen to this! Can you hear it?

Try speaking it aloud. Take a breath.

Give yourself over to it, even if you are in the presence of someone else. Do not think,  “This is an e-mail.” Do not think of all the e-mails waiting to be opened. Do not think of all the pressing obligations that await you, all the things you have not done.

Think instead, “This is a moment for me to accept a gift, a precious gift of words filled with the magic that words sometimes hold.”

Try it. Do it. Do it now . . .

 

Night and the River

I have seen the great feet
leaping
into the river
and I have seen moonlight
milky
along the long muzzle
and I have seen the body
of something
scaled and wonderful
slumped in the sudden fire of its mouth,
and I could not tell
which fit me
more comfortably, the power,
or the powerlessness;
neither would have me
entirely; I was divided,
consumed,
by sympathy,
pity, admiration.

After a while
it was done,
the fish had vanished, the bear
lumped away
to the green shore
and into the trees. And then there was only
this story.

It followed me home
and entered my house
a difficult guest
with a single
tune
which it hums all day and through the night
slowly or briskly,
it doesn’t matter,
it sounds like a river leaping and falling
it sounds like a body
falling apart.

Mary Oliver from Red Bird, 2008

If you followed my admonition, my heart felt admonition, I cannot presume to know how these words touched you inside but I would wager they touched you in some way–such is the nature and purpose of Mary Oliver’s tremendous outpourings over the years.

- Brother Bill

“The Road In” – 2011 Conference, Mendocino Woodlands

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.

Brother Bill

Eros and Its Shadow

24th Annual Men's Conference

2-EROSMemorial Day Weekend, May 23-26, 2014. Mendocino Woodlands Camp Two, Mendocino, California

We define ourselves in every part of our lives by our gender and our sexuality, often in terms of what we are not. Have we as men the courage to examine our programming around the erotic to see how it hinders our quest for wholeness?

Click here to download the Conference Brochure.

The attendee information packet with required release form is here (requires Adobe Reader.)

Click here to go to the Registration Page.

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