Greetings from Ojai,
Earlier this month, we sent a newsletter canceling the June ‘Clopening’ ceremony—a ceremony to mark the moment when The Ojai Foundation (TOF) would complete stewardship of the Land Sanctuary and lean into its future. And, as promised, we offer now more of the context of why.
The primary reason for this cancellation is that TOF is undergoing a complete change of leadership. Effective June 1, the Board of Directors and Executive Co-Directors will all offer their resignations, and a new board—composed of Leon Berg, Irasha Talifero, and Jack Zimmerman—will assume responsibility for TOF. While it is for the incoming board to share their vision, one element is clear: they do not intend to complete stewardship of the ridge in June. Thus, the June ‘Clopening Ceremony’ was canceled.
While a full recounting of all the factors that combined to bring about this change in leadership for TOF is beyond the scope of a newsletter, a few things can be shared succinctly. First, yes, it has not all been easy. There are different views, priorities, understandings of what next steps most serve, and potentially even different visions. This time has reminded us that in the practice of council we welcome divergent and contradictory points of view. Second, this change was initiated by the Executive Stewardship Circle, having recognized that the differences, especially between the current leadership and some of the founding generation, risked creating a lasting rift in the broader community. Rather than tug further in different directions, we offered to let go, inviting those most vocal in their vision for a different way forward to take up leadership if that is what they needed to do. This offer was accepted.
Therefore, alongside the announcement canceling the ceremony, comes the announcement of our resignation. Our work with The Ojai Foundation completes on May 31. As we step out of our roles, we step into the next wave of change—change that ripples in our personal lives, the life and future of TOF, and into the broader communities with which we are connected. Like the fire, these changes will likely close certain paths and possibilities, and simultaneously open new pathways, and make possible some of what otherwise could not have been.
As we reflect on our time with TOF, one thing that remains clear is that we are deeply changed by our experience of living with, and through, the Thomas Fire, and our time in leadership with TOF. As we close this chapter of our lives, we will carry forward, to the best of our ability, the work that is ours to carry forward.
In this, our last public letter in our roles as Executive Co-Directors and the Chair of the TOF Board of Directors, we wish to end on a note of profound gratitude. In our witness: The primary gesture that has made it possible for TOF to continue to exist since the fire is generosity. The generosity comes from the fire itself; the thousand-plus volunteers who supported hands-on recovery; the local, state, and federal governments, including cleanup and debris removal programs and two years of full-time partnership and work with the federally funded CET work crew; Indigenous allies and advisors, especially the Chumash, who have hosted TOF for these many decades, and offered guidance in this period of acute change; the donors who contributed to the largest fundraiser in the history of the organization; the staff, board, and guardians, who weathered stormy seas over years; the partners and facilitators who helped to adapt TOF’s offerings to meet the moment anew; the teachers who offered what they could; the broader local community, including Ojai Retreat, Greater Goods, Somatic Sanctuary, Twin Creek Ranch, Quail Springs, and all of the local partners and places that hosted us while we did not have a land base to share; our neighbors, who have supported us in countless ways; the Happy Valley Foundation; our global community, and all the other young ones, partners, and participants in our offerings.
In short, to all who have shown up with heart, mind, hands, body, funds, and a deep decision to give, we thank you. To the plants, trees, animals, fossils, waters, fires, and the place itself, to the ancestors—past and future—and to the practices that have sustained us, challenged us, and grown us, we thank you. And to all those, seen and unseen, named and unnamed in this brief list, we thank you.
May the best possible futures—for all—flow forward from this time.
With gratitude and humility,
Brendan, Shay & David
The Executive Stewardship Circle