As the summer heat slowly tapers off, and the daylight ebbs slightly more each day, we return to our Volunteer Days of Service. Tremendous progress has been made in our post-fire recovery—with help from nearly 1000 volunteers—and there is more to be done. This fall, we are excited to add one Wednesday per month to our normal rhythm of one Saturday per month. Volunteers who join us on Wednesdays will work alongside TOF staff and the Center for Employment Training (CET) work crew, to whom much credit is due for our steady progress.
We hope you join us for a day of gathering and mindful work for people of all levels of physical ability. (Please see the dates below). RSVP with Mariah via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Executive Stewardship Circle
Brendan Clarke & Sharon Shay Sloan, Co-Directors
David Bryan & Laura Whitney, Board Co-Chairs
The Oracle of the Fire
The day after the Thomas Fire swept through the canyons and across the ridge of The Ojai Foundation, we returned to survey the extensive losses, dampen spot fires, and take in the inexplicable mystery of all that had survived the blaze: the beloved Teaching Tree, the Council House, the Council Hut (Horizon Hut), and a lone cabin called Rock River, among others. Each of us had a felt sense that this fire had an intelligence and had danced across the land, sparing many of the sacred places and those structures most critical for our continuation. Even some of what was found in the rubble felt as if delivered by an oracle: a small glass owl, a goddess statue, and this one singed scrap of paper blowing with the ash in the wind. It reads: “Using Fire as a Management Tool.” Likely a page from a book on permaculture, this prophetic scrap reminds us that, amidst the destruction of the man-made world, fire acts as an essential element in supporting a healthy ecology. In piecing together the sentences, we are reminded of how much of California has traditionally been tended with periodic fires set by the original peoples to ensure the vigor of the trees, soil, and plants, and thus the vigor of the whole ecosystem. In the almost two years since the fire, while tending to the care of countless trees and shrubs scorched or destroyed by the fire, we have also witnessed surviving oaks bursting with vitality, an abundance of wildflowers, and robust, diverse plant and animal life returning. We thank the “oracle of the fire” for this wisdom on the wind and the important reminder of the bigger story of all the beings we share this precious place with.
Reciprocity on the Land
After the 2017 Thomas Fire, The Ojai Foundation qualified for a grant through the Center for Employment Training (CET) to receive help with fire recovery. This grant has been extended again, this time through the end of 2019. CET employees are a huge help in stewarding the grounds as we move towards our future reopening. Part of their employment training at TOF includes the practice of council. It brings us great joy to know that there is a sense of reciprocity and that they are receiving something meaningful from the experience, and that our central practices continue amidst our public closure.
In an interview with our current CET crew leader, Victor Solis, he speaks to his experience on the land and with council.
“It feels peaceful to get away from the city. This job is very hands on with the land…Council is great. It gives me a chance to open up and speak about whatever it is that I’m feeling that day. It gives us a chance to laugh and to be heard. It’s a chance to speak about anything that is weighing on us. It’s been nice not to be questioned after, or judged. At first, I would get a little emotional…Often, we hold things in because we don’t have someone to listen, or because it’s expected of us as men in this society. Here, we can express ourselves. We can tell our story.
“This is a good opportunity for people from CET to start working, get back into the flow, and get back on their feet. To experience this place has been awesome for me. The staff here are very invested in this place. Genuine. They care about the land and the job.”
Photo of the Teaching Tree by Victor Solis
Calendar of Events
Volunteer Days of Service
Spend a day in community and in practice while giving back to the land.
RSVP to Mariah at email@example.com.