Hosting Anima Sanctuary Volunteers
The Experience & Joy of Hosting Anima Sanctuary Volunteers
Thank You to My On-Site Homestead Helpers!
This amazing canyon wilderness has blossomed from 33 years of guardianship and restoration, with a forest of cottonwoods and willows where there were once none. The wild places of the world are suffering greatly from human impact from pollution to pavement and habitat destruction, but I am witness to the ways in which human residents can be essential to the land’s protection and nurturance. This amazing inspirited place would be destroyed by now if not for our partner Wolf fending off threats as well as planting and tending. Our neighbor has invested much money into fighting trespass in the courts, while our role is being present, day after day, making a difference on the ground. To exist here we’ve had to learn not only the basics of off-grid homesteading, but things like carpentry and building and vehicle maintenance don’t come easy to eccentric writers and ecophilosophers and artists and cooks like us are not naturally very good at.
Over the past decade, it has gotten even harder to take care of the basics like keeping our cabins from rotting and the water and electric systems working, due to all the projects we’ve been doing to try to help affect and heal the larger world. All the books being written, the HerbFolk conference we organize, the Anima teachings and Plant Healer Magazine have all taken a lot of attention, to where Wolf and Kiva work on them up to 14 or more hours most days of the week, only taking time away to get some daily exercise in the canyon and take in another dose of the beauty and satisfaction. I keep so busy with food processing and preparation and Rhiannon’s home schooling that having assistance has become increasingly crucial. Our dear “Trail Boss” has been coming when he can to lend a practical-minded hand, with he and his son Danny installing the fire fighting water sprinkler system paid for by you readers when wildfires threatened the sanctuary. Our caring friend Marc has been taking time off from his own business in the city to drive here and improve our solar electric set-up, and make it to where I can run a solar electric fridge after so many years of hauling melting ice in from town (sometimes on our backs, when the river was too high to drive!). He is also installing a solar electric water pump system that can move precious water from our rain barrels to a storage tank, I can’t thank him enough!
For assistance with the more everyday chores, we’ve been hosting volunteer helpers over the past 5 years, mostly young folks eager to trade their help for a chance to live in a wonderful place for 30 day periods learning new skills, gaining the experience needed to perhaps finding their own land to purchase and protect and re-wild and make into their cherished homes. While we can’t offer herbal education with Kiva so busy writing, we can offer a cabin in paradise and meaningful existence close to the land and elements. I’ve been fortunate to host a number of great volunteers so far, including some with a lot of physical energy who truly enjoyed working hard outdoors, women and men who felt fueled by the beauty of the land, exhibited both spunk and diligence, were able to stay focused even while chatting and took pride and satisfaction in a job well done.
It’s amazing to walk around the Anima homestead and see all the projects that have been completed in the past two years, which could have never happened so quickly (and some, not at all!) without their help. We are so grateful for Rhiannon’s beautiful new bedroom addition complete with pretty treadle-sewed curtains, and her hand built bed, the lovely outdoor kitchen, the horno beehive oven, the cold frames and potato grower. I wonder how many cords of wood our helpers have chopped, and stacked, and brought to the kitchen in wheelbarrows upon wheelbarrows, to help keep the bread coming from the ovens, and the soups bubbling upon the stoves. How many pieces of clothing they’ve helped to mend and alter, the boxes of Plant Healer books they’ve happily packaged, the heaps of wild greens they’ve harvested & processed, the meals they’ve helped me cook, and so much more.
One helper this Winter was Alissa, and she was such a gift to me. We got huge amounts of work done. We filled the wood shed with split juniper, organized & cleaned the storage sheds, baked lots of bread in the horno, and she organized and sorted the kitchen pantry and the helper kitchen. She also built a box potato grower all on her own, and put many hours of hard work into creating draining ditches on the steep road up to the Anima homestead, and smoothing out the road by hauling & fitting many rocks into the crevices that had formed during the monsoon and flood season. It was her letter of thanks to me after she left, that inspired me to write this post… and I will include it at the end.
My most recent helpers were Andrew from Ontario, who also leads wilderness trips in Arizona, Waloo from Colorado, and Jackie and David from Mass., all of whom have made wonderful contributions in their time here. They’ve worked on the Gifting Lodge and the surrounding area, including underneath the lodge, which was hiding some truly epic rat nests and some very outdated gear. The Equipment Shed has gotten much better organized. They dug up the pipeline that was buried in the flood last Fall. Marc taught David how to assemble solar panels, they’ve done some small building projects, and worked with Andrew on maintenance and repair work, as well as helped to make many loaves of bread, calzones, pot pie, zucchini and banana cakes, veggie and wild meat soups and so much more! Waloo is working on a lovely bedcover made from recycled materials and an old appliqué made by Wolf’s dear mama many years ago. Everyone has helped with cleaning and all the other little tasks that make the days go more smoothly. And Jackie brought a smile and a song to dish washing, gracing all the kitchens with her beautiful, loving spirit!
The hardest part about having helpers for me is trying to manage and direct the projects, I have a hard enough time directing myself! And it takes a few weeks just to learn the very basics of what it takes to live this life, so that folks are usually leaving by that time. To make it easier for me, I have asked Wolf to write up a post calling for long term residents that have the practical skills and temperament to instruct and direct the volunteers who pass through, and to keep some wood chopped and vehicles running in between. Someday we hope to attract one or two people get really inspired and driven by the healing mission of Anima, who could devoted themselves to taking care of this place with us, excited by all the possibility of a possible “lifetime” relationship with the canyon and commit to serve in whatever ways possible, but until then a manager/caretaker could be a huge boost.
In closing, it’s very important to me that all the helpers realize just how much all their efforts here make it possible for Wolf and Kiva to spend the long hours affecting all the thousands of people that they do. For me, it seems kind of ridiculously ideal that I get to spend so much time making delicious food in the kitchen and tending the homestead, and feel like I’m actually affecting the world at the same time! Amazing and true! Even the hours I spend nourishing myself in my “downtime” contribute to making it all possible. The wholeness and healing we’re trying to facilitate in humanity, must start with each person, making time every day to love and honor ourselves, and to stretch and develop like a great old tree!
I really hope that each and every person who has put their heart into their work and learning here to know how hugely valued their time, presence, willingness, openness, songs, and assistance have been. We so appreciate all your heart-full efforts. And I so hope that you feel the pride and satisfaction you deserve! May you carry the torch for all who dare to live their dreams, regardless of the effort needed and the risk of disappointments, and may you find inspiration, adventure, increased self-knowledge and humility in every yet-to-be discovered fork in the road!
Below is the letter that sweet Alissa left for me, describing the simple joys of being a helper here. Thank you Alissa, thank you to all present and future helpers, and thank you to every reader who shares our aims… and who through these blog posts, are a part of our lives.
Blessings and Big Hugs to you all!
“Dear Loba, I have so enjoyed my time here at Anima: the loved, healing, wild canyon. I’m sad to leave, but I know that the wisdom and feelings this place and experience has given me will stay with me and resonate throughout my life elsewhere like memories of an old friend or of other beautiful wise & wild places I’ve come to know.
“It feels as though I have been through some schooling while being here. The school of simply being, existing naturally, as we are, woven in nature. I’ve come to own my wildness in truly being in the present moment & in my body, simply sensing. I’ve also come to own my human-ness by really noticing and savoring moments & sensations- being truly aware- enjoying every pleasurable experience and exploring and learning from unpleasing times. Experiencing exists in the context of being human in nature (there’s no not being in nature in this life). There is no separation between humans & nature & this realization comes periodically throughout life, but here in the canyon I’ve realized it constantly. I’m reminded of my belonging to the world by the javelina startling me on my way to the outhouse, by the coyote howl & fox bark, by the countless tracks of bobcat, elk, bear, heron & raccoon right next to my human tracks on the river bank. I’m reminded by the sound of the rustling of the wind in the few leaves left on the cottonwoods & by the sight of the trees’ trunks reflecting low yellow sunlight against the crisp blue sky. I’ve explored darkness with the new moon & smiled at the sunrise.
“Thank you so much for your inspired nurturing presence and friendship, for opening your home and heart, and for all the delicious food, of course! I have really enjoyed getting to know you, working with you & learning from you. It’s been so much fun cooking, talking & listening to music with you and Rhiannon. (& the campfire feast was a blast!) Your singing to the canyon is like a siren song call to wildness. Also I had no idea what a treat it is to split desert juniper firewood. I can’t list all I’ve learned, enjoyed, & appreciated here, but it is in the simplest tasks that I learn so much of respect, humility, service, understanding, compassion, & love. Thank you for fostering an environment for this learning, and thank you for teaching by example. I feel like I have really practiced being more aware & wild – necessary qualities for being fully human & truly alive. Many Thanks and Much Love, Alissa.”
Those interested in possibly volunteering can click here to download the Anima On-Site Helper Application.