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Volume 4, Issue 9................................... September, 2011

Dear Friends,

What a summer and now beginning of autumn it has been! First we experienced baptism by fire (lightening) and now by water in the form of Hurricane Irene. For those of us affected by the hurricane it has been a time of extreme challenge as well as an enormous humbling event (more on this later in this newsletter). We send our love and prayers to all of you who have experienced loss during this time.

We are happy to announce that the workshops and apprenticeships for 2012 are now detailed on our website Please take time to peruse these classes and mark your calendar now. The trend in these past couple years is that these courses fill up. The plants are turning up the volume and knocking on the door of our souls opening our hearts to the massive changes at hand. More and more I hear from folks that they are “being called”, by something. Perhaps the call is from the Earth or spirit but many times it arrives through the avenue of the plants. It is so undeniable that folks feel they MUST respond. The response has been strong as the plants urge them/you to deepen your connection to that which is life-giving. The course offerings for 2012 are our way of responding to the clarion call of this new era. There may be a couple more classes added in other locations other than Sweetwater Sanctuary in Vermont so keep checking back to see if there is a class in your area.


Hurricane Irene, a Story of Love and Life by Pam Montgomery

The question was heard over and over across the air waves and from person to person. Who would ever expect the land-locked state of Vermont to receive such a major impact from a hurricane? We do experience lots of rain and the storms have become stronger over the past few years, however, the eyes of hurricanes don’t usually pass over Vermont but Irene did.

I found myself driving from Ottawa on the Sunday that Irene came. The message on my cell phone from Mark was, “Don’t, under any circumstances, try to drive home tonight.” Wow, that’s a dramatic message, surely he is exaggerating. When I reached the border of Canada and the US the border guard asked where I was headed. I said Danby in southern Vermont. He said, “Don’t try because you won’t make it.” Hm-m-m maybe Mark wasn’t exaggerating. I decided to head for Burlington in northern Vermont where my daughter lives. The further east I drove the harder the rain became. As I was skirting the northern edge of Lake Champlain I realized that we were in the midst of a major weather event. Bedraggled and tired I arrived in Burlington to find I may not get home for a day or two because many of the roads to my home were washed out. On Monday with Mark’s help I scanned the internet for road closings, called friends and even local businesses in towns I might drive through to find out what was happening. I charted a back road route because the major highway, Route 7, had a bridge out. I headed south, then west, then east again always trying to be moving in a southerly direction. As I came up to road closed signs I would get out my map again and look for another possible road. The homing device inside me was strong and I have never been particularly good about being separate from my love when we need the strength of each other’s companionship. I finally got home in the early evening and was completely shocked at what I found. While winding my way home I had conjured an image in my mind of wheel burrowing rocks and mud with a few folks to clear our land. Oh, what a sweet image it was. The reality was starkly different.

By early morning on Sunday Mark realized that the banks of Sweetwater Brook could not hold the enormous amounts of water rushing down Marble Mountain. This brook is the main watercourse that feeds into Mill Brook that flows through the town of Danby and then into Otter Creek that feeds into Lake Champlain. He knew he couldn’t face this much water alone so he called the few neighbors we have in this small sprinkling of folks within the Smokey House Land Trust area. Everyone he called came to his aid – five men, one with his teenage son, came with shovels, picks, bales of hay, stakes and strong backs to help save our Conference Center from rapidly rising water carrying with it heavy mud, silt, rubble and large rocks some boulder size. Together they staked bales of hay, laid up trees that had already deposited themselves in our yard enough to divert the course of the water around the building. They worked hard and fast in driving rain to save what we have spent twelve years creating. In a few short hours all of it could have been gone. Once they finished here they all headed for our neighbor Steve’s where his house and barn were taking in water. They managed to shut off all the electricity and get a gasoline driven sump pump working well enough to keep the water from coming over the first floor. What an amazing community effort that the mere thought of continues to swell my heart to bursting (I have tears in my eyes even now as I write)! The strong will of humans to survive and to help each other live is a powerful bonding force. The waters have receded but the love in the hearts of these men for each other is as potent as the force of the hurricane they faced together.

As I look out upon where once was a beautiful twelve year perennial herb and flower garden my grief is almost too much for the dear friends I have lost. The sweet spot Lindsey created making a path to the center where the Mayan Goddess statue of Ix Chel, the Goddess of Healing, blessed those who sat on the Rosewood bench gifted to us as a wedding present from many of our friends is now covered in rock and mud. In the depths of my grief there is a single chord resounding that as I listen grows into a chorus of gratitude for all that we have been gifted with in our lives. Here in this space of gratitude my grief becomes rich, fertile compost where seeds of beauty can be planted.

I just returned from a walk and saw the devastation with new eyes. I excitedly came indoors and said to Mark, “We don’t have to shovel up all the silt and mud. Let’s level it out, mix it with compost and manure and plant it.” The love for this land, its water, rich soil and beautiful marble spills over the banks of my heart and I am flooded with the humbling, eye-opening experience of the profound power of nature and the life force it carries. Yes, life goes on and it’s good.

To donate to the flood relief for Vermont go to

To help us with the damage at Sweetwater this link

Partner Earth Education Center
1525 Danby Mountain Road
Danby, Vermont 05739