The Great Work | November Newsletter


John M Deir

November 2014 Newsletter


heat pump

Thanks to all who donated through GiveBIG last May, as well as donors Tom Buxton and Andy Anderson, we were able to make major strides in our green initiative. 

Last week was the first full week of operation of our new Altherma air-to-water heat pump system. This groundbreaking technology has been widely used in Europe and provides a quiet, efficient, and steady heat source. It's now the exclusive source of heat for Thomas Berry Hall, and also warms the dining room and kitchen.

The installation was coordinated by and partially funded by a grant from our green partner in Bellingham, Sustainable Connections

The old oil boiler, which used about 1700 gallons per year, was costing about $6100 a year to operate: almost ten times as much as the heat pump, which should cost $662 annually to run! Additionally, we'll prevent 16 tons of carbon from entering our atmosphere each year



Next time you visit Chinook, you will see a bank of new refrigeration equipment in the kitchen. 

Because of the success of GiveBIG, we were able to replace our 15 year-old refrigeration equipment. 

Two refrigerators and a freezer now allow us to meet an ever increasing demand for food storage for Chef Christyn and her staff. They are highly energy efficient, use about the same amount of space as the old equipment, and are much more reliable—preventing waste and stress! 

Thank you for helping to make this possible! 


We welcome and appreciate those who can give of their time and talents. Learn about volunteer opportunities here!
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Check out our new monthly calendar view!
Nov 20, Dec 17, Jan 21
Movement Tuesday


header, john m deir at pacific rim institute in coupeville, washington
heat pump & fridge, marnie jones
fawn, thomas arthur anderson
abigail, maggie mahle
robert & maggie, marnie jones
fir cone mushroom, alice paulson
portraits courtesy those pictured

T H E   G R E A T   W O R K

“From here on, the primary judgment of all human institutions, professions, programs and activities will be determined by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually-enhancing human/Earth relationship.” —Thomas Berry

The great work of our era is to reimagine human life in alignment with all life. The work of the Whidbey Institute, in support of positive social and environmental change, is inextricably tied to the work of humanity as a whole. There is no one among us who can do this alone. 

We're compelled each day by both the magnitude of the challenges at hand and by the promise of what is blossoming here and around the world. This organization, which so many of us have loved and nurtured through 40 years of evolution, stands on the cusp of an exciting new adventure. 

At the end of this year, outgoing Executive Director Jerry Millhon will step fully into his heartwork as Thriving Communities program leader here at the Institute. Bill Koenig, a past Director of Organizational Systems Renewal Northwest and former Whidbey Institute board chair, will be joining us as Whidbey Institute Co-Director on January 1. He’ll share the title with Heather Johnson, his friend and our inspired Associate Director since 2010. Heather and Bill will both bring unique skills, passions, and life experience to the role, and are well equipped to both honor Jerry's incredible legacy and move our organization into even greater alignment with our mission and purpose. 

Since joining the Institute team myself in July 2013, I've seen Heather's brilliance, passion, and vision firsthand. She is a daily inspiration to me, and I dare say to all who know her. Bill, meanwhile, has been a key player in our organization's strategic planning throughout 2014 and is deeply connected to our roots. He is inspired by the energy and trajectory of our work as an organization, and how our work serves the needs of the world—and we are inspired by his insight, his excitement, and his collaborative leadership style. 

To learn more about Heather, read this 2014 blog post, and watch for an upcoming article on her evolving role. To learn more about Bill, read his Spotlight article, below. 

—Marnie Jones

Celebrate our beloved white pine trees by giving them a new season of life, plus support our thriving community at this pre-holiday gallery. Sales jointly benefit local craft builders and the Whidbey Institute.
An annual community event. Join our hosts and guests for an afternoon of music, including a performance by the Open Circle Singers, in celebration of the winter holidays and the return of the Light. Social time will follow the concert.
An intimate gathering to celebrate the successes of three years of Thriving Communities work on Whidbey. Look back on our accomplishments in health, economy, and food, and look ahead to all the new ways we can thrive together.

Special Evening with Kenny Ausubel
Kenny1Tonight! Thursday, November 6
Help us kick off our 5th Annual Whidbey Island Bioneers Conference—and celebrate the 25th anniversary of Bioneers—while enjoying a delicious, local meal crafted by our executive chef, Christyn Johnson. A very limited number of tickets are available – we hope you’ll join us! Learn more about this rare opportunity.  

Kenny is an award-winning social entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Bioneers, an internationally recognized nonprofit dedicated to breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. 
Whidbey Island Bioneers Conference
plus Forest Mini Camp!

Friday, November 7 through Sunday, November 9
Join us for three days of inspiring workshops, plenaries, and community activities all at the beautiful Whidbey Institute in the middle of 100 acres of pristine forests. This conference is family-friendly, featuring a kids' program and youth discount. Learn more and register here!

For children whose families are attending Bioneers, plus any interested child age 5 to 12, we are now offering Forest Mini Camp on Friday and Saturday in the Legacy Forest, along with facilitators from the Calyx School and Wilderness Awareness School.

Living the New Story
ThomasBerryThomas Berry's 100th Birthday: Sunday, November 9
Living the New Story—A New Cosmology, Community, and Commitment. Honor Thomas Berry’s 100th birthday with us, in Thomas Berry Hall at 2 pm immediately after our Bioneers Conference close. All are welcome at this panel presentation and conversation. Panelists include Fritz Hull, Larry Daloz, and Sharon Parks, with moderation by Heather Johnson. Discussion will touch on such questions as: 
 •  Why does Thomas Berry’s life and work remain vital for today?
 •  What have we learned, and what must we now enact?
 •  How did Berry's work catch fire at a time when so few could hear the message?
 •  How can the New Story shift consciousness and social action?

BillStaff Spotlight: Meet Bill
We’re excited to welcome Bill Koenig, long-time Institute friend and advisor, to the staff in January! He’ll share the role of Co-Director with Heather Johnson, a member of our team since 2010.

Bill has woven his life into the Chinook story since he first came to the land for a 1982 Earth and Spirit Conference. For the past fifteen years, he’s been deeply engaged here in various board and volunteer capacities. His career has ranged from traditional corporate life to adult learning, adaptive leadership and organizational development, and strategic planning. Today, his diverse skills, experience, and interests make him ideally suited to this new role.

He’s a past board chair here at the Institute, and helped define the Leadership pillar of our work. More recently, he’s been on our strategy committee as a volunteer advisor. Read more about Bill on our blog
Partner Spotlight: Meet Karol
Karol White teaches eighth grade at the Whidbey Island Waldorf School on the Chinook land, with a cohort of students that she’s been with since they were in first grade. She’ll be retiring at the end of this year, and she recently took time to reflect with me on what this land has meant to her and her students over the years.

“I step out into this forest,” she said, “and nature holds me. The rich curriculum and this place, which is so incredible—they marry together to present for the child an incredible experience as they grow and develop. It’s behind words. It is such a gift for all of our students to experience those two things.”

Karol explained how work on the land mirrors work in the classroom, sharing examples from the third grade curriculum. Awareness of mortality and the reality of death is part of a child’s development around age 9 or 10, she said.  “There’s a beautiful innocence, and then this shocking revelation. That’s when we have our garden curriculum. Taking them out in nature, letting them see how things grow and wither, helps the child feel secure. Seeds fall. Life goes on. Death is beautiful, and a part of life.” Karol said she’s been able to share the incredible experience of gardening with Cary Peterson and Maggie Mahle, who she described as having an “infectious” love and care for the land. “They love it, and the children feel it and love it too.”  Learn more about Karol and her students on our blog.

Goodbye, Maggie! 
MaggieRobertAs our Land Care Coordinator since spring 2013, Maggie Mahle has brought wisdom, knowledge, care, and deep intention to the role in ways that have touched all of us. This autumn, Maggie is leaving her role at Chinook in order to better care for family in her home state of Colorado. 

Maggie has stewarded this land and our relationships beautifully, enriching Waldorf and Service Learning educational opportunities at Chinook, making insightful decisions about forest care, and tending both our abundant Westgarden and our growing Community Garden Leadership Training Program.

abigaillettuceThis year's Garden Apprentice, Abigail Lazarowski, will be stepping into permanent employment with us as Westgarden Steward and Community Garden Leadership Training Coordinator, while Robert Mellinger (pictured, above right) is joining our team as Land Care Coordinator. Robert's academic and professional background includes experience in holistic science, wilderness ecology and education, transformative learning for sustainable living, permaculture design and landscaping, and ecological literacy. He is excited by the Chinook land, plus opportunities in collaborative organizational stewardship, community engagement, and land-based education. 

We are grateful to Maggie, who has done much to prepare Abigail for her new responsibilities and who is now working closely with Robert to share her knowledge of Chinook before she goes. Both Abigail and Robert bring their own gifts to their new positions, and we are excited about their future contributions. Watch for updates about both Abigail and Robert in coming newsletters.

Fir Cone Mushroom: November featured fungus
AlicePoulsonYou are likely to encounter the delicate Douglas fir-cone fungus (Strobilurus trullisatus) on the trails at this time of year. Look at a Douglas fir cone, and along with the characteristic “mouse tail and two little feet” sticking out from between each scale, you may well find one or more of these mushrooms. If you think you see the Douglas fir cone mushroom growing directly out of the duff, dig a few inches down and you will assuredly discover a buried cone!

The Douglas fir-cone mushroom grows almost exclusively on decaying Douglas Fir cones. You will not find them on freshly fallen cones or in dry, sun-exposed areas. Pay attention in shaded, damp, humid areas under forest canopy. The whitish cap, often with pale pinkish tones, and brownish-yellow stem with yellow-brown or orangish hairs at the base are other distinguishing features.

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