Transformation by Fire & Water ~ An Aletheia Springs Update
Dearest Community & Friends of Aletheia,
Many of you know about the disastrous region-transforming firestorms that swept through Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties early last week. What you might not yet have heard is how close these fires came to the Springs. By some miracle beyond our immediate comprehension, Morton's Warm Springs and Aletheia Community have been spared, and our surrounding little valley of upper Warm Springs Road in between Kenwood and Glen Ellen remains perfectly intact and green.
The closest firestorm came just over the hill northwest of us and tragically took the home of our beloved friend and steward, Claudia, and her husband Erick. After escaping themselves, Claudia and Erick were the angels who pounded on our doors just after midnight on Monday, alerting us to the imminent danger. Ultimately, it was because of them that the entire Aletheia crew was able to escape so quickly to safety, and for this we will be forever grateful. (If you'd like to contribute to their recovery fund, you can find it here.)
We will also be forever grateful to the firefighters, first responders and to all of our members and neighbors who have been working together during this threshold time. In a silver lining twist, we are feeling closer than ever before with our little Glen Ellen & Kenwood community, having now truly met one another in mutual humanness. More will be revealed as the coming months unfold, but new openings and possibilities are already shimmering forth as the old burns away and our entire region is so powerfully reminded of what truly matters.
I began composing this email update before the fires broke out, and I have to say it is surreal to return to it now with so much having changed, and perhaps stranger still the juxtaposition of what remains the same. When we evacuated the Springs, we could see the glow of fire fully lighting the sky over the ridge from us. It looked so massive. We flung the front gates open wide for the fire engines (tapping our 16,000 gallon tank is part of the local fire station's protocol), and I thought to myself as we drove out that, surely... surely this is the very last time I would see our Springs standing, see my home, see all we have worked for these last two and a half years... it was a moment where the only choice was to "let go, and let God," as they say.
But here we are now... Power has been restored and the evacuations in our area have lifted. The fires are still simmering but blessedly on a smaller scale and away from most of the populated areas. There is much clean up and healing to do as we step forward with our Aletheia project into a new season and a changed world.
When last we updated all of you it was in the spring. We were proud to be sharing our new 2017 Prospectus, we had just confirmed our new hot water source and were deep in preparations for our second-ever public season with Morton's Warm Springs. Now the days and nights have again slid past their momentary equinox balance and we have just closed down our public season and began preparing for a very different chapter this fall and winter. No doubt most of you reading this feel this shift as well in your own lives and work... the deep pull of the changing season, but also the powerful stirrings with all that's shaking, bubbling, burning, erupting and transforming in our world right now. To many of us it seems clearer than ever before that where we place our attention, how we live our lives, and how show up with each other every day matters so very much.
So thank you, my dear friends, for all the work you also continue to do (both seen and unseen) in service to a new, more beautiful world, and in service to inner and outer peacemaking. At Aletheia we're poignantly aware that we're not unfolding or growing this dream in a vacuum. It's made possible only because of all the work that's come before us, and all that continues on all around us. Often we don't have time to truly stop and take in the "miracles" that are happening. I see as many reasons to be hopeful as there are to be grateful.
At the Springs, we have so much gratitude that the land not only survived these fires but that we survived our summer season. Hooray! September 30th wrapped up five intense months of bridge-building, learning and growth with our service offering "Old Man Morton's," as we sometimes call the historic public identity of this place. Our steps with this service offering have been heavily guided by the Aletheia mission we captured in our Prospectus; "...to create a sanctuary for Self-Care By Nature, to Restore our Common Source, and to build A Culture of Trust, Transformation & True Purpose."
And while this long-range intention may be deeply visionary, it's main purpose has been to help us organize ourselves internally as a newborn community, giving us our initial blueprint and direction.
Now, with our second year under our belts, we're beginning to see this inner vision broaden and ground into concrete actions with real impacts in our lives and community circles. In December of this year we'll again publish our 'End-of-Year Summary' report detailing more of this, but just to name a few highlights...
We saw our overall seasonal revenue increase 70% in 2017!
We opened our new cafe, serving delicious, local, organic food and it almost broke even in less than two months.
We saw membership increase almost 350% and the number of group reservations increase 140%.
We piped our new hot (108.6°!) geothermal source over to our existing pools, raising and stabilizing their average temperature into the high 80's.
We refurbished our pipe and filter systems so they are now functioning better than they have in perhaps a decade, allowing our pools to be beautifully clean, and consistently warm and aquamarine blue!
2016 saw over 12,000 guests come through our gates, while this year we welcomed over 21,000 (and we don't even have hot tubs yet). This says to us that people have really begun to notice the value of what we're building.
In our outward-weaving work this past year, we...
Began collaborating with the Sonoma Ecology Center in their Streamflow Stewardship Initiative, which monitors water levels for the implementation of water retention systems along Sonoma Creek that will help protect the vital habitat of Coho and Steelhead.
We deepened our work with our friend and mentor, Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, using the MetaCapital Framework as a basis for how we both talk about and measure our progress in rebuilding the wealth of our land and communities for the benefit of all who participate here.
We dove further into our relationship with Tamera Ecovillage in Portugal and their Healing Biotopes Plan, which is a powerful vision of global system change being seeded here in the United States via their Grace Foundation. Recently, we had the honor and the pleasure to host an event at Aletheia where over 80 people (including many from Tamera and from other projects throughout the Western U.S. and Canada), came to experience our Springs and explore next steps towards creating new "healing biotope" centers here in Northern California. We aspire to be one of them!
These are just a few of the amazing movements we've had the privilege to witness happening over these past eight months!
Now as we move forward into our off-season... we feel we're ready for a much bigger "coming out" in 2018 -one that wasn't possible up until now, as we've been evolving from theory and vision into real-world practice and impact. It's time to bridge that original 'inner-oriented vision' from our 2017 Prospectus to a much broader audience where we tell the story of who we are and what we’re up to in a more publicly accessible way (read: totally non-'woo woo'). It will be easily understandable and shareable at anything from a local town hall meeting or neighborhood potluck to the Bioneers Conference. Likewise it'll be something that would fit quite nicely into a university grant proposal or foundation funding pitch. We'll be focusing on our mission of watershed and ecological restoration, stewardship and education, as well as on our vision to build local community resiliency and collaborate with established partners both local and global.
We're also excited that this will be the foundation of a new, more broad-reaching fundraising chapter emerging at the Springs in 2018. In our 2017 campaign we were able to raise (so far) about half of what we aimed for. By offering Community Investor loans at 2% return, our goal was to raise $300K to refinance a chunk of the mortgage debt down to a sustainable rate. We had an additional $100K goal to pay for some critical infrastructure improvements as well, but incredibly with the increased revenue that Morton's was able to pull in plus the amazing work of our dedicated team of community stewards and volunteers, Morton's was able to cover the full cost of these critical infrastructure improvements without any new investment capital. All in all, we've successfully fundraised $150K, paid for our own improvements, and now we have the last $150K to go and we'll be done paying off our first mortgage loan in full.
While we have a few folks we're talking with about getting us to this final amount, we could always use more leads! We've also been getting creative in terms of finding out what can truly serve our ideal investors, i.e. what would make it that much easier and safer for more people to have their money put to work here at the Springs for a while? Some exciting things are brewing there as well, but as you can imagine, it's such a deep and truly humbling inquiry into what it means to bridge the old economy into the the new one that is still just forming. For one thing, there is no shortage of money in our world. We live in an overabundance of wealth, especially here in the Greater SF Bay Area.
And so many of us want our money to be doing different things than what it's done in the past. We want to be fostering more life-affirming systems and models. We want to be supporting the betterment of our aquifers, our food systems, our communities and our children's futures. So the motivation and the availability are not what's difficult. Along with countless others working globally to transition us to a planet-sustaining economy, the challenge of our work is to create better ways of organizing this great abundance of wealth. What are the new trustworthy structures being used which allow us to use our money to more powerfully mutually benefit ourselves, our communities and our planet? These are the questions we're asking, and that we all need to be asking more and more. While we may not know all the steps, nor the twists and turns to arrive where we want to go, we do have a 'north star' of what it can look and feel like to already be there...
“I'm walking on the land under the ancient oaks by the creek. I've just had a long hot soak in the geothermal pools, and it helped me to move through some tension and worry I'd been carrying these past few months. I follow the cascade of water retention pools down and I'm sitting now by the creek. There's great flow again this year, and I marvel at how much the fish have come back. There's heron and beaver and river otters I've seen here, too. It seems that all of life is thriving around me and it allows me to reconnect with the sacredness in all things
and brings with it a deep sense of peace.
I hear laughter coming from the gardens in the meadow above me. I smile as I recognize the sound of children's voices. They're picking ripe fruit and vegetables with their families to take home in their farm box. I look down at my hands and remember them working deep in the soil as I planted basil early this morning. Another movement catches my eye and I look up river to see a group of young people crossing over the bridge. It's one of the many that come here from all over. I love that I see all shapes and sizes, skin colors and ethnicities peering out through excited, inquisitive eyes. I appreciate how there can be space
for both activity and sanctuary here at the same time.
I get up and walk back towards my simple but well-appointed cabin; one of several built here with a passive solar design. Even in the heat of summer it's wonderfully cool as I step inside and pour myself a glass of mineral spring water. Perhaps in a bit I'll head up to the cafe for a bite and get some work done while I'm feeling so relaxed. Is there a meditation group happening tonight? ...or,
is it movie night? I can't remember.
I sit in the sun in the window seat and savor how wonderful it's been to be here at the Springs these past few days. I feel reconnected with myself and re-energized for the work I do in the world. I'm so thankful that places like this exist, and that they are becoming more common. I send a prayer of gratitude for all the work and love that went into this place over the years making it possible for me to just be here in this moment, enjoying a simple glass of spring water and
this palpable sense of true wealth.”
Thank you to each of you for being along with us on this journey. More to be discovered and revealed soon...
Laurie & Sean
& The Aletheia Stewards