Joe and I are currently doing a winter retreat on Cortes Island, British Columbia in Canada. This remote island tucks itself far away from the nearest metropolitan city Vancouver, nine hours and three ferry rides away!
We are really taken by the quality of the community that organically formed on this island. There are about 800 people here in winter. There is no bar, movie theater or restaurant here. We are surrounded by quiet forests, endless ocean, deer, cougar and a wolf pack roaming in the thick of the trees. There are many domestic animals, too, dogs, cats and chickens (with their wonderful eggs).
The community life here consists of tons of singing, dancing, poetry, reading and people spending time with people by fireplaces instead of behind screens. Oh yes, there are tensions and conflicts too. This small island calls forth people with big visions, strong wills and diverse life experiences and backgrounds. So, they do clash. But as long as people are on the island, they share one thing that bonds them, the immense love and devotion for the earth beneath their feet.
On Cortes, we are tasting a life in which people’s authenticity and rawness are placed at the center of the culture, not the stuff they have, titles they carry or the technology and buzz of an industrialized civilization. People rely on each other to build houses, babysit children and take care of the elders and the weak. They also rely on each other to feel connected, touched and held in the backdrop of wild nature. Living here feels like immersion in pure water, in contrast to swimming in waters tainted by the artificial flavors of city life. This water quenches something inside that is parched and thirsty.
I met Manda, an amazing woman who runs Folk University, a community-based learning center on the island where people share their expertise and skills with each other. Aside from Folk U, Manda is also a marvelous writer and a fiercely dedicated mom with two beautiful daughters. We felt as if we were long-lost sisters.
In collaboration with Folk University, I ran a Resonance Code workshop. Despite the fact that many people are gone from the island and people staying behind busy with the holiday season, eight people attended the workshop. Eight out of 800 is 1% of the island population. If we got that ratio in Seattle, we would have to rent a football stadium! Noba the Mayor, Regional Director of the island was in the workshop. She not only has the spirit of an Amazonian woman warrior but also the hands that built her own log house with woods found in the forest.
We had a blast in the workshop. We played with the Code through games, dance and some really tough discussions. We envisioned how human civilization is evolving to adapt to the new order of life birthing through the crisis of Climate Change. We shared a deep sense that a community like this might be a precious seed for the kind of future civilization that awaits on the other end of the chaos and disruption.
Two nights ago, Joe and I went out to the beach when the tide was low. The beach was covered with monster-size oysters clutching on red beach rocks. We shut our flashlights off and let the blanket of darkness engulf us. Up above us, stars were like Christmas trees, shimmering with a rainbow of colors, dancing in tunes composed by cosmic musicians. It felt as if the stars were throwing a huge party. We were spell-bound. We didn’t remember ever seeing so many colors in a star-lit night sky. Oddly, on this new land we just arrived twenty days ago, we felt as if we arrived home.