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Notes from the Field: Keeping the Fire Burning

By Terri Hall

A few springs ago, one of my friend’s daughters spent the night alone in the woods as part of a Wild Earth youth program aimed at building character, confidence, and self-reliance. Heather had been well-prepared by Wild Earth over the months prior to this wilderness-based rite of passage, learning practical skills like shelter-building, wildlife tracking, and problem solving. Being a city girl myself, I was in awe of my young friend’s badassery. I felt like I needed some Wild Earth training, but knew that I would not be sleeping alone in the woods…ever… if I could help it.

Thankfully, I’ve had the privilege to participate in Wild Earth offerings via the Good Work Fellowship. We’ve been fortunate to have Wild Earth staff participate in the Fellowship, both as Fellows and as facilitators. A question asked by facilitator Esperanza at one of our Fellowship sessions has been returning to me as the GWI team continues to do the work of conscientiously transitioning to a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit. 

It was a sunny winter day. Fellows from the 5th cohort of the Good Work Fellowship gathered in Accord, and under the guidance of Esperanza and her colleague, Jonathan, we were taught how to make a long match in order to transport fire across a distance. We crafted a nest out of cat tail and milkweed to hold coals taken from a central fire. Carefully blowing on the coals to keep them lit, we carried them on fallen birch bark to the wooden pyramids we had built, ignited the dry materials within, and started smaller fires of our own. As we worked in small teams from the creation of our long matches to the maintaining of our fires (Wild Earth made sure they all were extinguished!), Esperanza asked us questions: “What do you need to ignite your inner fire for your Good Work? What do you need to keep your fire burning?”

As our team continues to lay and build upon the organizational foundation needed in order for GWI  to be able to play a vital and sustainable role in fostering the Just Transition in the Hudson Valley, much of our time is spent in meetings and conversations with each other. It’s satisfying to look back and see how much we’ve gotten done over the past several months AND it can feel like there are miles to go. I need to tend to my fire, so I’ve asked myself those questions posed by Esperanza.

My answer: I need to look up from the computer screen and get up from the conference table. I need to mix it up with the awesome people in this community who are committed to Good Work. What keeps my fire burning is meeting with HV3 Fellow Hugo Jule for a walk in New Paltz; hugging and hearing the latest from  HV4 Fellows Angel Gates and HV3 Fellow Jesse Brown at Hudsy’s The Commons in Rosendale, exploring HV6 Fellow Susan Sie’s inspiring vegetable garden in Rhinecliff; meeting HV4 Fellow Lisa Hall in-person for the first time at her Cold Spring business; hearing the passion of people new to GWI as we discuss the place of love in movement building at a Good Work Book Club.

Planning my weeks to include heads down/sit down work and heads up/what’s happening with you…and you…and you work, is what keeps my fire burning.

Articles and personal reflections from the GWI team as they navigate their lives and their shared work.

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