Welcome to our School of Living electronic newsletter where you can catch up on what is happening in our land trust communities and SOL committee work.


Thank you to Oberon Farm at Heathcote Community for our banner picture this month. It comes to us with springtime news! The Oberon Facebook page is officially live! They are, also, sharing great offers and information about their CSA. Click here to learn more!


We hope to hear your voices joining in our membership and quarterly board meetings this April 17-18th. Below is the schedule. The official announcement with ZOOM call information and resources have been sent to members via email. Email hlevasseur@schoolofliving if you have any questions.

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We are asking for members to submit nominations for Trustees to the Board, as the annual elections will be held digitally during the Membership Meeting on April 17th. If you would like to submit a nomination, please email

If you plan on attending the board meeting portion of the weekend, feel free to email for the board packet which includes agendas, reports, and supporting documents. These will be sent automatically to board members when it is complete.

If you have new business for the membership meeting that you would like to see discussed, please email the topic to

Members must be up to date with their membership dues in order to have a vote at the meeting. Please email if you would like confirmation or more information about your individual membership.



April 7, 2021 - 7 to 8:30 p.m. EST


Photo credit: Melissa D'Ortenzio

We are so happy to have April Coburn of Nettlejuice Herbals share her knowledge with School of Living. She will be helping us to recognize, connect with, and use the springtime plants that emerge in our yards and at our doorsteps. April has been working with plant medicine for over 20 years and crafting sustainable, quality plant medicine for her community for over 10 years. She grows many of the plants in her Southeast PA gardens at Nettlejuice Hollow, a part of the United Plant Savers botanical sanctuary network. April is also an educator and teaches classes in beginning and advanced herbal medicine making. You can support April’s work through Patreon.


By Kelle Kersten


Image courtesy of Kelle Kersten

One of my highlights of 2020 was participating in the first Pennsylvania Master Naturalist (PMN) training in Centre County/Huntingdon County. From mid August to the end of October, nine other trainees and I attended weekly lecture classes on topics including geology, ecology, forests, wetlands and watersheds, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, insects, urban ecology, citizen science, ecological restoration, and nature interpretation. In addition, on three Saturdays we met for field trips to see firsthand some of the things that were discussed in the lectures. Clear Water Conservancy coordinated the training, and Clear Water Conservancy staff, professors from Penn State University and Juanita College, and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center staff provided the instruction. Each trainee had to do a “capstone” project and present it to the rest of the class. The project consisted of a plan for a service project related to education, stewardship, citizen science, and/or supporting an organization’s program. I developed a plan for a nature mentoring program for kids.

Although we completed the core training, we will not receive our certification as Master Naturalists until we have completed 8 hours of advanced training and 30 hours of volunteer service. We have about a year to meet these requirements. Every year thereafter, we have to do 12 hours of advanced training and 20 hours of service to maintain our status as Master Naturalists. Many different educational opportunities qualify as advanced training. I have already completed my 8 hours by taking a variety of on-line webinars on a wide range of naturalist topics. The service requirement gives Master Naturalists an opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in their local communities, in order to increase the public’s knowledge of ecology and their involvement in managing local natural areas. Service options include developing and presenting nature interpretation programs, helping with riparian buffer restoration, monitoring water quality of streams, participating in citizen science projects such as iNaturualist and so on.

Most states have Master Naturalist programs. The first Master Naturalist program was started in 1995 in Fort Collins, CO, and the first state-wide Master Naturalist program began in Texas in 1998. Texas has the largest program in the country now, which is often used as the model for other state programs, including PA. The Master Naturalist programs are modeled after the Master Gardener program, with the training and service requirements. PMN was formed as a non-profit organization in 2007 and was piloted in 2010 and 2011, with one training per year in Philadelphia in partnership with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (Fairmont Park). In 2012 PMN moved forward with a facilitator program model that involves Coordinating Partnerships (CP), where CPs plan, coordinate and host local 55-hour volunteer training courses under the guidance and administration of PMN. Trainings have taken place in 12 counties (in rural areas trainings have been open to surrounding counties) and the program plans to initiate trainings in more counties in the future. The training curriculum will be different for each of the four ecoregions that make up the state. Registration is now open for PMN’s fall 2021 trainings. You can go to for more information about PMN and these trainings. If you do not live in Pennsylvania, see to find out about programs in your state. These programs are a fun way to learn about nature in your area and to meet people that are involved in efforts to care for local natural areas.


by Mick Vogt


Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Oncoming Spring, 1954

Oncoming Spring and all of that. “The hounds of spring on winter's traces”, and now the call to greet it.

Keats spoke of a “greeting spirit”, but is there such a thing? Quantum scientists and mystics now speak of the fallacy of the observer and the observed. That falls into line with the sense of a non dual universe, a place where the mind's infatuation with opposites has nothing of value to say.

The observer is the content of consciousness, an idea of an observer only, and it is not consciousness itself, for the latter does not need content to be. It reveals itself as an awareness, albeit a mysterious and inexplicable one belonging totally to the unknown, and Rumi would comment “but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice? Who says words with my mouth?”

Enter the the numen, the numinous spirit, a divine and mysterious presence that animates us, that gives us a pathway through a world only appearing to be material. Kabir called that presence “the guest”, and he was bereft when he could not feel its proximity.

Keats again: “With a great poet the sense of beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration”. The apprehension of beauty, when fully met by the heart and the spirit, leaves no room for the observer, and something is stirred and shaken within where thought cannot reach. In its greatest reach we are mythically apprehended, and given over to something greater than we imagine ourselves to be. That is a sublime place, but one that cannot exist within the commentary of the self. It cannot be reduced to an experience.

So spring is sort of like that, an unfreezing of the world, and an opportunity to be totally stilled within by seeing it, having an eternal moment with it that does not permit time or duality. We are able to see the depths in things by first finding the depths within ourselves, and this again is beyond the reach of thought. A new spring, a new opportunity. Enjoy.



School of Living President, Will Pierson, and Board Member, Karen Stupski, at a March Visitor Day at Heathcote Community. Image courtesy of Karen Stupski.

School of Living is always eager for input and participation from members. Submitting content to the newsletter, joining committees, and attending events are all fantastic ways to contribute. These opportunities are available to all members.

Additionally, if you're interested in contributing to School of Living in a decision-making capacity, you may want to consider running as a candidate in the upcoming board elections. The board members are responsible for making decisions through consensus and guiding the overall direction of the organization. There is one open seat available. The elections will be held at the April board meeting. This is a great opportunity to contribute to the organization and all of its members. If you are interested, please contact the Membership & Elections Committee at


The educational committee has proposed the development of a virtual multi-session educational event about the SOL CLT model that is comprehensive, interactive, and has an interest in outcomes. Our land committee has agreed that the workshop would be beneficial to SOL in terms of sharing our model as well as building resilience in our own organization. The audience would be primarily those who want to start their own CLT’s but would also serve those who want to put their land into an existing CLT. Perhaps this could be relevant to lawyers who wish to expand their knowledge and might, in the future, serve our own communities. It is expected that development of this curriculum would take about a year.

We need team members that will be hands on with this project. Activities may include project management, curriculum development, establishing partnerships, and promotion. You do not have to be a committee member. If you have an interest in participating or are looking for more information; please, send an email to If you are not an SOL member but are interested; send an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Michaelann (on behalf of the Education Committee)


The School of Living recognizes the value of people trained to help mitigate when disagreements or injuries occur in community, or between individuals anywhere. We know training opportunities that will help members of SoL and our communities become valuable participants in reconciling and restoring a sense of common purpose. These skills take many related forms, and specialize in different forms, sometimes being known as conflict resolution, non-violent communication, restorative justice, crisis management, among others. One opportunity is scheduled by the FIC when well known community elder Laird Schaub presents his "Working Constructively with Conflict in Community" starting April 22, 2021. The Education Committee seeks a candidate willing to commit to helping communities work through conflict if and when the need arises. This requires not only taking this course, it means practicing and staying fresh with the techniques and philosophies Laird will present. The Education Committee offers a full scholarship to this on-line seminar to a member in exchange for a 3 year commitment to develop the skills and offer assistance and guidance if requested. Please nominate yourself, or another by responding to the Education Committee ( before April 15th.



My father was Melvin Norris Leasure. He was president of the School of Living for many years before I took that position when he stepped down. He was in the habit of collecting interesting quotes, which he copied onto 3x5 cards and kept for future reference. He spent a lot of time near the end of his life going through his papers and throwing out stuff. One of the things he kept was the file of quotes which he left for me. They are things he ran across he found interesting mostly, not things he thought of.
Rita Jane Kiefert


Practical Spirituality - Marshal Rosenberg

A Spirtuality of Resistance - Roger S. Gottlieb

The Powers That Be - Walter Wink

Open and Closed Mind - Milton Rokeach


"An enemy is an economical way to form an identity." Karen Horney -- but not cheap, with its costs amortized in collective tragedy.

Editor note: While the quote is from Karen Horney; it appears that the conclusion comes from an article by Marc Ian Barasch


"ikigai" Japanese: "sense of purpose"

- awaken: what is your (my) sense of purpose for the day? How does it fit in your (my) sense of purpose for your (my) life? How am I going to better the world in some way today?" (Meditation? -

Dr. Sanjay Gupta (Life Extension/Aug, '07)


Stellar Roots

Stellar Roots is a collective of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people rooted in healing and in service of land based community living. They have been operating as a partner of the School of Living Land Trust since 2018 and are working and living on the Itsodi land, a School of Living land trust property. Learn how you can support this project. Note that Stellar Roots is not a non-profit organization and your donation will not be tax deductible.

Empower Project

While Empower Project is on a break, you can go to their GoFundMe page for an update on their accomplishments and their plans. And of course you can continue to give them support towards their mission to empower communities towards self-liberation through food sovereignty and education while emphasizing environmental stewardship.


  • Working Constructively with Conflict in Community - 5 week online course starting April 22, 2021 hosted by FIC and instructed by Laird Schaub. Please, see post above. A scholarship for this course is being offered.

  • Weekly on Tuesday evenings from 2/16-4/13 at 7pm, NOFA/Mass will be hosting a garden-related online event with live presentations and Q&A period. Each event will focus on specific areas of gardening knowledge. Sessions are free and will be recorded and available on our the Nofa/Mass youtube channel the following week.

    Register online to receive the Zoom meeting information.

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