Spirit in Nature will honor Rodney Olsen

Spirit in Nature is a local non-profit organization whose major work is to maintain and improve the paths in the woods off Goshen Road in Ripton. The Spirit in Nature (SpIN) Paths are used by many locals and, from notes in the guest book at the entrance kiosk, enjoyed by international visitors as well.
Spirit in Nature’s Annual Meeting, open to the public, will take place on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 4 p.m., in Ilsley Library’s Community Room. Following a short official meeting, the time will be devoted to presenting the Eco Spirit Award, given annually “to persons whose lives are illuminated by their appreciation of the beauty, mystery, and preciousness of the natural world. They are dynamic role models who engage us in debate, and urge us to explore the implications of our behavior during our present global environmental crisis. They lead us to a path of hope for the future of all life and nature on earth.”
SpIN is pleased to recognize Vergennes resident Rodney Olsen for the 2018 Eco Spirit Awardee for his passion for connecting youth with nature through the applied science of bird banding. His work has influenced many students to pursue ornithology or other field sciences in conservation.
Spirit in Nature was created on a beautiful piece of wooded land crossed by three waterways and owned by Middlebury College by a group of citizens inspired to take some kind of meaningful action following the visit of the Dalai Lama to Middlebury College in 1990. On that occasion, His Holiness provided the keynote address for a conference entitled ‘Spirit and Nature,’ which featured among the speakers, a rabbi, a protestant theologian, a Native American elder and a scholar of Islam. Special music was provided by the Paul Winter Consort, known playing music along with recordings of sounds from nature — whale songs, howling wolves and the song of the canyon wren.
The conference called for a new look at human morality, specifically in relation to how the human species treats the earth and nature. The Dalai Lama told the assembled, “If you have genuine compassion, you develop respect for each other and all species in the world.” The conference developed the idea that the various religions all had moral contributions to make to our species’ relationship to nature.
Following the conference, a group of local citizens began meeting to discuss how to use this inspiration to take some kind of meaningful action. The group was spearheaded by Unitarian Universalist minister Paul Bortz and opened in 1997. Spirit in Nature pays a nominal license fee to Middlebury College to use this 75 acres for the SpIN paths.
The SpIN Paths are on both sides of Goshen Road, less than half a mile off Highway 125. The parking lot is plowed in the winter. The brochure at the kiosk has a map that also appears at each trail junction so walkers always know where they are. There are thirteen paths developed by representatives from various faiths: Buddhist, Christian, Friends, Unitarian Universalist, pagan, Druid, Jewish, Islamic, Baha’i, Hindu, a Children’s Path and an Interfaith/Peace Path. Weatherproof signs with inspirational quotations are mounted in a tree-sensitive manner along the paths.
The site also offers a ‘Sacred Circle,’ an area straight in from the parking lot where there is a natural open circle in the forest canopy. The SPiN trustees maintain a picnic table and benches around a fire circle. There is also a labyrinth off the path to the Sacred Circle. The public is invited to walk, meet, contemplate, connect with nature and celebrate. Weddings have taken place in the Sacred Circle as well as other ritual observances. Middlebury College and high school classes have also used the site.
Spirit in Nature can be visited at spiritinnature.org.

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