Letter to the editor: College gives Spirit in Nature new life

Some good news came from Middlebury College last week. The administration made a decision that affects those of us who are comforted, refreshed, sometimes awed and inspired by a walk in a forest or a rest beside a woodland brook, away from traffic noise, or cell phone interruption — and that may be most of us.

For several years, the college has been negotiating a “land swap” with the Forest Service (USFS) in order to better conserve some college-owned land that borders USFS-managed land. Included in the transfer proposal was college land that has been open to the public for decades, featuring a network of walking paths laid out by representatives of traditional faith groups, a Sacred Circle gathering place, and a Labyrinth, all maintained by a local nonprofit, Spirit in Nature (SpIN).

While the USFS offered to support SpIN as a licensee operating on public land if a transfer took place, church-and-state issues were bound to be problematic for the USFS to accommodate SpIN and its mission that relies on signage that identifies its paths as “Muslim,” “Jewish,” “Pagan,” etc. The purpose for representing the different religious traditions is not to distinguish what makes us different, but rather what unites us … that each religion believes in protecting and caring for the Earth as can be seen on written reflections on the paths.

In last week’s decision to withdraw the SpIN land from the exchange with the USFS, the College affirmed the value of Spirit in Nature as a resource for its students, our community, and visitors from outside our area. Readers not yet familiar with SpIN, are invited to visit spiritinnature.org online, and make plans to spend time walking the quiet paths in Ripton. Those of us who have come to rely on the opportunity SpIN offers to find peace and meaning in nature are grateful to the college administration for its continuing support of this unique sanctuary on college land.

Bobbie Carnwath



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