Heartwood 25th Anniversary: Seeking “to create a chain reaction of a change of hearts”

Andy Mahler and Paul Nord, circling a mother tree in one of the two old growth forests that remain in In-Diana. (Photo: Herald-Times.)

Paoli residents Andy Mahler and Paul Nord, encircle a walnut tree in the Pioneer Mothers Old Memorial Forest, one of two old growth forests that remain in the state of In-Diana. (Photo: Katie Hicks for the Herald-Times, 2010.)



Just prior to my trip to Seattle and sister Mary’s funeral, I received an email message from local forest activist Andy Mahler that decidedly intrigued me. Here it is:

A Change Of Heart —> A Chain of Hearts

We are asking people to come to this event open to the idea that it may be possible to create a chain reaction that leads to a new reality, even though none of us can fully envision quite what that means or what it will look like.

This is not however an exercise in pure abstraction. We will be grounding our efforts in the ongoing efforts of activists in the Heartwood network and focusing as well on Heartwood’s traditional goal of stopping destructive activity in our public forests and other wild places.

As you know , when we started Heartwood 25 years ago with just a handful of dedicated activists, we set an ambitious and completely unrealistic goal of stopping all logging in the national forests of the central hardwood region. Yet in less than ten years,

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through an alignment of a chain of hearts, we had accomplished that goal. To the extent that we were able to build on that initial alignment, we were able to extend that success to other efforts beyond our initial objective.

But what if, when we started Heartwood 25 years ago,


we set our sights too low?

Individually and collectively, we find ourselves at a place now where we must try something different— to trust the possibility, however ambitious and unrealistic, of a positive place for us as a species on a healthy, diverse planet. We don’t have to know how we get there

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(at least not yet), we just have to trust the possibility that we can.

Come join us for Heartwood’s 20th Reunion as we examine these lofty goals within a circle of friends and align ourselves with the many ongoing efforts of those who will be in attendance; as we imagine a humane, transformative, and healing apocalypse, a chain reaction sparked by a chain of hearts.

We will be aligning ourselves and our hearts with individuals and efforts such as Bo Webb and the ACHE Act for Appalachia; Denise Boggs and the fierce and principled defense of western forests; Michael Kellet’s bold and ambitious 100th anniversary new national parks proposal; Carl Ross’s dedication to achieving forest protection through legislative action; Mary Ann Hitt’s work to close dirty power plants and replace them with clean and renewable sources of energy; Michael Fitzpatrick’s quest to change hearts through music; Jamie Petty’s visionary work to use the versatile hemp plant to expand agricultural horizons in Indiana; and so many more.

What if all of these efforts were aligned in their intentions and coordinated in their communications and connectivity?

A Change Of Heart —> A Chain of Hearts

Come to the Lazy Black Bear and let’s find out together.


I spent all day yesterday at the Lazy Black Bear near Paoli, Indiana, about an hour south of here, attending the first full day of Heartwood’s 25th Annual Reunion —

IMG_2540— called in my heart to join the chain of hearts. The above invitation from Andy is not the usual way forest activists, or environmental activists of any stripe, talk. But this year, it feels utterly necessary to recognize the deep inner pathological condition of humanity that allows, even encourages, people and the organizations they create, including corporations, to utterly ravage both each other and their home planet.

Despite our dire planetary predicament, needless to say, we had a good time. Below are some photos that I took during a short break between sessions in the morning circle where we deepened our responsiveness to the massive decimation of all that we hold dear. That we are grieving does not even begin to touch it. That we feel love in our hearts, and joy to be together, doesn’t either. Yet both together, do.

First, the utter awfulness of our core issue, as Steve proclaimed, with passionate intensity:

“the distinction each of us makes

between ‘ME’


And Second: our recognition that this distinction is culturally and linguistically constructed illusion. And that this dark glass can be not only noticed and seen through, but shatter, burst into sunlight, leaving us free — to breathe, to BE.

Thus the delight in our recognition that we can still laugh, indeed, that we can roar both our anguish and our hilarity into the ever widening circle, this ever expanding chain of hearts; that we can sing our way through the deepest of individual and collective traumas, remembering that underneath, way down deep inside, we are soul, we are whole, and we and at one with all that is.

As we change,

as our chain reaction spreads,

so will the world heal.



Here’s where we sat, and where we would sit again, not breaking for lunch until 1 p.m. (Main house in background.)

IMG_2521Another view of the circle:

IMG_2536Closer view of the porch of the main house, which has been added on to many times in the 45 years first Linda, and then Andy who joined her soon after, have lived on this beautiful land near Paoli and surrounded by national forests.

IMG_2537Tall-ceiling dining pavilion attached to north end of main house. (Funky cabins and Airstream trailers hunker on the grounds.)

IMG_2531The barn for big meetings and classes — including the now legendary two-week Permaculture Design Classes that took place here, for years, in early summer.


Last night, before we came home, we attended the Heartwood Annual Live Auction, in the barn, another hilarious event. At one point, Andy’s elderly mom walked out to model a gorgeous wool cape, saying it was up for auction. Andy, one of the two auctioneers, bid it up incrementally to $100 — but then she announced she’d up to the bid to $500, at which point he sold it to her. (Those in the know knew that it was hers to begin with, and that she sure didn’t want to take it off, it was so chilly.)

We laughed our way through at least two hours of the live auction. Silent auction stuff there too, and lots of free stuff as well. Later that evening a band would arrive, dance music for those staying before they retired to their tends and cabins and — in podmate Rebecca’s case, a hammock — only to rise on this Sunday morning to create the change of hearts chain reaction . . .

The Band Stand . . .


There’s constant whimsy placed around the Lazy Black Bear site over the years. These two grace the dining area:


That’s “Miss Mountain Top Removal,” in case you can’t read the last word. And yes, that has been one of the Heartwood causes, to stop this godawful practice. Heartland’s network includes people and organizations devoted many kinds of activism, most of it forest-based, in the Ohio Valley region.

Note the coiled snake in one of the fake cakes, below.

IMG_2539The two meals I participated in were, by the way, both extraordinarily plentiful, diverse and delicious, including fresh natural pork and organic beet salad.

Here’s the side by side composting toilets, the first for poop, the other for pee.

IMG_2532And the solar-powered showers.

IMG_2533And my favorite, a sweet little horse.



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