Land Elders

Charlie Toledo by newly built straw bale shed on Suskol House land.

Land Elders

On June 23, 2012, we will have two speakers at Harms Vineyards and Lavender Fields Open House: Charlie Toledo, Executive Director of the Suscol Intertribal Council, and Clare C. Marcus, Professor Emerita of Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley.

At 11 am, Charlie Toledo, of Towa descent, will be speaking on “First People’s Sustainable Ways”. We were honored to have her with us last year as she spoke of “First People’s Agriculture”. The Napa Valley “was a cultivated wilderness, though the Europeans couldn’t see the cultivation,” Charlie said in a three part harmsfarmlog interview last spring. “Now, the Department of Fish and Game and other groups are finally acknowledging that the area was indeed cultivated… and now they’re scrambling to learn from Native American elders because of intense problems with erosion, wildfires, wildlife habitat, and more which these groups are now facing in Napa Valley area.”

I visited the land which the Suscol Intertribal Council recently acquired. The land is a spiritual center for Native American peoples in the Pope Valley, also serving as a bridge to heal the relationship of native peoples with peoples now living in the area. This talk is a benefit for the building of Suskol House. ($10 donation)

The property is beautiful, serene and quiet, yet also with a strong voice. It is not a place for crowds, but for contemplation and prayer. Being with Charlie on the site reminds me of being with Lakota medicine woman Pansy Hawkwing during the years I benefited from her teachings. There is that atunement to the energies of the trees, the paths, the slope of the mountain, the flow of rainwater. “Native relationship to trees and animals were sibling relationships,” Charlie says. “They were perceived as part of the same family. It is often perceived that the native people pray to the moon or to fire. It’s not like that; they pray with the moon and fire.”

Within 25 years of European contact, 98% of the indigenous population was killed, and with them, knowledge of tending the balance of man and nature. Western Europeans are much more into domination of nature. Yet in meeting with individuals such as Charlie or Pansy Hawkwing, the attitude toward the natural world and our part in it still lives. Perhaps if we can learn this less dominating way, we can incorporate what knowledge is still present about balance, learning from a more receptive attitude.

Clare Cooper Marcus

At 2 pm, Clare Marcus Cooper will read from her recent memoir, Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place. Clare embodies a western European version of this receptive attitude toward the natural world and to the psyche. She taught in the Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and has written about the impact of the natural and manmade environments on the human psyche. She is author of the bestselling book House as Mirror of Self and co-author of Healing Gardens.

I wrote about the rich read of Iona Dreaming in a blog of November 17, 2011. Clare’s poetic account of her time on Iona, an island off the Scottish coast, was instructive in attunement to the landscapes of the environment and the psyche, at once. Through remembrances of her childhood in wartime England, to her life in Berkeley in the ’60’s, into retirement and then life threatening illness and the Jungian analysis that, in partnership with the landscape of Iona, served to heal, Clare shows us the power of consciousness of spirit of place. Through attending to numerous synchronicities, she is lead to where she needs to be.

… if a place, a culture, an island keeps recurring in your dreams, appears unbidden in pensive moments, you can be sure it has something to tell you that you need to hear. Heeding the call, your life is changed. (p. 368)

We hope you can attend these presentations by these two remarkable elders. We will also be doing Biodynamic tours of our ranch for those of you interested in our own ways of learning to listen to the earth. (Our beginning recorded in Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation.)

Harms Vineyards Open House, June 23, from 10 am to 4 pm. Free Biodynamic Tours at 10 am, 12:30, and 3 pm. Directions: 3185 Dry Creek Road, Napa, CA 94558. For more details: