by: Drew Duckworth
Over a thousand miles of southbound driving I stumbled out of the van with tight legs and was immediately welcomed to Cuyama Valley Canyon, home of Quail Springs. The warm sun and cloudless sky was a gracious welcome committee in itself, and were not the only ones anticipating the arrival of our Anake class. At the gate was where we exited the vans, but our journey was not yet complete. The final half-mile would be on foot, to truly land in this polar opposite environment from our soggy, foggy homeland of the Pacific Northwest.
As I strolled along, my senses soon caught up with me and assisted in bringing me present. The aroma of Big Sagebrush, taste of California Juniper berries, calls of Red-Winged Blackbirds, glimpses of Desert Cottontail tracks in the sand all swirled around me as the hot sun on my back urged me forward. As I came out of an arroyo, I caught the first sign of the inhabitants of Quail Springs; the cob buildings at the base of the mountain, the large yurt that housed the kitchen and community area, the vegetable garden and food forest, the goats returning from a wander up canyon, and of course the circle of residents that anxiously awaited to greet us at their home.
After the circle of introductions between this years Anake class and Quail Springs residents that continued the history of the gathering between these two sister communities, we were guided on a tour of what would be our home for the next week. Brenton, the land manager, then took us on a farm tour.
Even more impressive than the Permaculture oasis that has been created at Quail Springs was Brenton’s relationship with the land. His love for the land he tends was moving to witness. Along with his abundance of knowledge on how the landscape worked, it was evident that he was not working on the land or with the land, but, rather, for the land. It is this deep relationship with the environment that he has developed over time that is inspirational to me. This inspiration continued to grow inside of me the longer I stayed at the farm.
Warren Brush, the founder of Quail Springs joined us to share stories near the end of our stay. A magnificent storyteller and true elder, I found myself intrigued from his first word. As only few storytellers can do, Warren managed to touch on themes that I experienced as being so personal to my life, creating hope and encouragement to carry my one unique gift forward for the benefit of my human communities as well as the natural world. Leaving Quail Springs was difficult after forging meaningful relationships with the land and the people involved in tending it, yet I was grateful for the clarity and strength I was heading home with.
Over the thousand mile return journey North I had ample time to reflect on the visit to Quail Springs. The clarity I felt was powerful and I realized that in order for my vision to unfold in the world I must transition from the inspiration of the Southeast shield of the medicine wheel to the task oriented South. By acting on the inspiration I felt I will be able to bring my gift out, otherwise it will only become just another dream concocted in California.