As chance would have it this year’s Hogskin History Day falls on the 20th anniversary of Narrow Ridge’s charter as a non-profit organization. Truth be told, it is the anniversary of Narrow Ridge’s second attempt at establishing itself as a community based organization. Narrow Ridge had an earlier charter dating back to 1972. As a newcomer to the organization, I have been inspired by Narrow Ridge’s story of perseverance. It is a reminder to me to hang in there when things don’t go as planned.
Forty years ago, Narrow Ridge founder, Bill Nickle, began searching for a home for his vision of providing a place of retreat and restoration for folks who were weary from the stressors of modern life. With insufficient funding to move forward, the vision of Narrow Ridge was set aside until the early 1990’s when Bill made the acquaintance of MacGregor Smith. With Mac’s support, Narrow Ridge made a fresh start with a new way of thinking called Earth Literacy.
With generous land donations from park ranger, Mike Wilburn, cash donations from philanthropist, Valeria Violate, and community member investments, Narrow Ridge has grown from 40 acres to over 500 acres of land under its protection. It has five eco-constructed lodges and structures, three community land preserves, an organic garden and orchard, and ongoing community events. All along the way, Narrow Ridge has been fueled and steered by a volunteer workforce. We have been learners more than teachers. And we have been blessed with good neighbors.
So what is Earth Literacy? While Earth Literacy represents a new way of thinking to most of us in the 21st century, it is actually very old. Many native people of the North American continent were Earth literate in that they understood Earth not from books, lectures or academic conversations. They understood Earth through paying attention to what Earth could teach them. They understood themselves to be a part of nature and learned that through seeking a balanced relationship with the rest of the natural world, Earth would provide for their needs. The modern or “civilized” world we live in today has moved very far away from the understanding of our relationship with the rest of nature. While there is plenty of information about the interdependence of species and life systems, we continue to feel separate from nature. This separation has led us to behave in ways that are unhealthy for us and for the rest of the planet.
At Narrow Ridge we seek to offer opportunities to reconnect with nature. It is amazing how a few days of slowing down, breathing fresh air, listening to birdsong or gazing at the stars (in other words, paying attention) can refresh the soul and help us to better understand our relationship with the rest of the natural world. This year we have provided such Earth Literacy opportunities for members of the United Methodist Church, Carson-Newman College, Miami Dade College, University of Tennessee gardening volunteers, our Vision Fast participants and several individuals and families who have stayed in our eco-lodges. If you are interested in learning more about Earth Literacy and what Narrow Ridge is (and what it is not) give us a call, make a visit or come by our information booth at Hogskin History Day.
– Mitzi Wood-Von Mizener, August 2011