The land West of the Appalachian Mountains North of the Ohio River was opened to pioneers and veterans with the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Ohio became a state in 1803 and Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio was founded in 1804. Athens has historically been a town that is supported by agriculture, coal mining, millers, lumbermen, brick makers, salt boilers, iron makers and craftsmen and women producing much of its own goods and services. The University has grown to become a large contributor of knowledge, employment, and economic stimulation with the growing student population. It has always been a government of friends and neighbors.
I came here as a student four years ago, in the winter of 2009, with the goal of learning history and the environment. My first year in Athens, I worked with a local attorney and was paid to interact with the municipal and county court house every day. I studied at Ohio University and among the businesses and environmental organizations during my years as a student. I helped to create two U.S. Congressional campaigns and a winning Supreme Court of Ohio campaign as well. During this time I learned that politics represents the Republic while the process and engagement of democracy and the freedom of choice and security is actualized within communities. The goal of all of these campaigns was to elect people without the need of raising money from corporations and organizations. It is essential that the Republic can represent the people and not industries that prioritize profits over health, the environment and future generations. I decided to move back to Athens, Ohio after traveling the state for the 2012 election to integrate further into the community. My goal is to learn more about what sustains this small resilient town and how I may break free from the influences that hurt the progress of my evolution, enlightenment and economic success.
I am a guest that wants to be of service and honor this community. I moved into a rental home four miles outside of town with two lovely ladies that I call my sisters. Both have been raised in industrial towns where coal mining is prevalent, one has always lived in Athens, Ohio. Our rental home also known as a lodge has a private lake that we have named with the joy of laughter The Victorious Vagina Lake due to the V shape. The lake was created by coal mining that was done in the 1950s-60s and the home is located at the center of the two portions. Soil was taken from a farm down the road, which has been cultivated by a family for over a hundred years, to restore the ecology of the area. We are there to appreciate, observe and expand the healing.
We learned of the history of this place as we walked down Pleasant Hill Road meeting our neighbors during the first heat wave of spring. Our neighbors train sheep dogs and horses, cultivate corn and hay, sell beef, sheep, along with compost. We are the stewards of the land that observe the robins, blue jays, blue birds, cardinals, chickadees, crows, nuthatches, finches, woodpeckers, vultures, hawks, bats, geese, doves, mockingbirds, an owl, a blue heron, etc. We understand the peepers embody the health of an ecosystem. I have counted 38 fish after a short meditation on a ledge of shale rock and have seen a turtle poking above the water as it swam by. Before the blossoms of spring we can appreciate the oak, maple, ash, buckeye, alder, pine, peach, apple and cherry trees that grace us with their generosity. The bees buzz around pollinating to our delight.
The lodge has two levels and the bottom level is rented by a Saudi-Arabian man that sings the Koran and love songs late into the evening. The home was rented by all of us fully furnished and there is a room locked with extra storage for more things along with a two car garage that holds more stuff that the owners will not use nor give away. There are five bedrooms, three and half bathrooms and six porches. The people that rent this house to us have another home along the eastern coast where they live in their retirement throughout the year. This is a place that symbolizes the consumer nation that we have become during the baby boomers’ generation. We use energy that we has been extracted and transformed without thinking of the chaos, confusion, and waste that is created due to our material desires. Its artful use of space and historic objects is appealing but it is the abundance of beauty found in the forest and lake that is inspiring. It is a place that is meant to be shared with others who wonder about what we truly need to enjoy life while contributing to our communities.
I found this lodge advertised on craigslist.org, a non-profit community organizing webpage. The home is owned by a couple who are psychologists. The man created the Tri-County Mental Health services in 1973 in southeast Ohio. The study of psychology has always interested me. The Athens Lunatic Asylum was created and opened its doors on January 1, 1874. It was the first institution for the mentally ill in the state of Ohio. This was before the science of psychology was introduced by Sigmund Freud and was expanded by Carl Jung in the twentieth century. The Asylum would eventually be called The Ridges due to the location in the Appalachian foothills in Athens. The institution had its own water source, gardens to feed the staff and patients, health care, funding and cemetery. I have always enjoyed the aspect of Athens that supports mental health and holistic healing.
I was attracted to working with Athens’ Own because of the holistic management that is taught by Constantine. Constantine, owner and manager of Athens’ Own, reminds me of the vulture. He lives at the Broadwell Hill Learning Center, www.broadwellhill.org, which is a home that has actualized symbiosis between nature and humans. He is the balance to the consumer lifestyles that have been taught by the baby boomer generation. The vultures that soar above Athens, glide on heat waves in the atmosphere and do not expend more energy than is necessary to fly. They clean the earth of disease by only taking what is offered. They are aligned with the cycles of the seasons and recycling nature of life and death. We humans help expand the population of vultures thus they can always be seen along the roadways. After meeting Constantine I could look at this home that I was living in with a different perspective. This home was built with passive solar, it has the ability to be sustainable due to having its own water source and land for gardening which is now being used as a field. It has a wood burning stove in the forest and only a forty gallon water heater for the house. Constantine teaches people to be reflecting on all aspects of their lives so that they may see the solutions rather than concentrating on the deficiency.