|Midwestern Dhamma Refuge
grounded in contemplative practice
for a peaceful, just, & sustainable society
It’s been some time since we’ve written to update you on life at Liberation Park, in our new(ish) home in Wisconsin. We’re enjoying a beautiful, mild, early summer here with myriad ever-changing wildflowers and grasses sprouting, and work moving along at a steady (if always slower than expected) pace. Tara the horse remains pregnant and content in her new home, with no foal to report on yet and her belly steadily expanding. She shuns the company of neighboring horses (typical in late pregnancy) for solitary meditations on her hilltop.
Many friends have been by to spend a few hours or a few days working on various projects (see a sampling of photos). Thanks to each of them, much clean up and organizing has been done at the land, and a few structures are in place including an outhouse with composting toilet, and two tent cabins on beautiful wood platforms. Please feel welcome to visit and inhabit them for work, retreat, or just to relax, in the coming months. Work weekends are scheduled as posted here. You are welcome at most other times as well. Please contact us beforehand.
Permits have been obtained for the first wood frame cabin, construction of which will begin soon, and for the animal shelter/barn (to be completed by winter).
We have great good news that we were able to purchase the remaining twenty five acres of the valley, bringing the total refuge acreage to seventy, and reuniting the entire valley for one use. The valley feels like a natural whole, with geographic features bounding the area and creating a protected and fairly serene environment.
Funds for building will be tighter now, but we felt the choice of privacy, quiet, and more natural area was important for the long term. We now carry a mortgage of $124,000. The terms must be renegotiated with the credit union every three years. We hope to refinance with personal loans, before the first term is up in order to avoid potentially increasing interest rates. We hope that for some Dhamma supporters with savings in long-term investments, we may be able to meet their current return and give them a sense of investing money responsibly, while ensuring ourselves a lower interest rate than is obtainable with conventional financing on non-homestead vacant land. If you or someone you know has an interest, please let us know.
With the help of professional botanist Beth Jarvis, as well as other knowledgeable friends, we’ve been assessing the ecological condition of the valley and formulating a plan to restore native plants and promote the health of the various ecosystem niches. We were thrilled to find that the native plant population is already varied, healthy, and contains representatives of some sensitive indicator species. The valley contains wetland, sedge meadow, oak savannah & woodland, shortgrass prairie, and sugar maple woodland - lots of variety in a small space! There are some invasive species including honeysuckle and multiflora roses but they are controllable. Our neighbor will continue to graze his cattle here this year, and beginning next year we will begin scheduling burns and interseeding of additional native grass species.
Liberation Park continues to support the Chicagoland Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and encourages you to do so as well! We had a successful, encouraging, and enlightening weekend in March with David Loy who joined us from Cincinnati to speak to us, and with us, about a Dhammic analysis of social realities and potential strategies for addressing the many needs and difficulties of society today.
The Chicagoland Chapter is gaining momentum and experience as they support one another in their practices and social action endeavors. Please visit them at www.bpf.org/chicago and consider attending a meeting.
Dhamma activities are small but steady in our neck of the woods. The Kickapoo Sangha meets weekly for meditation, the Viroqua Sangha monthly for practice and introduction to meditation. The La Crosse Sangha has a devoted leader and facilitator who hosts weekly and bi-weekly meditation and study sessions. Please see the calendar and links pages for information on each of these Sanghas.
For Santikaro’s teaching schedule see the retreats page or the calendar. Please note the upcoming retreat at Cloud Mountain in July.
Friends Spirit Scott and Bret Lortie and their families have each relocated from Oak Park to Texas. We wish both families the very best in their new endeavors, though we are sad to know they are so far away and visits may be rare. Anicca strikes again ….
To everyone else, we send our best as well. May your study and practice progress brightly.
Santikaro & Jo Marie