Off the Beaten Path

Kelsey Hobbs, volunteer staff at Earthdance, interviews current Earthdance staff and community about how they engage with the Earthdance forests.

Exerpts from an interview with Kalyan Uprichard, outgoing Buildings and Grounds Manager at Earthdance 
(Summer, 2013)

(Full interview available on audio here!)

Kelsey: "What is your current relationship with Earthdance’s woods/forest?"

Kalyan: “. . . You know as the Buildings and Grounds manager, I consider it my job to at least maintain the trails and the general safety for the people underneath the trees, but also being someone who was raised in the woods, very much so, and a self-identified tree-climber, and just very much a lover of trees, managing them has been an evolution for me in my own life, you know before coming here, and in being here, both in loving and caring for the trees themselves, and also trying to take a bigger picture view on the whole forest, in terms of the health of the forest and what is best for that, and not just looking at individual trees . . . “

Kelsey: "Could you share a personal story that maybe captures how you currently relate to or have related in the past to these woods?"

Kalyan: “ . . . I have a long history in playing in wooded streams, and you know climbing trees near them, but also just playing in the water [. . .]. One little story was I went for a walk earlier this summer and found myself gravitating towards a particular spot along the stream, and I built a little bathtub, and, of course, got naked first, and was just playing in the water and moving rocks around and I was almost done and then I look up for a second, I’m in this little hollow, I look up and there’s eight little kids, standing 40 ft. away, and then, you know, more following them with four adults who were escorting them through the woods. At first I tried to hide, and then someone saw me, and I became a woodsy attraction for a few minutes, while I was having my bath in the stream.”

Kelsey: "I’m wondering if you would be willing to share whatever visions you have for how you, and/or the Earthdance community at large engages with these forests and . . . what they mean to you, why they’re so special."

Kalyan: “Well, for me it’s hard to put words to the unique quality of these woods that is both so very attractive and, you know, a reason I’m gravitated to them. . .It’s just an amazing piece of forest we have here [. . .]. So my recommendations moving forward is at least in the areas closest to buildings and the area we’re using immediately [. . .] is that we actually cultivate those hardwoods, and cultivate those trees that we want to be there, rather than just letting the woods be wild, because we can let the woods be wild, but it makes sense, if we’re going to manage anything, to manage what’s closest to us, and also in so doing that we’re improving the aesthetic and appearance of the grounds that the guests see, because anyone can walk into the woods and experience the unadulterated wild, as soon as they step off the path, but for people when they pull up, and they don’t necessarily walk into the woods . . . and to see the disheveledness of the woods, it’s just less attractive than it could be. It has the potential to be more beautiful and less maintenance, because the soft woods, as they’re dying out, they’re dropping lots of dead wood, and it requires a lot of maintenance to keep up with it, and so I’ve been recommending taking out many of the poplars and pines immediately adjacent to pathways and building as really a first step in beginning to actively manage the property.”

Excerpts from an interview with Diana Yourke, former volunteer support staff and artist-in-resident (Summer, 2013)

(Full interview available on audio here!)

Kelsey: "How do you typically, or currently, engage with these woods?"

Diana: “ . . . Well I was just about to say that . . . I haven’t explored the depth of the woods too significantly while I’ve been here, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I have felt really connected to the human community . . . and often I do feel this real need to escape and venture off by myself into the woods for answers about who I am, questions I have in life, questions I have about existence that I feel only the woods can answer, usually, but here, the human community has actually been a really incredible learning classroom, but the times that I have gone into the woods here, have been extremely powerful. One of the things that I’ve done a lot is when I have a phone conference with my spiritual therapist/advisor, who I’ve been working with and talking to for over a year, I usually go into the woods and find some spot to kind of nestle in, and that has been a dream of mine, ever since I was starting to work with her while I lived in Brooklyn, was to be able to have conferences with her while being in nature, instead in an apartment, and so when I finally got to do that here, it was very exciting [ . . . ]. I think I’ve released a lot in these woods, I’ve felt a lot of peace and safety and a lot also of fear, like in the darkness, feeling a lot of my own anxieties coming up, and that’s been intense too. “

Kelsey: "Do you have favorite places to go, or elements about these woods . . . ?"

Diana: “ Well, I think maybe kind of where we’re venturing to right now . . . since I lived in the dorm, I would go off in this area near the dorm . . .  and I like the really uneven, hilly, up and down kind of mounds that are through here. It’s really good for climbing, and the path is not really clear, so you’re kind of off the beaten path, you know. I like that, I like going off the path  . . . in life. Yeah, one of the first times that I was going on a little venture by myself . . . I was deep in the woods around here, and I started having all these ideas for a performance that I ended up doing while here at Earthdance, as an artist-in–resident, so I really feel like the woods and the forests were speaking to me or at least creating this space for me to hear my own creativity, my own thoughts, my own channeling of what’s inside of me, which I think is what it does, it is so spacious, and it is so open. I feel that it allows for me to open to my own fertile creative nature, kind of . . . not kind of, actually.”

Kelsey: "Do you see your relationship with these woods developing in any particular direction, or do you have a certain vision for how you might engage with these forests in the future, or how the Earthdance community at large engages with these woods?"

Diana: "I would say that . . . I just feel like I’ve come home by coming to Earthdance, in a very real way, and . . . I mean I’ve never been here in my life, maybe I’ve been here in another life, and I feel a real familiarity with the land here, and I feel like I haven’t gotten a chance to actually encounter all of what I already feel familiar with about it . . . I haven’t gone on all of the trails, I haven’t seen it in every season . . . so I don’t know what it’s like in winter, and I don’t know what a lot of the extended acreage of it looks like, feels like. There’s a part of me that trusts that I will have time to do that [. . .]. It feels like saying hello to a distant relative that I love and haven’t seen for a really long time, but I still haven’t seen them yet, but I know I will. And in terms of the community connecting with it . . . I think it’s good to not trample on the woods too much . . . like let people connect with it when they need to or want to, but I also think that there could be this, for example, there could be more just reflection and awareness of what it offers and voicing that, as opposed to keeping it to oneself, because I think a lot of people have powerful experiences in these woods, and it would be a powerful thing to share them with each other instead of just keeping it to ourselves.”

Interested in sharing your story of these woods? Contact Kelsey at

Also, we want your feedback! Check out this recent article about Forest Management at Earthdance by Kalyan Uprichard and Matt LaSalle, former Operations Director.
Follow this link to learn more, enagage, and send us your thoughts and opinions.

More on this topic to come at our Fall Community Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, September 15th, 4-5pm. Come one, come all!