Mid-Month Marvels: Commonweal

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’m calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

During our recent vacation (which you can read about starting here), We found ourselves in the delightful little town of Bolinas, California. We had read in a guidebook that this stretch of the coast had gorgeous tide pools, so we set out to encounter them. More about them in another post.

For the purposes of today’s essay, suffice it to say that we got very lost. And it was the kind of fortuitous state of loss where you don’t even think about worrying, because the area is so beautiful, and you know you’re seeing things you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

And so it was that we came around a curve and encountered this very interesting building. It seemed semi-industrial, but not. And it was in the middle of nowhere. We decided we wanted look at it up close.

We finally stopped when we saw a no trespassing sign that also urged us to be quiet as people were on retreat, and we should respect their solitude. What was this place? There were no signs to speak of, other than the warning ones. Was it a cult or something?

Fortunately there was a brochure at the gate, so I helped myself to a copy. From the brochure I discovered that this was a nonprofit organization called Commonweal. And it seems that the building itself has a very interesting history.

The site was “developed by Henry Marconi in 1912 as one of the last telegraph stops before he completed his vision for an ‘around the world’ telegraph system. The building was later purchased by RCA Communications, and then acquired by the National Parks Service.”

Fascinating. That would explain why there are still remnants of an antenna farm in the area, and why the building, which had been a transmitter station, looked so industrial in its own odd way.

It seems that Commonweal negotiated a 50-year lease from the Point Reyes National Seashore, and this 60 acre plot of land, near the beautiful ocean shore, became their headquarters. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more, so I headed to their website, here.

From the website I learned that Commonweal operates no fewer than 20 different programs, along three different themes: Health & Healing, Education & the Arts, and Environment & Justice. At first glance that may seem like kind of a wide net to cast for any NGO, but on closer inspection, the three themes intertwine in many ways.

I’m not going to describe all 20 programs, but here are a few examples.

The Commonweal Cancer Help Program hosts a week-long retreat for people with cancer. Just their location alone must provide healing, if only for the spirit. But while there, people get to explore the emotional and spiritual dimensions of cancer, and can commune with other people facing that terrifying diagnosis. It also includes therapy sessions, massage, yoga, meditation, and gourmet meals. They also help you explore your choices in various forms of healing. Due to the pandemic, they’re also offering online programs.

They also host the Power of Hope Youth Camp. I wish I were 14-18, because this sounds like a fun 8 day experience. You explore your creativity with artists. You learn from activists how to be the change. You’ll be impressed by the volunteers you get to be with. Naturalists, actors, storytellers, dancers, change makers. You’ll learn about yourself.

And then there’s the Collaborative on Health and the Environment which strengthens the scientific and public dialogue on how environmental factors can cause chronic disease. They are currently working on 18 different initiatives to reach their goals.

There are so many other amazing programs described on the Commonweal website that I encourage you to explore it in detail. While there, I hope you’ll consider supporting this unique organization so that they may continue their efforts to heal people and heal the planet.

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

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