Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey women wordsmiths release two new titles

Freeland residents Ann Linnea and Christina Baldwin are the authors of two new books. - Photo courtesy of Christina Baldwin
Freeland residents Ann Linnea and Christina Baldwin are the authors of two new books.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Christina Baldwin

Two Whidbey Island authors challenge themselves through their newest books to make the world a better place.

Freeland residents Ann Linnea and Christina Baldwin are co-founders of PeerSpirit Inc., a company that promotes the PeerSpirit Circle Process, a method that uses the structure of a circle to challenge the status quo and reveal the common intention of a group.

Both women are well-known authors of books and essays on the circle process, environmental education, journal writing, rites of passage, spirituality and story.

The authors have brought the circle training into practice everywhere from mountaintops to corporate headquarters, from writing retreats to vision quests, and to their work in training, consulting and mentoring.

Busy as they are, each of these authors has found time to write a new book.

Linnea’s fresh-off-the-press “Keepers of the Trees, A Guide To Re-Greening North America,” is a beautifully rendered compilation of stories and photographs of people who champion the growth and preservation of trees.

The authors also co-wrote their newest circle process book titled “The Circle Way, A Leader in Every Chair.”

Linnea and Baldwin will celebrate the publication of both books from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 28 at Whidbey Institute’s Thomas Berry Hall in Clinton.

In Linnea’s “Keepers of the Trees,” each of the 14 chapters are devoted to extraordinary folks who have dedicated their lives to tree stewardship.

A longtime wilderness guide, botanist and educator, Linnea talks of the trees she has come to know intimately through close study and the lens of her camera as “the lungs of the planet; the multi-tasking superheroes.” She recalls a beloved college botany professor saying that chlorophyll is the secret to life, and took it to heart.

“My goal is to make people say, ‘I am a keeper of the trees, too,’” Linnea said.

Her effort with this book illustrates that purpose.

Over the course of six years and traveling thousands of miles from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to Great Smoky Mountains National Park of North Carolina, and to urban parks in between, Linnea searched for people who had chosen a relationship to trees as an organizing principle of their lives.

Each chapter tells the story of each one of these tree keepers, including Linnea herself, who becomes “The Botanist Grandmother” in the final chapter of the book.

Linnea tells all 14 stories with an attitude that reinforces her own staunch respect for the earth. These are the stories of “ordinary folks who do extraordinary things.”

She tells the diverse stories of those such as Ady Lipkis, founder of TreePeople of Los Angeles, who headed a movement to rip up concrete and plant more than 2 million trees in the city because he knew trees would catch and store water. Then there’s Merve Wilkinson, 98, who supported himself and his family by carefully managing the timber resources on his 136 acres of Canadian forest and ended up with more standing timber than when he began harvesting the land 67 years ago. Also featured is Corella Payne, who balances her stressful inner-city Chicago social services job by volunteering to tend to trees in city parks on weekends.

Linnea said she wants to inspire people to feel empowered to relate on a deep level to trees and how they can help to keep them, and learn the logistics of keeping them.

“The common theme of the book is how life on earth would be impossible without trees,” Linnea said.

As a practitioner with Baldwin of educating through story, “Keepers of the Trees” is the logical extension of the work of PeerSpirit, Inc. and the other titles that came before it, such as Linnea’s “Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife” or “Teaching Kids to Love the Earth.”

“We save what we love,” Baldwin said.

“In reading her book, you’ll come to love trees and understand them as companions — as we do animals. It makes that leap; that trees are that important,” she said.

Also important to these two authors is to teach people how to transcend their differences and understand the emotional quality that connects all human beings.

With “The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair,” the authors have compiled almost 20 years of their pioneering work in the field of collaborative group practices and have channelled it into this book.

They’ve filled it with stories that illustrate the transformative experiences of people who have used the PeerSpirit Circle Process techniques in settings as diverse as healthcare, education and religious and nonprofit administration, as well as in general business settings.

The ideas are not new. The circle process is based on ancient practices in which the communal center point of the circle symbolizes the purpose for the group’s coming together. Every person in every chair serves an important purpose, whether that person is the chief executive officer or the janitor.

With the circle way, said the authors, world peace is what happens within a five-foot radius of your body. When there is tension, if you can teach people to talk to the center, then there is a place where both sides can meet.

“We offer tools on how to do this effectively,” Baldwin said. “We often say, ‘Change the chairs, change the world.’”

After 9/11, the authors said there was a profound change, a cultural shift. They saw the effects of that shift and realized people needed to get back to the business of talking and listening to each other. Offering people the circle process was a way to help people achieve that.

“I have enormous compassion for all of us who are trying to live with the speed with which we live in the West,” Linnea added.

That compassion has extended outward through the course of the 16 years the authors have lived on Whidbey Island. They founded their business when they moved to the island, and the island has become the place from which they offer themselves to the world.

That compassion, too, is present when they work, starting always from a deep-seated belief that every voice is important and every voice deserves careful listening. With the rapid movement forward of the technological workplace, the regular tools of business are making it harder for people to have face-to-face conversations. These practitioners said there is somewhat of a rebellion going on against this fast-paced, faceless culture of texting and endless e-mails.

“The Circle Way” strives to bring simple communication back to the workplace, and the results can be revelatory, as they have seen.

“We often just start with appreciation. Everybody takes a moment to listen and communicate,” Baldwin said. “It’s a tiny little thing, but there are so many ways to shift the paradigm.”

To buy these books, and to check out other titles by the authors, click here. The books are also available at the Moonraker Bookstore in Langley and BookBay in Freeland.

For information on the book celebration, call the PeerSpirit office, 331-3580 or e-mail cbaldwin@peerspirit.com. The institute address is 6449 Old Pietila Road in Clinton.

"From Life to Life Stories" A Seminar with Christina Baldwin

What: An afternoon to explore one’s life story with author Christina Baldwin through journal writing and other writing exercises.

When: 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, April 30.

Where: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island church at 20103 Highway 525 in Freeland.

Info: $30 admission fee benefits the Saratoga Community Housing project.

Call 331-4248 or e-mail sch@whidbey.com.

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