One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Landscape of Transformation

I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico last week taking in the clean, dry air, the warmth of the high desert sun, the scent of pinion smoke, sage brush and scrub pine. We admired the beautiful richly hand-woven rugs with their subtle earth tones and indulged ourselves with the wonderfully spicy taste of chilies.

Besides revisiting many favorite haunts, we also discovered a few new ones. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Seton Village and The Academy For The Love Of Learning.

Located outside of Santa Fe on 86 acres of high desert, Seton Village was the home of the late Ernest Thompson Seton, (1860-1946) naturalist, artist, author and pioneer of ecology and environmentalism. My husband keenly recalls receiving a copy of Seton’s Wild Animals I Have Known as a child and finding the naturalist’s stories about wild animals and the underlying activist message of conservation and wildlife preservation life changing.

Ernest Thompson Seton’s own story is one of transformation. Artistically gifted, he studied art in Paris and London in the late 1800’s and became an accomplished wildlife painter before he was 20.

But he originally made his living as a wolf tracker and killer. Until a trip to New Mexico in 1893. He’d come to kill fifteen wolves, but his experience with the landscape, with observing the natural habitat and the animals that inhabited it and his interactions with Blanca and Lobo, two wolves he hunted, changed something deep inside of him. Witnessing the overwhelming grief that Lobo displayed when he discovered the spot where his mate, Blanca, had been killed, transformed Seton, converting him to the conviction that animals are related to humans in a moral sense, making us responsible for their preservation. The popularization of this contemporary belief can be traced back to Seton more than anyone else.

After his experience with Lobo, Seton reinvented himself from hunter to champion of wildlife for the remainder of his life, writing and illustrating over sixty-five books about animals and nature, and starting Woodcrafters—a youth organization that gave young people the opportunity to participate in native American crafts and personally experience the natural landscape. It also greatly influenced Baden-Powell and the formation of The Boy Scouts of America.

It is well fitting that The Academy For The Love Of Learning, founded in 1998 by composer Leonard Bernstein, chose what remained of the once 2500 acres of Seton Village as their home. They felt that Seton’s own transformation proved the human capacity to grow, change and embrace “life-affirming values and justice.” One of their many projects is The Learning Landscape, which “seeks to draw out the natural impulses of this land, just as our transformative learning model draws out people’s inner voices and gifts.” For more information about this inspiring organization, check out their website:

To bring this around to my own writing, I have been thinking a lot about character transformation and the kinds of experiences and epiphanies that can bring about this extreme transformation. I believe that Ernest Thompson Seton is a great role model for character development!

I’ll leave you with a short video that shows another transformative project at The Academy For The Love of Learning—their LifeSongs project.

Take Good Care,


1 comment:

  1. I am incredibly touched by these stories - the story of Seton and the story of lives being enriched so beautifully through music.

    You've filled my heart this morning! Thanks.