WILLIAMSVILLE >> The wind blows gently through the 235-acres that make up The Manitou Project, a sanctuary and nature conserve. Sounds of early spring echo through the hills and sunlight dapples the forest floor. There is a sense of peace, tranquility, and excitement of the new season in the air.
Manitou, which means "it is sacred," includes a variety of woodland habitats and sacred sites. It also plays host to seasonal celebrations of the equinoxes and solstices. On Friday and Saturday, it will welcome the public in their very first Earth Day Celebration on the property.
Following a healing walk on Friday, the main celebration will be Saturday, April 23, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Sunset Lake Road grounds. This celebration will include music, dance, reflection, and walking through the ground's labyrinth.
This family-friendly event, which is free and open to the public, will begin in the parking lot where people are invited to walk to a welcoming space in the woods. Once there, a simple circle dance honoring the earth will be shared. This dance will be comprised of simple steps, learned and practiced together as a group in joy and appreciation for one's surroundings.
Following the dance a brief walk to Manitou's outdoor concert hall (or forest glen) will lead to a sound healing, featuring local musicians Derek Jordan and Jed Blume. Both musicians are multi-instrumentalists and performers of evocative music inspired by cultures close to the land. Performing with an electric fiddle, wind instruments, handpan, and tabla, the music will align with Manitou's mission to awaken it's members and others to new ways of being in relationship with the land, its inhabitants, each other, and the wider community.
"Part of Manitou's tradition all along has been a focus on healing. Not so much physical healing of people's illness, although we have actually had people who have come to the land seeking healing in times of physical distress, but more a sense of healing as bringing wholeness to lives through being in nature," explains Fred Taylor, president of The Manitou Project.
Closing the afternoon celebration on the land that has been preserved for 30 years will be a meandering journey through Manitou's forest labyrinth. The stroll to the center, and back out, should be grounding, and many find the non-linear path to focus the mind and bring peace to the soul.
Manitou started as a dream of Pam Meyer when she acquired the land with her husband, David, and conserved with the Vermont Land Trust. The Manitou Project was formed and has, over the years, developed a variety of programs that have informed and inspired many in the community.
Through day camps, workshops, and celebrations, Manitou has facilitated in the initiation of many transformative journeys as people are awakened to a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationship with the earth. "We really believe that coming to the land at Manitou isn't just something you do to relax and go for a walk but that it really increases your well-being. We try to offer programs that will enhance that and do that," Taylor said.
Frequently cited as the area's best kept secret, The Manitou Project is working towards getting their mission, and beautiful land, into the public. Through collaborations with locals schools, The Brattleboro Area Hospice, and Landmark College, Manitou hopes to weave itself deeper into the community. Currently in the midst of a Capital Campaign raising funds to purchase the land from the Mayer Family Trust, they are asking to community for help.
Saturday's event is co-sponsored by Brattleboro Savings And Loan and Brattleboro Ford-Subaru. For more information on The Manitou Project or Saturday's event please go to www.manitouproject.com or call 802-257-1832
Michelle Stephens is a regular contributor to the Reformer, including her twice-a-month column, Juicebox Confession.