Dear Hearts,

This is a letter we recently sent to our wide community.

Usually Anja and I make it a practice to send very short emails --- or else  every one does just like we do --- we slip it in the “to read” folder ---  and there it remains.

This is a long letter.  But a very important letter for us.  It is both a portrayal of where we now are.  And an invitation.

I guess that if you are interested in Touchstone and in the Touchstone Eco-Village, you will read it to the end.  I hope so.


Watch a trailor of the Film about Touchstone
Dancing With Angels

All obstacles standing between us and the manifestation of the Touchstone Eco Village -- bureaucratic, personal and social --- have been overcome.   

We need only sell two more homes in the eco-village and the building will begin.

We are set and ready and (now that the temple pavilion is standing) have turned our attention towards finding buyers for the homes.  Even in this strange current market, there is strong interest in living in an highly energy efficient home in a progressive eco-village nestled within fourteen acres of orchard, garden, permaculture landscape and woods and integrated with a socio-arts, healing and nature center such as Touchstone is and has been for over two decades.

The seven new homes are to be well-built and exceeding the five-star energy standards.  The design that the developer (Doug Kohl) has presented for the homes is a design which holds the feeling of intimate village, of simplicity, of hominess and of beauty.

But a village is much more comprised of the People who dwell within it than it is comprised of the buildings.  And this is really what this letter to our wide community is about.  So --- with this in mind and heart and to this end - - -

We are creating new ways of financing and purchasing a home in this village.  This is a time in need of alternatives and new and more human and healthy ways.

What we originally dearly hoped to create was actually a village of what we lovingly referred to as Monks and Nuns Cottages.  There are so so so many under-paid professional people in our wide community.  Dear hearts all.  People whose lives and livelihoods, like ours, are one of service.  Educators, social workers, healers, artisans.  People who are gainfully and meaningfully employed, but yet who could never afford the opportunity of owning a home, living long-term in an intimate community and co-creating a dynamic and nurturing way of living, and, building equity as time passes ---  We had wished dearly to build a village, a community, for these loving and serving people.  These dancers of life.

This -- given the building codes and financial realities --- seemed to be not possible.

Or is it?

This is Touchstone.  A place of Promise and of Alternative Vision and of the Breath of Magic.

Touchstone has ever been at the edge of creation and wonder.  Touchstone’s essential purpose has always been to explore the edges of the ways of being on our planet that are sustainable and nurturing.  Indeed, the very name Touchstone (which we took in 1983) comes from the mythic touchstone of the sages.  When a person stood before and in the presence of the Touchstone, the falsehood or verity of them was revealed.   Our entire history has been one of exploring the very edges of our becoming in a new and healthy way on our planet. ---- in agriculture, life-style, in economic relationship, healing, music, the holding of eclectic sacred space, and in community.  (a brief listing of some of our pioneering activities is at the end of this letter)

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And this is our firm and true intent.  To co-create a village in which each morning the spirits awaken with joy and inspiration to be where they are.  To create a village of hermits who happen to like people.  A village where solitude is gracefully easy to enjoy and yet community is a tea cup away.  A village of both inspired creative spirits and souls who are nourished in a life of quietude and retreat as well as in a life of creation, activism and service.  A village where communication and loving kindness and considerate understanding are much more the guides than are the bureaucratic rules or the endless meetings.

Most would say that this is simply dreaming.  

I would answer - - - Yes.  Yes, it is.  Absolutely Yes!   I hope you come and join us - - -

And now our intent is to explore and bring forth new ways (actually, newly adapted ancient ways) of  becoming and of being in village.

At this stage we are turning our attention to ways of alternative finance.  

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Finance ---- or economics --- is (contrary to the popular view) not at all separate from lifestyle.  It is for good reason that the very first chapter in Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden (which was one of Gandhi’s central guides) was titled Economy.  The growing of beans.

The manner in which we choose to live --- inner and outer --- in relation to the land and in relation to other beings ----  mandates the manner of our economic behavior and inter-relationships --- whether local or earth-wide.

A village of independent single owner homes living from the  natural resources (and economic or militaristic enslavement) of most of the peoples of our planet will mandate lifestyles of isolation, fantasy, debt, power struggles, war and oppression, the very separation of self from Self.  And a culture based upon such a life-style can only result in eventual self-destruction from within.   A village of people living in inter-related, inter-reliant local and sustainable ways (even tough they may be hermits all) will offer the opportunity of exactly the healthy and sustainable opposite.

The socio-financial environment we are proposing to cultivate begins with new ways of entering home-ownership.

ONE --- "a place for the people who serve"

We are still very desirous of creating a village were the monks and nuns of our community and culture may afford home ownership and graceful life.

The small homes of the Touchstone Eco Village have been designed with either two or three bedrooms.  And, if desired, two baths.   And a large spacious area that is the kitchen opening onto the living room.

Two or three people (even of limited means) could co-purchase a home, and then co-design the lay-out of the rooms of the home with the developer to suit their personal and spatial needs which will afford them their hermetic solitude as well as gentle community, (perhaps dividing the home into two large studios with a common library-music room ) and then dwell in it in economic graciousness.  

So one way we are creating an alternative to home-buying (and village dwelling) is to seek out these people ---  the artisans, the educators, the social workers, the healers, the dancers --- and then host gatherings of interested spirits here at Touchstone, so that we all may meet one another and find if there are kindred spirits who would wish to co-purchase a house together.

We would then guide them through the process of co-designing and co-purchasing a home.  This alternative concept in home design would in a way mirror the way people have lived at Touchstone for decades --- in gentle community and with easy solitude.  It is true, we really are a community of hermits who happen to like people.   But the people would own rather than rent.  Which is a very very very different and healthy reality, a reality which builds equity and, as time passes, easier life-style.

Have you ever lived with the same garden for seven years?  It takes this long, at least, to bring forth the full garden.

TWO --- "Noblesse oblige"

Just as there are many Hearts whose lives and livelihoods are of inadequately rewarded human service, there are many Hearts and sometimes guests of Touchstone whose monetary situation is more healthfully endowed.  To these sometimes visitors who are more healthfully endowed, we are proposing that they (perhaps you?) become involved in the alternative creation of the Eco-Village.

This could be done in a few  ways.

*** An endowed person could co-sponsor or co-sign with a gainfully employed monk or nun (my personal term for the people employed in the in the humanities), thus enabling them to purchase or co-purchase a home.  The home-buyer(s) could then choose to take on another person to rent in order to help cover the costs of living.  Thus once again providing alternative finance and dwelling for those who are deserving and stable but unable to become a home-owner under the traditional approaches.

*** An endowed person could also simply purchase a half or a third of one of the homes with one or two other people and keep a room in the home so that they have a place to stay when they wish to visit Touchstone.  This, again, empowers the nun or monk to co-purchase and have a home where equity may be built and a long-term intimate lifestyle enjoyed.

***  An endowed person could also simply purchase an entire home, maintain a room in it for when they wish to visit Touchstone, and cover the mortgage expenses by having us manage the rental of spare room(s) --- perhaps with option to buy --- to other Hearts in the community.

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So, yes, Touchstone is still living on the shores of our wonder.  And we are still wandering on the far shores of who and what we are becoming as beings on this tender and precious planet.   Still creating new and healthy ways of being, becoming and ending.

And, as ever, we are walking at the edge of creating new alternative, graceful human ways of walking on the earth and with one another.  Ways which will empower and honor one another.  Ways which arise from the awareness that the greatest power, the most precious wealth and the deepest magic is to walk barefoot in quietude in the dew-moist grass of early morning.

Some of us elders (my self included) have a relatively brief time left to bring forth the gift for those coming behind us.  Others of us, those who are not yet at the stage of elder, are gifted with so much inspiration and hope and capacity --- an inspiration hope and capacity that needs elders to help empower and guide by example.

Together --- dear brothers and sisters of the wind, by breaking bread with one another, we can co-create a wondrous village nestled around the gardens and temple of an eclectic center touched with the breath of wonder.

Are you a person whose life is in service but who believes that you can not afford a home?  Come, dream with us.

Are you a well endowed person who would like to explore investing in and being involved in and perhaps living at least part time in an inspiring community nestled around an eclectic spiritual healing nature center?  Come, dream with us.

It is possible.

It is immanent.

To my old friends and lovers and to my new friends and lovers,

would you like to dance?  



still walking beauty way
in the winds of grace,

Anja and Deborah

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*** We are the longest lasting still existent commercial organic market garden in the valley.  Active as an organic farm in Easthampton since 1983.

*** Touchstone was the first in the state to grow many of the now popular alternative vegetables, herbs and flowers.

*** Before permaculture was a word, Touchstone was being planted in perennial vegetables, fruits and herbs.  

*** Touchstone is still the only commercial agricultural endeavor to integrate wilder life (weeds) and traditional agriculture into a healthy and profitable activity.  In any given year fully one third of our agricultural income was derived from plants that most other farmers considered as weeds and were spending much money and time eradicating with intensive labor and poison.   By integrating the weeds prolifically (and profitably) into our already mixed fields and gardens of vegetables, herbs and flowers, we have been able to maintain a healthy plant population for over two decades with absolutely no insect control needed.  

*** In the late 1980’s, we pushed the envelope of living with the land even further --- and began to integrate a spiritual, artistic and alternative social life-style into the way of being with the Land.  Our apprenticeship program (in which we had trained many a new organic farmer and gardener and herbalist) evolved into an integrated life-style program.  The gardening included yoga, dance, meditation, community living.  People began to come here for retreats, to write, to deepen in music, to find nurturance in kindred spirits and in nature.  We have become known locally and widely around the earth as a successful small eclectic community.  We are known for our political action, our gardens, our lifestyle, our music and for the way we hold the chalice of safety and wonder in intimate circles of sacred dance.  And we are known for the having created a loving and gracious, wild and simple way of being in community.

*** Touchstone was one of the first digital recording studios in the valley.  And were among the first to explore new alternative ways of allowing the artist to sell their music.  Though simple, we used this studio to capture and spread the music of Anja as she advanced through her stages.  She has published over 15 CDs and sold them world wide.  We also helped many a wandering musician of deep spirit and talent to have their first CD.  Most times we would spend a month with them recording and mixing, and then hand them the finished CD with no charge.

*** Touchstone is still a, well, a touchstone, for the standard of using the medium of dance as a means of meditation and the cultivation of direct knowledge,.

*** In Economic Relationship we have been a for profit business whose behavior caused people universally to think that we were a non-profit.  We call this Breaking Bread.  Where the heart and the human condition is the bottom line --- not the dollar.  Yes, this exploration has been a rocky road, but has brought a great wealth of life-style to many.

Two examples of this orientation are:
--------- on any given evening when we were hosting a circle, we always asked for a donation of ten dollars.  And then added that  --- if you needed money, please ask us during the evening --- and if you were a secret millionaire a donation of two to twenty thousand dollars would be appropriate.  Both occurred.
---------  when a person came for a guest visit for a while, we treated people in what seemed to the intellectual material eye to be in an unfair manner.  That is --- we asked some people to pay a goodly weekly or monthly fee and also to work in the garden daily, while others we gave money to in order to support their living here as a guest and we asked for no work exchange.  And how was this Breaking Bread and fair?  It was a matter of the human condition.  The first person was well enough to do financially and was also entrapped in spirals of their mind and unable to be in their body.  So it was appropriate and healing for them to exchange monetarily and to be engaged in their body on the earth.  The second person was in a time of lack of funds and was able to be centered in their body and breath naturally and were also in a time when a retreat in a nurturing community would afford them the opportunity to bring forth a gift --- perhaps of music or of writing or of deepening in their own purpose.  So it was a gift to all of us to support this person with sacred space and the leisure they needed at that stage of their becoming.

Some plants need watering every day.  Others need dryness.  Would it serve the cliff-side wild rose well to be nurtured like the water lily?

This link will take you to
a description of the Village
of the homes, the land and the organization
here is a link to the Touchstone Movie Site
here is a link to the
Main Page
Touchstone Farm and Center