February - April 2009
Our February Board meetings started off with an extra two-day retreat to finalize the Visioning Project, which is now being taken to many local groups. The idea is that, after the Board’s serious six-month review of our assessment and hopes for the Society, these same issues would be brought before as many members as possible for additional feedback. Western District director Nelda Samarel wrote about this effort in an article titled “Planting Seeds” in the April issue of Messenger. We also have information about it on our Web site under “Visioning Project.”
As always, the Board meetings were intense and productive. We particularly had to deal with the market downturn and reduced funding. I am sure everyone can identify with tightened budgets at this time. But having already begun cutbacks, we are managing pretty well.
Another major issue had to do with the Tacoma Lodge case that has dragged on for far too long. John Scott had elected himself and family as officers for life, used the Lodge building as a domicile for his family members to the detriment of the Lodge, and resigned the lodge from the Society. The final settlement required that he vacate the premises, and we are working to secure the assets into a custodial trust and to stabilize the remnant of the Tacoma Lodge. We received valuable assistance from Western District director Wallace Rainey, national treasurer Nancy Secrest, and Portland and Seattle members who graciously committed to shepherd this struggling little group. Thanks go to them and to all who are working to rebuild this group.
Immediately following the Board meetings, David and I, along with staff members Dan Noga and Marina Maestas, flew out to Krotona to participate in programs, particularly Joy Mills’ invitational workshop. Former Central District director Chris Richardson and a number of Theosophical workers from all over the country gathered to sit at Joy’s feet as she talked about essential principles of Theosophy and to work together in exploring how best to present Theosophy to our members and the public.
Soon after our Krotona venture, Australian Dorothy Bell arrived at Olcott to work on a special project for us. Her task of designing a simple diagram and explanation of our Theosophical history—splits, sister organizations, and all—grew more complex by the day, but her final product does put it all in a nutshell for easy reference. Our history does make one realize what a very contentious bunch we have been and how important it is to work together despite our differences.
The March winds blew in the completion of our long -awaited auditorium renovation. Although for several weeks prior to opening in mid-March it looked as if the final result was a long way off, all of a sudden it came together. And behold! There it was in full glory. Staff and visitors alike have been touched by the fresh and inspiring feel of the clean, expansive space. At first, many of us would walk up to the third floor every day or so just to be sure it was still there. We are deeply grateful to the contributors to our Capital Fund and to all the staff who worked so hard to make this lovely and practical room possible.
The Theosophical Publishing House and Quest Bookshop conducted their annual inventory at the end of March. This extremely involved process consists of counting, documenting, and evaluating the entire stock—from pallets full of books to each tiny crystal. Staff and other volunteers rallied to the challenge, accomplishing the accurate counting of thousands of books and other items. The camaraderie and pizza lunches served as some compensation for the several long days of the tedious process.
The participation and creativity of our staff seems to know no bounds. Just Another Bird, a small band, born at the Friends of Olcott Open Mic soirée, was formed by two of our staff members, Dan Smolla and Juliana Cesano, and their good friend Dave Lombardi. They recently launched their first CD called “Night Song” with fifteen original songs. The CD release party in mid-April was honored by the presence of a group of TS members, who have been faithful supporters during the almost two years of the band’s existence.
March and April were busy months for me as I had several family oriented trips—one to New York City for our granddaughter’s baptism and several others to North Carolina to check on my mother. Mother broke her leg several weeks ago but is recovering nicely for someone of her age (ninety-six). I also taught a class on making Theosophy practical for one of the “Theosophical Saturdays” sessions held in the Olcott Library. A nice group of twelve to twenty-five gathers every Saturday afternoon for three hours to participate in meditation, study, and discussion.
This has also been the time of our annual evaluations, never exactly a favorite task, but a very important one. We use a system of self-evaluation and supervisor input with a discussion meeting with each employee. We find that this system, originally designed by employees, stimulates communication in a constructive way. I appreciate the benefits of the process, but the many extra meetings add to an already busy schedule.
On Friday, April 24 the maintenance department conducted a volunteer staff cleanup party in honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day. A dozen staff members participated by picking up trash on the property, gathering up fallen branches, and raking up leaves in the Garden of Remembrance. It was a very warm day with plenty of sunshine to enjoy, and a good time was had by all.
The grounds were in great shape for April 25, when the TS was once again a host site for World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. Close to one hundred Tai Chi practitioners from beginners to the more experienced gathered to participate in this worldwide event. This year, the town of Wheaton as well as the state of Illinois officially recognized the event and Wheaton’s Mayor Gresk ceremoniously read the proclamation stating so. There was a lot of good energy and smiling faces as the wave of chi made its way around the globe.
As this goes to press we are making many final preparations for our annual Summer National Gathering. We have such wonderful programs scheduled that I hope you will be able to attend.