Suppose that what you fear could be trapped,
and held in Paris.
Then you would have the courage to go
everywhere in the world.
All the directions of the compass open to you,
except the degrees east or west of true north, 
that lead to Paris.
Still, you wouldn’t dare put your toes
smack dab on the city limit line.
You’re not really willing
to stand on a mountainside miles away
and watch the Paris lights
come up at night.
Just to be on the safe side
you decide to stay completely
out of France.
But then danger seems too close
even to those boundaries,
and you feel the timid part of you
covering the whole globe again.
You need the kind of friend 
who learns your secret and says,
“See Paris first.”

– M. Truman Cooper

Dear Springhouse community,

I remember the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was in the late 90s, and I was standing on an ordinary street, lined with cafes and quaint apartment buildings. I turned around nonchalantly after saying something to my husband and caught a glimpse of the tower far off in the distance. It took my breath away. Mostly because I had dreamed of Paris for some time and couldn’t believe I made it all the way across the sea and was actually seeing the Eiffel Tower with my own two eyes. To dream about something is one thing. To be there for it is another. They are connected but very different experiences. 

When I am at Springhouse – whether I am singing, dancing, studying, and exploring, or walking through the woods – I often feel the same. I can’t believe I am smack dab in the middle of life-giving culture – something I read about, dreamt about, and worked toward little by little for 25 years. I am now immersed in it. This culture is not a utopia. It is not perfect, and it is not free from fear. Like the poem points to, we all avoid “Paris” at some point. That is just part of being human. Building regenerative culture is not idealistic. It is grounded, rigorous, life-giving work that seeks not to make a life out of “avoiding Paris,” but one that is strengthened by building skills to go toward the heart of what scares us. 

One thing we humans have in common is this: We all have fear, and, at some point, we all wish we didn’t. If we do not practice moving toward what we fear, we give fear way more power than it deserves. How we do this – the timelines and ways we practice crossing the “city limits” of where our fears are trapped – are as unique as we are. A regenerative culture commits to learning how to be with fear. What springs from a culture rooted in a reverence for life is very different from what grows in a fear-based culture. Again, it is not that a vitality-centered culture does not include fear. It does because that is part of being human; it just does not orient around it and does its best not to feed it.

Springhouse is a school for regenerative culture builders – adults and teens – who practice how to “see Paris first,” including learning how to befriend fear, crossing the threshold of what we fear is complex. We have learned some things after eight years of daily practice as a community at Springhouse. To grow a regenerative culture, includes doing difficult things in order to grow. From consistent practice, we have learned as a community to:

  • Be vulnerable and take care of ourselves, each other, and this planet in its vulnerability.
  • Be better friends with ourselves by having practices that keep us connected to ourselves. We do not grow up with time alone. We grow up and mature through attentive practices that connect us to ourselves, each other, and the Earth and beyond.
  • Remember the valuable currency of community – people who can teach you and remind you to “see Paris first” and love you deeply when you forget. That Love builds the road back to “Paris.”
  • Keep in mind that we belong to the Earth and life itself. When we forget this, a different, more fearful design takes root – one planted in the myth of separation. This further perpetuates a culture that sucks us dry of the life that is our birthright.
  • Accept (not condone or approve of, that’s different) and love the world. Our very presence can be of service to this world if we take care of it. 
  • Create culture by committing to place (including humans and Earth) over time. As hard as commitment is, and as much as we might want to access every possibility, there are limitations, and these limitations actually can lead to something beautiful when those boundaries have taking care of life as their primary purpose.

One of our co-founders, Ezekiel Fugate, said in the early days of Springhouse that we are here to grow elders. Elders invite us to “see Paris first,” mostly because many have experienced the consequences of avoiding “Paris,” and they know this avoidance, quite possibly, is the very root of our greatest cultural challenges. Elders live what they know and give this hard earned wisdom away in service to a more vital culture.  Elderhood is our greatest need culturally, and growing elders must be the primary purpose of education. There is just so much at stake.

Springhouse practices daily what it is to “see Paris first” – whether that is sitting on the “mountainside miles away” and seeing the Paris lights from a distance; circling the city limit line for a while; or heading straight for the Eiffel Tower. How we get there is less important than holding to the shared purpose of centering our community design around the reverence for life.  When a community does this, we are finding that, through practice and experience, something very different, not perfect, happens. 

We could not be this, or do this, without you. If you are awake to the need for more elders who embody, live, and pass on the wisdom needed to take care of this life, you have the opportunity to support Springhouse this month through our Light in the Dark campaign, financially and through prayer and attention. We trust that, as long as this work is needed, we will be supported. 

Here’s to crossing the city limits and heading into Paris, in whatever ways and timing call you. 

One day at a time and with love,


Leave a Reply