WITH MEA WOODRUFF OF SPIRIT WEAVERS
Now in its seventh year, Spirit Weavers Gathering has become a mecca for conscious, heart-centered, fiercely wild women. On a beautiful spread of land in Southern Oregon, these women gather from all over the world to practice time-honored traditions like fermenting, weaving, dying, bookmaking, and herbalism – a smattering of offerings meant to help us “relearn, rewild and remember,” explains founder Mea Woodruff.
What many don’t realize is that this proud, traditional spirit of this gathering is inspired directly by the land it takes place on: Cedar Bloom Farm. Nestled along the Illinois River and decked out with beautiful cabins, a stage, sauna, and dome, Cedar Bloom is home not only to Mea’s family, but also to many retreats, weddings, campouts, and ceremonies. We sat down with Mea to talk more about her love for this land, her mission to protect it for her community and generations to come, and the massive role it plays in this world-class gathering.
What is it about Cedar Bloom that initially captivated you? How would you explain the energy there?
The energy of the land is incredible, as we are surrounded by so many huge Fir, Oak and Cedar trees. It really is the perfect place for gathering in the sense that there is this expansive well tended forest, but also beautiful stretches of open meadow space folded throughout. So immediately I knew the land itself was going to work wonderfully to hold all sorts of events and provide an idyllic retreat experience. But the Illinois River, which stretches for a mile of the entire property, is the gem that really makes Cedar Bloom a unique treasure. The various swimming holes are truly a gift, and we love the sense of privacy that the land has, with so many little nooks of special nature space. There is wildlife everywhere as well, so many deer and turkey, which obviously feels amazing.
When we were looking for land we had two main needs: wild water, and flat land to hold everyone. We had visited some incredible places already, but they either didn't have access to the water, or they had more mountainous or hilly terrain, which make things difficult to hold a lot of campers comfortably. When we first explored Cedar Bloom it was in the dead of winter, covered in snow at the time, but even then we knew it was exactly what we were looking for. The river was breathtaking, and the flat open meadows were surrounded by such tall and healthy trees. There are a few particular Cedar trees that I really feel are like they are the guardians of the land. They spoke to me one night when I was contemplating moving forward, and I knew at that moment we were being called there. It was certainly a huge leap for our family, to suddenly become the stewards of a 100 acres of forest like this. But we decided to take the plunge, and our intuitions were confirmed as we got to witness the land come alive in the Spring. We knew the land was special, but it was after we got to spend our first spring/summer there in 2017 that we realized how truly incredible it really is! In the warmer months it honestly feels like paradise.
I know you are extremely passionate about protecting this land. Tell us more about your conservation efforts.
We are super blessed that the land directly next to us is home to one of Oregon’s most inspiring Nonprofit Lawyers, David Atkins. He specializes in Environment and Natural Resource Law and so he has been an Angel to us in many ways. He has organized the land into a non-profit and we are working to shift Spirit Weavers in this direction as well. We are starting to make bigger plans for the future and will eventually place the land into a conservation easement. David is helping us with this and we are also working with our friend Mandi from Third Nature who assists land stewards with Integrating humans and the wild as we learn to share land as one. The needs of our fellow animal relations and tree family always come first. It's important that what’s left of these large parcels of land are protected to prevent future development, extraction or toxic farming. We are committed to making sure Cedar Bloom will never be logged or developed in the future. We are working hard so that the land is cared for and set up for many generations to come.
How is this mission for the land reflected in your mission for Spirit Weavers?
We spend a lot of time listening and tuning into the original essence of the land and our hearts. Always asking ourselves how can we live a more simplified life in harmony with the land. The land really supports these efforts in so many ways.
What makes Cedar Bloom such a powerful backdrop for Spirit Weavers and other events that are hosted there?
The water! In fact the Illinois River is considered one the last 2 wild rivers on the entire west coast (the other being the Smith River, which is just down the Redwood Highway from us). We built a floating dock for our biggest swimming hole and spend most of the summer right there by the water, on that dock. We share the land with thousands of incredible large trees such as Cedar, Oak, Madrone, Doug Fir, Pine, and Spruce. When we first acquired the land it had its original house on it. A mid century modern gem built in 1962. Since then we have built two gorgeous shower houses, a sauna, a handful of A frame cabins, a dome, a stage, and wedding arbors. It really is set up now to hold so many different types of occasions. This Spring we will begin working on a communal gathering space so that we can hold smaller indoor retreats. We are also building a hillside amphitheater into one of the slopes.
How does the lineage of the land impact your insistence upon honoring ancestral traditions at Spirit Weavers?
Most recently (1960-2017) the town Doctor called the land home. He acquired a 34 acre plot of land and over time purchased 3 more lots surrounding the land for a total of 100 acres. The Doctor and his beloved raised 5 children there until they passed in '97. The land sat vacant for ten years and was used for the kids and grandkids to enjoy as a vacation home. They held onto it for so long for sentimental reasons, but maintained it so well over the decades. The land is a huge undertaking and commitment so I think they finally felt it was time to let go of it and pass it on to someone like us with a fresh vision. This is the first time the land has been made public in over 60 years! It really has been a hidden gem of the valley.
The original people of this area in Southern Oregon were the Takelma Indians. We are honored to have Takelma elder, Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim in the Illinois Valley. Agnes is the oldest member of her tribe and also of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, and this summer we will hold her 95th Birthday Celebration on the land. With a land that is rich in history we have an opportunity to begin again by giving back to the local community what has been lost and stolen. A place where people can gather to relearn, rewild and remember. The land is open for First Nations people of the area to camp all throughout the year.
The land is really one of the most beautiful pieces in all of Southern Oregon and we really just want to share it with others. It feels selfish that our small family would be the only ones to get to experience it's magic! The land is open for personal and private retreats, weddings, reunions, camp outs and so much more.