Last updated on July 9, 2020
Sadhana Forest, a sustainable community, located approximately 3 hours south of Chennai, India, on the East coast was founded in 2003. I learned about the site when a group of two faculty and students from Plymouth State University (PSU) where I work, visited around 2004. I had wanted to visit ever since, as I am interested in sustainable communities and tree planting, as I teach courses on sustainable issues and forestry in the Environmental Science and Policy Program.
In 2017, I had the great pleasure of meeting one of the co-founders, Aviram Rozin, when he came to PSU for a conference on the Bicknell’s Thrush which I co-organized with my graduate student Tyler Simonds with an interdisciplinary team of faculty. Upon interacting with Aviram, who was a keynote at the conference and subsequently gave a guest lecture in one of my classes, I became even more fervent about visiting one of the now three Sadhana Forest sites that exist in India, Kenya, and Haiti. I finally visited the India site in January 2020, and while I am sorry it took me so long, the timing was perfect, and the experience was transformative, as I knew it would be.
When I traveled to Sadhana Forest, I met the other co-founder, Aviram Rozin’s wife Yorit, who was just releasing her children’s book about living in the forest, https://sadhanaforest.org/i-live-in-a-hut-a-book-audio-book-and-song-by-yorit-rozin/. Since I had been working on a children’s book about the Bicknell Thrush that I wanted to illustrate myself, I found Yorit inspirational. She lent me a set of watercolors during my visit and in the early mornings, when I was awakened when it was still dark by temple music wafting through the forest from the adjacent town, I wrote and illustrated poems about Sadhana Forest. Yorit and Aviram traveled to receive a water conservation award while I was visiting and when they returned at the end of my visit, I showed Yorit my collection of poems and accompanying watercolors. She was enthusiastically receptive and asked to record me reading my poems. Upon my arrival back in New Hampshire, I received a gift from Yorit, she sent me a gift- a link to this video she made, which we call, “Poetree.” (This is the first time I remember reading poetry aloud, nonetheless, my poetry.)
My intention in writing the poems was to help educate visitors about life at Sadhana Forest, particularly about their specific way of tree planting which is so successful in terms of survivability of the trees. I now share my experience with my students and even in guest lectures I give for other classes and events. Just as I had hoped, students are receptive. They comment that they like hearing about my firsthand experience through poetry and images, which is certainly different from the more typical lecture with slides.
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