May 10, 1943 – July 24, 2020
Born a 4th generation Californian and growing up in Beverly Hills, John used to jokingly describe himself as consistently downwardly mobile but no less happy for it. Read the obituary.
Many Inclusive Leaders crossed paths with John first in other fields, such as Eco-psychology / Deep Ecology, Behavioural Psychology, Quakers, Cowichan Valley concerns for social and environmental justice including the Cowichan Land Trust. The common thread of John’s work has been building a future and being in the moment. In 2015 he wrote in the Cowichan Valley Citezen “We support schools, save money for our grandchildren’s education, plant trees, recycle, donate to charity, protect land, volunteer, build churches, write letters to the editor, and do other things that offer a very poor payback or no payback at all. We do them because we care about the future, even if we are not likely to be here to enjoy it.” In John’s building, he interwove circles, places, beings, explaining how the structures will be sturdy, resilient and meaningful if built this way. From Cowichan Tribes, a Coast Salish First Nation John learned about The Great Deeds. “It wasn’t about building things, achieving success, or having adventures”, John wrote, “instead, Great Deeds take place in the life of every family: The birth of a child, the growth of a child into adulthood, the transition from adult to Elder, the birth of a grandchild. These were the Great Deeds of life: the actions we take to care for the people around us. It’s such a different definition of great deeds than I was used to.” And yet, build is what John did – for future generations by being in the moment.
As an Inclusive Leader, John introduced many of us to a simple and profoundly impactful exercise — Connecting with Nature. He shared his learning from mentors such as Joanna Macy and Joseph Cornell, and he shared his learning from nature itself. (See video). John helped many of us understand how we can learn from nature, ways to relax, ways to listen, ways to be creative, to be connected, to be filled with grace…because Nature is made up of beautiful beings that we can come to know a little if we take the time to be with them.
Co-founder, Sarah Matheson now in Guelph recalls sitting on John’s and Linda’s deck, looking across the Cowichan Valley to Mt. Prevost, “Every night since John died, I’ve felt drawn to go out on my balcony. All the animal spirits and the sky keep me company in such a live way, and connect me to John and Linda.” ILC Board member, Susan Norris recalls a trust exercise John facilitated during one of the Inclusive Leadership Gatherings. Susan’s exercise partner led her with her eyes closed in a wooded area. When she opened her eyes on cue, her whole visual field was living tree bark – she was that close. Susan says, “I find myself reproducing that experience, going up close to a tree…being in the moment in nature. This is a gift I received from John.” The stories of John introducing us to ways of connecting with nature could fill a book. More importantly, the stories continue to live in us.
Community Builders above all else, John and his partner of 40 years, Linda Hill demonstrated day in and day out how to say “yes” to making a connection. Hosting travelers in their home, choosing and welcoming new family members, and sharing stories, food and music are ways this dynamic duo fostered love and caring in the Cowichan Valley and beyond. Janice Milnerwood in Montreal says, “The most powerful memory is when John and Linda invited us to Thanksgiving dinner — there were so many people, from all walks of life. That really stayed with me. It’s what Thanksgiving is about.”
When we look closely at John’s work, play, love and teachings we can see how it all fits together with great integrity. John was a proponent of The Earth Charter and he clearly lived in accordance with its four pillars: Integrity, Peace, Justice and Respect. He practiced and acted upon these qualities for his children, his grandchildren, his community of people and nature’s beings and he did so by reminding us to live simply, in the moment.