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Building an Educators' Retreat


As teachers we renew our credentials every five years. But we need a much deeper renewal. Many of us get worn down by the pressures we face, and the inadequacy of our schools to meet the needs of our students. We often work in isolation, and lack support for our own creative side. We spend so much time nurturing others, and often there is no place where we are nurtured. The Tomki Center will be a place to heal the healers.


The goals of this center:
• Live in harmony with the space
• Restore the spirit and courage of our educators
• Inspire creative artistic expression
• Unleash and explore innovative ideas
• Build community among participants
• Provide space for focused collaborative work on educational issues or projects


The Tomki Center is to be an occasional gathering place for small groups (a dozen or less) of creative teachers. A cluster of small cabins will sit at the edge of a meadow, nestled under Douglas fir trees. The largest cabin will be an octagon 28 feet in diameter. Inside this cabin will a warm kitchen and a large round table for conversation, art, games and shared meals. Along the walls are beds that transform into casual seating during the day. Windows on one side face the sunny meadow, and on the other side, the ferns and tree trunks of the forest. Electricity will be limited to what we gather from a couple of small solar panels, and used mainly for lights in the evening. There is no cell phone service, TV or internet.


A few hundred yards down the road lies Tomki Creek, and a swimming hole that is eight feet deep and a hundred feet long. The Tomki feeds into the Eel River, and is a salmon spawning ground. Bear and deer roam during the days, bats and owls rule the nights. The property is ten miles east of the nearest town, off the grid, at the end of a dirt road in the heart of Mendocino County, about three hours north of San Francisco.


Over the past few months work has begun to make this a reality. In the past month, my teenage sons, a couple of their pals, and my partner joined me for several four-day long work parties up at the site. We worked with a local builder who is very skilled and energetic. We ran about a thousand feet of pipe around the hill to a spring, and connected it to a 2600 gallon storage tank, so now we have running water and a shower. And over the past two weeks, we laid an eight-sided concrete perimeter foundation for the main cabin.


My hope is to spend next summer actually building the cabin atop this foundation.




I have shared this idea on a Facebook page, which has more information and photographs. If you are interested, you can sign up as a “fan” there to get updates.

What do you think of this idea? What would a teacher’s retreat look like for you?

(all photos by Anthony Cody or Randi C., used with permission)


I love what you're doing, and your description of the goals, site, and main cabin makes it very vivid and inspiring.

Awesome Anthony. This sounds incredible. My husband has worked for years with an organization called "Sustaining the Soul that Serves"--this sounds like it is completely aligned with their vision.

That is great. I have been focused recently on building the physical space, but I look forward to networking with people like your husband in the future to figure out how to actually develop the program.

I am fascinated by what you are doing. I will be interested in this project and its progression. Thanks for thinking of ways to renew teachers.

I am gratified with the interest this has generated. The Facebook page now has seventy fans, from all over the country!

I just posted a few more photographs, and we are talking about who wants to come participate in a "barn raising" next summer. If you are interested, please come by the Facebook page and check it out. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Tomki-Center/103358299533?ref=search

Wow, Anthony. Build that dream. I'm always inspired when I dip into your blog. Now I hope someday to dip into your salmon-filled creek!

This is a great idea, and I think you're on the right track. I just wonder about the one thing which will give most teachers more stress when considering whether attending something like this: cost. I have a hard time believing this would cost less than maybe $600 for a three day retreat. I don't think I would pay that, and I don't think it would be a prudent use of school district funds if they were interested.

Mr. D,
I appreciate you raising this question. First of all, you need to understand what this is, and is not. This is NOT going to be a plush retreat center with folded towels ready when you emerge from the spa. I am working now to make it much more accommodating that it has been, and that means building the new cabin, and installing a shower and running water. But we have a swimming hole -- not a pool. We have -- are you ready? -- an outhouse, not a flush toilet. There will be minimal electricity, a small propane stove and fridge, and simple sleeping arrangements.

I am planning to finance the new cabin myself. My friend Hale is willing to work with me and as many of my friends and relatives will pitch in to build the thing next summer. I was up there this weekend with him pulling re-bar and installing a french drain.

The main out-of-pocket expense we will have is food. There will be no cooks. We will take turns preparing food, and washing up afterwards.

So all that said, I expect a three-day long retreat should not cost more than about $100 - $200. Plus your gas to get there. What do you think?


I'll meet you up there when you have the folded towels and flush toilet.

Well, you can't please everyone. If we make it inexpensive, we aren't going to have luxury. But there is something comforting in knowing we have what we need in the basics, and the real luxuries are the time we have together, the sun, the swimming hole, the walks on the dirt road, and the nights under the stars.

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