“My time at the Orion workshop served so many things: time to write in a beautiful setting, workshops with mentors, and incredible meals, but also a chance to watch the ethos of the Orion community engage with the grit of environmental writing in the twenty-first century, and remember why we started telling stories in the first place.
– Jolene Brink, 2018 workshop participant
This year, Orion has teamed up again with the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) to offer our writers’ workshops. Located in New York’s Hudson Valley, Omega Institute (home of OCSL) is a nonprofit, mission-driven, and donor-supported educational organization. For more than forty years they’ve been “at the forefront of holistic studies – helping people and organizations integrate personal growth and social change.” Orion’s mission is congruent with the Omega in nearly every possible way, and, with their main campus located in Rhinebeck, New York, Orion and Omega are offering our third year of workshops.
We reached out to the Omega, to learn more about what exactly makes a writers workshop unique. Here are five reasons to consider attending the Orion Environmental Writers’ Workshop, June 21-26, 2020:
1. Naturally Inspiring Venue
Omega is located in the heart of the Hudson River Valley, a federally recognized National Heritage Area replete with natural wonder, a rich tradition of artistic expression, and a history of grassroots environmental activism.
From Pete Seeger’s building of the Sloop Clearwater to the landmark Storm King decision—which established the legal precedent allowing citizens to sue on the basis of environmental harm—the Hudson Valley is considered by some the birthplace of the modern environmental movement. In the nineteenth century, the Hudson Highlands and the surrounding natural splendor served as inspiration for the Hudson River School of landscape masters, including Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, and Frederic Edwin Church. And Slabsides, the small, wooden cabin of famed naturalist author John Burroughs, is only a forty-five minute drive from Omega’s campus.
Just ninety miles north of New York City, Omega is easily accessible yet a world away from the stress of everyday life. Omega’s quiet pace, intimate classrooms, communal gathering spaces, and natural surroundings offer a variety of settings for writers to drop into their creative process, both inside the classroom and out. The beauty of the 250-acre campus, the nourishing food served, the extraordinary teachers, and the care and hospitality of the staff illustrate that the environment in which teaching occurs is as important as the teaching itself.
2. Active and Ecological Amenities
Omega’s campus includes a library, basketball court, tennis courts, woodland trails, gardens, a lake and beach, a café, and a store featuring new and classic books by Omega faculty and others.
Guests who want to learn more about Omega’s deep commitment to environmental sustainability can tour the award-winning Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). This environmental education center and natural water reclamation facility, built to meet the highest standards currently available in sustainable architecture, was the first building in the world to achieve both LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certification.
Featuring a state-of-the-art Eco Machine™, all of Omega’s wastewater is treated through natural processes, using no chemicals and net zero energy. More than a building, the OCSL offers innovative and immersive workshops and conferences, and serves as a hub for students, educators, architects, environmental activists, and others who want to learn more about natural water reclamation, sustainable living, and regenerative design.
Guests have daily access to optional classes in yoga, tai chi, meditation, and movement. These do not conflict with the program you are enrolled in, as they happen in between sessions. The Omega Wellness Center offers a wide variety of services such as massage, facials, acupuncture, life coaching, and more. These services are an added charge. Omega’s all-inclusive Accommodations & Meals Package includes use of amenities, farm-to-table meals in the Dining Hall, and choice of accommodations, ranging from campsites to dorms to private cabins.
3. A Shared Mission with World-Class Faculty
Orion inspires new thinking about how humanity might live on Earth justly, sustainably, and joyously. Omega’s mission to help awaken the best in the human spirit also includes those aspirations. Omega was founded on the holistic worldview that the well-being of each of us is deeply connected to the well-being of all living things. Both Orion and Omega are nonprofit organizations that help people unlock their potential to live with greater health, inspiration, and purpose while caring for each other and the planet we share.
This shared mission attracts the highest quality of instruction. Orion has been offering writing workshops for years and we has a reputation for engaging the most inspiring faculty. The 2020 faculty includes Belle Boggs (Nonfiction), Bronwen Dickey (Nonfiction), Garnette Cadogan (Nonfiction), Ellen Bass (Poetry), Beth Ann Fennelly (Poetry), and Joe Wilkins (Fiction). Read more here.
4. Other Events and Community Engagements
Since 2005, Omega has provided working retreat grants to more than 400 nonprofit organizations and over 5,000 dedicated participants who work to create a more compassionate and sustainable world and, in aggregate, touch more than a million people. Invited organizations operate at different scales across the spectrum of social, economic, and environmental issues. The goal is to support peer organizations actively working toward needed changes in the world and strengthen networks of change leaders connected to Omega and each other.
Additionally, with a shared commitment to yoga and service, Omega Institute and the Yoga Service Council have been partners since 2014, in bringing yoga into the lives of more individuals and communities who have limited access to these vital teachings.
Every year, thousands of people travel to Omega to experience the benefits of mindfulness-based programs—from introductory workshops to professional trainings, plus groundbreaking gatherings such as the annual Mindfulness & Education Conference. Omega has recently announced a new partnership with Brown University’s Mindfulness Center to bring their evidence-based mindfulness programs and trainings to Omega’s campus in Rhinebeck, New York.
5. Multiple Venues.
Orion and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living also partner on an environmental writers workshop that is held in a unique location in the West. Orion in the Wilderness, is offered at the Southwestern Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History, in remote Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Arizona.