COA Presents Talk on Connecting to the Wild

Posted April 11, 2013, at 4:25 p.m.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 4:10 p.m. to 4:10 p.m.

Location: College of the Atlantic - Gates Community Center, 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, Maine

For more information: John Visvader; 207-288-5015;

BAR HARBOR, ME—On April 18th at 4:10 pm in College of the Atlantic’s Gates Community Center, research associate Susie O’Keeffe presents the Art of Reciprocity: Rekindling the Exchange of Wild Affection.

O’Keeffe, who holds a Master’s with Distinction from Oxford University in Environmental Change and Management, has spent 23 years working in environmental protection and is currently exploring contemplative inquiry and aesthetic perception as a form of field study.

Through poetry, prose, images, and music, O’Keeffe will review her travels by train, boat, and plane to spend a month in solitary contemplation in the Tongass National Forest on Admiralty Island in southeast Alaska. Admiralty is known among the Tlingit as Kootznoowoo, or the Fortress of the Bears. The Tongass is one of earth’s last temperate rain forests. Salmon still surge through its waters, the brown bear population is dense, and much of the ancient growth remains.

O’Keeffe sees the art of reciprocity as pivoting on a practice of deep self-awareness, embracing the methods artists and contemplatives use to meet the world. “I draw from a very wide range of traditions and individuals,” she explains, “but my work doesn’t employ the scientific method. It is a way of knowing through unique, individual experiences that can’t be reproduced, repeated, or imposed. It requires the development of our intuitive, imaginal, emotional, instinctual, and bodily intelligences, as well as the cognitive.”

This work stems from O’Keeffe’s conviction that the ecological crisis is ultimately one of human consciousness. “Modernity functions on a very thin slip of awareness. Our capacities for broader consciousness have profoundly atrophied. This deterioration allows us to do terrible damage.” Because of this, she considers the expansion of consciousness to be as important as the accumulation of knowledge. “It is indispensable to the future vitality, possibly the survival, of this planet.”

For more information on the talk, Art of Reciprocity: Rekindling the Exchange of Wild Affection, on Thursday, April 18 at 4:10 p.m. in Gates Community Center, contact John Visvader, or 207-288-5015.

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit