Archive for October, 2009

MSI Holds Retreat


Good Energy & Great Ideas at MSI’s Board Retreat
Mountain Spirit Held its bi-annual retreat recently at the home of Founder Randall Richards in Sunapee, NH, USA.  Board member Bob Stremba of Colorado, Craig Cimmons of Vermont and New Jersy, Cindy Heath of Plainfield, NH, R. Richards and Amanda Richards of New Hampshire and New Zealand, also attended.

The group discussed last years goals and achievements, plus future plans for fund raising, grant writing, and programs for the future.  Randy and Amanda Richards did a presentation on last summer’s Peru program, and plans were discussed to run the program again. New programs such as India, Everest Basecamp, and a Holistic Leadership Training program were discussed and planned.
The board also talked about updating and modifying the website.  Amanda Richards was also voted on as the newest member of the board, as well as being named treasurer.
A new boardmember search is planned which would focus on people with experience in donor relations and fund raising.

The following day the group, went for a day hike on Mt. Cardigan near Hanover, NH to walk and talk about ideas such as the mission and working on the board’s “elevator speech”, plus take in the view. They also had a ball getting out on the mountain for a crisp fall day in New England.

Below, four of the six board members pose for a group shot, which turned out to be a video instead.

Health Care or The Environment.

Which Comes First?
A look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
By: Craig Cimmons

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

As an environmentalist, I paid close attention to the candidate’s environmental stances and solutions during the Presidential election of 2009. However, the more I listened, the more apparent something became. American citizens are not going to devote their full attention to the needs of the environment until their own needs are met. With America’s health care system in need of desperate repair, the average citizen is worrying about problems closer to home then the large scale, hard to understand, global environmental problems.

Families that are losing everything they own to fight a disease, (or live in fear of this happening) do not have any resources (time, energy and money) to devote to anything outside of these problems.  A family that is watching cancer slowly consume their loved one (and their life savings) should never be expected to fight enormous problems like global warming, peak oil and the steady decrease of drinking water.


MS Names New Board Member



Amanda Richards, MSI Board Member

Amanda Richards was named to the board of Directors of Mountain Spirit Institute, at the organization’s recent annual retreat held in Sunapee, NH. She was also elected treasurer.

Amanda brings a wealth of marketing and business background plus great energy and ideas to MSI.  She has also been a backcountry hut Ranger for the Department Conservation in New Zealand’s Mt. Aspiring National Park.  Amanda has trekked extensively in the Himalaya,  climbed Kilimanjaro in Africa, and done extensive adventures in New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world.  She is a classically trained Homeopath and has a degree in science. She speaks conversational Spanish and English.
Says Richards of her new appointment, ” I’m thrilled to be part of the Mountain Spirit team, and look forward to contributing.”

Nice Place, Vermont


Cody Michaels Seen in Vermont,
I’m not too sure how long I’ll get away with this post. As soon as Cody finds out, he’ll probably make me pull it.
Nevertheless, solo pianist Cody Michaels is a hoot. I’ve known him for over twenty years. We first met ice climbing in North Cornflakes, New Hampshire.
He’s a funny guy, and I’ve always thought he’d be great on either radio or snippets such as this, and wanted to get him on tape doing interviews on various social observations. Give it go, and maybe we can convince him to do a bit more.

MSI Founder Purchases Land in Peru


Randy and Amanda Richards have purchased a small parcel of land near Hauraz Peru, which if their plans come to fruition, could mean a basecamp for Mountain Spirit Institute. The couple would eventually like to build a small retreat center/basecamp on the spot which overlooks the Cordillera Blanca range in northern Peru, including the highest peak in Peru, Mt. Huascaran.


Possible MSI Basecamp, Peru

Richards first saw the site 12 years ago when we was taken up there by his godchild’s family. Richards was guiding Huasacaran at the time. He always had it in the back of his mind that the site would be ideal for either a small cabin or retreat where participants could come and take Mountain Spirit programs.


Huascaran from MSI's Basecamp(?)

The site had only been accessible by foot – a 1.5 hour hike from the valley floor below, but two years ago a dirt road was put in to access the area, and Richards thought it was better to act now than wait any longer.

Although Richards purchased the land, depending upon funding from Mountain Spirit, the organization could become involved if the board thinks it would like to expand operations in Peru by offering a basecamp. Regardless, The Richards will enact conservation  and stewardship practices, maintaining the protecting the area from further development by possibly purchasing additional acreage or seeking others willing to put the land into protection. The location is particularly special and deserves protection from hotel interests that have been interested in the area. The area us currently used for farming, and the couple will encourage their “Peruvian family”, the Sanchez family to add the parcel to their nearby fields.


Tai Chi on Land near Hauraz, Peru

Says Richards, originally of Sunapee, NH, “I never thought I’d be purchasing land in Peru, but the time and situation seemed right.” He added, “It has a special spirit of the place,” which would be a appropriate for an organization called “Mountain Spirit”.

Laugh Dancing in Peru


Daniel & Maria Sanchez, Huaraz

Daniel & Maria Sanchez, Huaraz, Peru

Bridging Cultures with Laughter in Peru
By Randall Richards
“Laugh Dancing” – I’m not sure if that’s the name, or if there even is a name, but I first saw it at our wedding reception last spring, when someone pulled this out of their bag of tricks. Laugh Dancing is a misnomer. Maybe it should be called “StoneFace Dancing” because while you’re dancing, the object is actually to not laugh, to keep a straight face. He who laughs first, loses the round. The object is to get the other person to crack up before you do – Great fun.
Then, add the international element, in this case, my godchild’s family in Huaraz, Peru, and  instantaneously, you’re breaking culture barriers with laughter.
For those too shy to dance, there’s also Laugh-Sitting, (or StoneFace sitting) where opponents face off, and stare each other down, till one starts smiling, after which it’s a slippery slope from there.

Below, the first clip is of Maria Sanchez Figeroa, my godchild’s grandmother, facing off with Amanda in the kitchen of Restaurant Salud y Vida. Instantly, this laughter, brought us one more step closer together in our 12-year friendship. The second clip is Amanda facing off with Elizabeth, a vegetarian cook in the restaurant.  Next, she finally wins a round against our godchild, Joseph Sanchez. Try it on your next trip.

Why We Need Live Music – Part 1


By Randall Richards

Joel Cage prior to taking the stage

Joel Cage prior to taking the stage

Tonight, I just heard my good friend Joel Cage play an evening at our local Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse. This will be one of the harder posts to write because no words will justify the experience. You had to be there.  Nevertheless…

Joel played to a small audience tonight. He’s always been the consummate professional. When I first heard him during our early days, when the CoffeeHouse was just starting out in Sunapee Harbor, he blew us all away with his style and technical know how.  But hearing him tonight was like hearing a different person. He seems wise beyond his years, and presents an affable, grounded style.

Joel in action at SCC

Joel in action at SCC

Aside from his stunning guitar playing and vocals, he’s really made a major shift skyward. His whole energy, the way he takes the stage, the feeling put into every note, brings the audience, (at least those willing to go), to a new level of warmth and community.  It seems he’s been on a long journey in a short time. He’s making the most of his journey with the time he’s given – that is clear.

The first thing I noticed immediately, was his total commitment to the performance, right from the first note. The second thing I noticed about Joel, was his guitar.
At first I thought, “That’s an interesting sound hole placement for a *guitar”, and “what a cool finish and woodwork.”  Then I realized what I was seeing. It wasn’t a sound hole. Joel had actually worn away the finish, and then the wood just above the strings with his strumming, until he created the hole after years of playing .”  That in itself might be a curiosity, but it’s how he plays the thing, and how he and the guitar are one. The guitar is an extension of Joel. (*see image)

Joel Cage consciously creates a space, for himself, the audience, and each person in the room. He’s got the technical skills to pull off an amazing performance, but more importantly has put the heart behind his craft that puts him at the cutting edge, leading the way.

Read this book.

Read this book.

Often I talk about leadership in these posts, and the “Courage to Create” comes to mind (Read Rollo May’s book about this, with the same title). Joel is a true leader. It takes courage to present and show a new way, and break the mold of what we think music should or shouldn’t be. The gift that Joel brought to the audience tonight, was his ruthless walk to the edge and his skill in bringing us with him on his journey. Thanks Joel, we’ll be making the trip to see you tomorrow night, at The Mill. Keep up the good work.

This is why we need live music. Unplug the computer, the TV and get out to hear someone play this weekend, or pick up a guitar and play it. To be continued.

Sunapee students on Outward Bound


Mountain Spirit facilitates 4th year of scholarships for Sunapee H.S. students on Outward Bound.
By Randall Richards

Linnea Circosta on Outward Bound

Linnea Circosta on Outward Bound

Two students from Sunapee High School were the 2009 recipients of Mountain Spirit Institute’s Sunapee High School/Outward Bound Scholarship Program. The two 17-year old seniors were Sean Reidy, and Linnea Circosta who chose different challenge courses both in the western U.S.
This is Mountain Spirit’s 4th year facilitating the connection between Outward Bound USA,  local students, and donors such as Rotary International of New London, NH, and Sugar River Savings Bank, Newport NH.

The courses can be life changing for students who learn about community building, climbing, rafting, mountaineering skills as well as how to be more self reliant and compassionate with others under challenging circumstances.
Mountain Spirit Institute founder Randy Richards has a long history with Outward Bound and considers the scholarship program an opportunity for his organization to give back to his hometown community.

Sean Reidy on Wyo. granite

Sean Reidy on Wyo. granite

Reidy chose the Veedawoo National Park Rock Climbing course which lasted eight days north of Denver in Wyoming’s southern border area where great rock climbing abounds.
Sean had climbed a little before the program –  “Some indoor climbing, but not much outside, ” said Reidy.
When asked if he had any fears or concerns, he mentioned, “When I was younger, heights definitely got me, and on this trip, being away from home was not a big deal, I’d done camps, and this was my second time in my life on a plane.” He added, “flying alone was a concern, but there were signs all over the airport.
“Are you glad you chose a program out west?” I asked.  Reidy responded,  “The weather was great! This was my first time out west,….  No, I did, take a road trip with family but that was four years ago.

“Fresh- The Movie”, It’s Important!


Sustainable food and a healthy future for all our children
By Amanda Richards

Fresh, The Movie

Fresh, The Movie

A friend of mine had just mentioned she’d seen a movie called Food Inc. , a film that documents where our food in the U.S. comes from. It shows how our food supply is seriously compromised. After seeing the film however, she was wondered what she could do for her family and community – what action steps could she take? She finds that she is still shopping in supermarkets and has felt a bit ‘powerless’ to change her buying habits. Answers to her questions can be found in a new film by Ana Sofia Joanes called ‘Fresh – New thinking about the way we are eating.’ It is an optimistic movie offering a ‘gateway to action.’ Exactly what my friend is looking for. ‘FRESH is a grassroots efforts for a grassroots movement’. Instead of being distributed in cinemas, it is being offered to communities as a way for people to get together and screen the movie for themselves. In this way, it can be used as a tool for action.
I have just signed on to help Linda Howes,CN,HHP,CBE, owner of Nourishing Wellness, organize a showing in the Kearsarge Region of New Hampshire. It’s important. Have a look at the website and get involved. The ‘FRESH movement is a constantly growing community striving to alter the way our food system works.’

“We all just watched FRESH…and we were mesmerized and empowered. Every American needs to see this. You will capture hearts with this. I can’t wait to sit in an audience watching this. It is absolutely masterful. “
Joel Salatin

“We all know about the problems with the American food system, but what about the solutions? FRESH is a bracing, even exhilarating look at the whole range of efforts underway to renovate the way we grow food and feed ourselves.”
Michael Pollan

Spontaneous Musical Mentorship


Traditional Folklore Band Director from Cusco Inspires Local Young Musicians on Lake Titicaca Island

Guillermo Seminario while co-leading a Mountain Spirit Institute program on Lake Titicaca’s Amantani Island last July,  spontaneously struck up a musical conversation with a few of the island’s budding local musicians. The children were playing along side a path in the small hamlet of Pueblo, when the MSI group passed by. When the kids started playing their instruments, Seminario, a professional musician, joined in.  Seminario directs the Mountain Spirit Institute USA/Peruvian Music Exchange, performs, teaches and tours in the Northeastern U.S. with his band Chimu Inka and plays with his band in Cusco Peru. It was a magic moment, watching the kids play with Guillermo…….