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Sherry Cox Interview Transcript

Sept. 29
Sherry Cox
The Green House
1920 Ritchie Rd.,
Christina Lake, BC V0H 1E2
(W) 250-447-6557
(H) 250-447-6556
Email –

Dave Beckwith:

Start wherever you want.

Sherry Cox:

I’d like to ask the others that you’ll interview why do you do what you do? My curiosity and my hunch I guess is that I do this because somehow this knowing seems to be there that there was a different way to do things. I can't explain where it came from, and it wasn't reading about somebody else being, or, seeing different forms of economic development, or, whatever, it's just here. Knowing that things could and should be really very different and some knowing that now was the time for it to happen and so I guess my question is, is that other people's experience? Because it seems to me that we're in a wave beyond democracy now where we're not electing leaders to be democratic leaders we're electing ourselves to lead ourselves. And it seems to me that that's what's happening everywhere, so I'm curious to hear about other people and kind of knowing that change.

Talk about what, how you got started or how this place developed.

This place developed out of being in England. We were in England for several years, knowing that we would be coming back, and I was training as an art therapist and had always had a dream of a big place where people could come to learn more about themselves, a place of self discovery. I've just always had a dream of that, a big house where people could come, there would be a safety and a place of heart feeling there, an opportunity to get out of business and too muchness and in that quiet place, make connections with themselves, rediscover, that sort of thing. When I was in England and was training as an art therapist, David and Melon Knopf, the people who have the nursery here, they called and said that the Johnson place was up for sale. And everybody knows the Johnson place, kind of in the center of our small town, beautiful big field… And, so four of us bought it for 95,000 dollars, I mean, that's pretty amazing, in 1991. And I'd always had this dream of a big house, so I took over the house, and. Anne did the Nursery, and Bob did the shop at the farm. And also when I was in England, besides this sense of a sort of quiet center, inward looking, inner discovery, personal, journey, I also had a growing sense of what was possible with money that I'd inherited. When I inherited it Bob and I had just come back, we had just got back from Colorado. It was the last thing on my mind about thinking about money, I mean we were making a completely backwards stab into the woods, you know, back to the land of Hippies, we were living without electricity and creating our self sufficiency back to the land reality. And my dad died and I was quite surprised to discover that I had inherited money. I had just completely hid my head like an ostrich in the sand for a very long time about that because we had really chosen a different life.

And you came here when?

We came here in ‘72.

‘72 from Colorado?


And then you went to England in,

We went to England in ‘85, so about that time I was beginning to reckon with it more and begin to take my head out of the sand. I remember when I really got that money is energy. And the penny sort of dropped that I could be creative, and as that really dawned on me, and part of it was that I was making my inner journey, studying as an art therapist, I began to connect with a part of myself that kind of surprised me. I started having all of these conceptions of systems that would work. Sort of economic systems that would be self-sustaining, take care of the people and honor the earth. This is where I speak of a kind of knowing, sort of this inner knowing, and I didn't know where it was coming from, but it was quite strong, and it was really fun to think about. And I laid it out in front of a few people and you know, it seemed sound enough. So the two kind of grew along side of each other, a quiet center for inner work and also community projects, changing communities.

And so, the center became the Green House?

The Green House, and the project became SEED.

Talk a little bit about SEED. What it is, what it does?

Well, the name SEED is Social Ecological Economic Development. For me really it was the image of using money as a SEED, SEED money. A very powerful metaphor. That was what I had come to understand was that the money could be SEEDed and create energy there. It was very exciting. And that projects could be gotten off the ground without having major mortgage hanging over, you know, it would give us the possibility of doing something innovative with a capital resource behind us. And, so in, it's 4 years ago almost right now that I invited a group of friends, basically, long long time relationships to a retreat here at the Green House and there were a couple of people I had met at conferences who came. By this time I had connected with the people of the community, of the larger world beyond Christina Lake. I read Rebirth of Business… Spirit in Business and discovered that there is this whole wide community of people out there thinking that the kind of stuff that I'd been thinking on my own for 10 years. And I mean, like totally way ahead of me, it wasn't that I needed, it was so exciting to discover that this was happening everywhere. And I remember one thing that really turned me on was Willis Harmon saying business is the most powerful thing on the planet. And somehow that just really rang. And so I wanted to be engaged in a project in this community where we're creating businesses that are fiscally sound and create good community relations and then I discovered there's a whole network, you know, Flo Frank comes and there's a whole network of people and I think that's choreography.

So SEED has a little building on the grounds.

SEED grew from that group, I mean it's not been an easy history, but nothing is when you're leaping completely into the unknown. Nobody knew what we were doing, but somehow we did find our way and incorporated as a nonprofit society. We have our second executive director now and have this wonderful office. Which I don't know if we have a key, I'd love to get you in to see that.

And how many staff?

There are two staff. We have this fabulous executive director who has come, well you've heard about it from Flo,

What's his name?

His name is Garry Wilson. He's had a lot of experience in community economic development, so now for us, we've been trying to figure out how to do some of this stuff here and now we really feel connected with the network that is doing that sort of stuff. It's a great relief and now we know we're really onto something sound. And it can happen, we really have the sense now you know, that,

So he's the second director, what does the other staff person do?

Victoria is a local person who, really she's getting trained in the whole field of economic development. She does a lot of the office work and the computer work at the moment, she's working on the website.

Well, it's interesting to think of the moment of birth, of something like SEED, it goes from wouldn't it be nice if someone did, to, do you think I could, to I, we are, and that's a magic time. It was 4 years ago.

Talk a little bit about the program, if you would, of both the Green House and SEED, what's the work that they do?

Well there are workshops at the Green House and actually we are in the process of devising our schedule. But the workshops at the Green House have tended to be in, there's been a lot of artists come, and a couple who come and do oh, it's group therapy, and it's mostly training. We're wanting to build up a steady t’ai chi and meditation presence here, this place is for Yoga and that, that quiet space. And then SEED is starting a program this year. We want to take on for like the next 7-9 months, an educational program to bring cutting edge speakers to this region on eco-forestry, eco-tourism. We were talking last night about the possibility of creative civil disobedience in relationship to the Gorge. This holistic management workshop that Kate's doing. So we see ourselves in a time of, it's important to educate ourselves and to educate people in the region, so, building a broader base of people who are excited about it.

So what's the region that’s your focus? How broad geographically?

Well, I think we would define ourselves as in the Kootenay boundary. I mean, our local economy, we're really concentrated on the economy of Christina Lake, and Garry's developing relationships in Nelson, and Kaslo, so actually farther than the Kootenay boundary, no actually Kaslo is still within the Kootenay boundary. I don't know how big it is, but you know, 3 or 4 hours drive from here we're having relationships. We want relationships across the line, there's some relationships happening there, so. And we also operate in the Bioregion, which actually goes across the border, to, I mean, is there anywhere that actually doesn't stop at the border?

Nor does the water nor the money. The money passes back and forth, too.

Yah. And it's kind of neat because the Gorge is one of the reasons that there's suddenly this stronger relationship. Because they love it and we love it, it's not a Canadian place alone. That relationship is forming.

So, complete the picture if you could of the Green House, available for individuals, and being sort of a physical space that you've provided. It has a program of planned workshops and then SEED is doing sort of community involvement training. And SEED, does it have some relationship to the businesses on the corner, or?

SEED is running Moon Beans. Moon Beans is its own enterprise run by SEED. And the Internet café, why we got involved in that was the need for community gatherings. We sort of launched into it in the best of spirit and then found out we weren't very good at doing business, Duh! And, now we're very happy, this year it's breaking even. So that's put us through a lot of self quest. But, we decided it was still worth it, even though we didn't know how soon we could break even, we're very happy to break even this year. But we really need a gathering place in this community. So we felt that it was important. Now if it really had continued to not have fiscal value, we would have had to abandon it. So Moon Beans also houses the Internet café. It was viewed at the beginning by lots of people as, oh you know, that's kind of the hippie weird space, but now everybody feels much more comfortable. There's a real variety of people that come through. So slowly those kinds of stereotypes are breaking down. I think at first SEED, well not very many people knew about it, but those who did, typed it as the alternatives, and now, this year, it's really breaking out. It's great fun because like the park committee, we have these wonderful possibilities of, we have a park in this town and we as a community are trying to figure out how do we work with this wonderful park. And also, find a way to talk among themselves that works. This is a way that I think SEED, basically we are inserting ourselves into the dialog and into the community and kind of acting as leaven, as yeast, in a loaf of bread. Not as visible as we will be in the future. I think it includes the chamber of commerce and the parks committee? And the chamber of commerce meets here at the Green House. So really, it's lots of relationship building and being involved in every dialog that's going on.

So, say a bit if you would about why you do what you do and what sustains you through the hard parts, through the good parts, something that keeps you trying.

This is a really good time for you to ask that. I mean, you probably hit me at a low spot. And I'm asking why do I do this? Again it's just an inner sense that somehow I could not NOT be engaged in this, the sense that these things really can happen is so exciting and, suddenly the sweat lodge comes to mind.

We'll turn the tape and we'll talk about the sweat lodge.


What renews you?

It's a spiritual dimension. You know it's again, that sort of inner knowing that I just cannot be not engaged in it, it would be failing something inside of myself that just is there. And, you know, I'm tired now, but there's just so, such a wonderful sense of excitement. Sometimes you're at a low point; can we really get this baby humming? But then Flo comes and we find out we're connected with this way greater community.

It's a great relief.

It was really great.

We're not in it just ourselves; we're not the first ones that have tried it.

Yah. And a sense of joy really that this is, it's a real thing. It's very satisfying and.

Talk a little bit about,

I was just going to say one more thing. One thing that sustains me, I realized, is that there's a learning edge always to it. One of the things that was very formative to me, when I thought about economic systems or whatever, I had read The Turning Point, and when I learned about the new understanding we have of ourselves. It was, it just blew my mind and it really grounded a lot of I suppose spirituality that has always been a part of my life in various forms, but it just blew. So I find that one of the most satisfying things, is the thing that we can really be about something that is so true to the nature of our own nature. We discovered I guess what we really are connected and there are systems that we can create that will really benefit everybody and it doesn't have to be some airy fairy spirituality, we're really on the ground with a new way of being. So that really sustains me.

You talk about Flo Frank as an important connection. Who else is in the web, who is us? Who are the people that you think of as fellow, common people, people in the same business?

Right. Well, just my connections in my life, I mentioned Willis Harmon. When I was really starting to speak seriously about bringing some of these forms through, I went to a Rebirth of Business conference in Vancouver, and there I met Willis Harmon who was one of the creators of the World Business Academy and the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Have you heard of Noetics? It started when Edgar Mitchell was an astronaut. He saw the earth from space and he had a total opinion,

Now I've heard of it, yah, the astronaut project, yah,

Yah. That's the one. Okay. So IONS is a really crucial connection for me they're doing some really good research in frontier science and consciousness, so therefore it's still research, the philosophy of consciousness of why we're doing things differently. One of my connections is with a guy named Hal Brill, who has written a book called Natural Investing. And David Driscoll. Hal is actually my financial manager and we met at the spirit of business conference. And when we partnered up it was a huge leap for both of us. And so to have somebody in that world of investment, we have all the values of heart, who get it... And now he's written this wonderful book...and Flo and Kate have been very important.

Do you see yourself as an agent of change, of social change?

Recently a friend described me as someone who sets things in motion. And it took a little while to take that on, but I do.

What will it take to advance organizing in the future?

A key thing is the material, the very information, that's the beginning. One of the things I want to create at the Green House is a learning center. I just think that the new understanding we have, more and more people can really see and get it. We will do things, and look for ways for that information to be spoken in such an easy language. So much language creates the ins and the outs, the secret words and the secret language. So that remains a real central thing for me. The Green House and SEED and how they fit together, this is the perfect educational center for community economic development. I really look forward to having lots of teaching come, because it's just about all sorts of things, it's really what we now know about the universe and about ourselves and there is a way of doing things based on that. And how do you really make that information available? How to really make it available in a way that sort of creates community as you do that, and I think that we're getting some of it out, I mean,

If you say there are sort of alumni of the Green House and the SEED program, I would suspect those worlds would cross over a lot. How many are there and who are they, the alumni? And do you have parties?

Do we have parties? We need more parties! Thank you we’ll put them on the schedule. We have had good parties. Who would I say would be alumni? The SEED board, I guess. There are now I would say several dozen people in this region who you know, are just at that point of having enough experience here, either in the Green House or at a SEED event. I would say maybe there's two dozen out there who are really beginning to get a grounded sense of another way of doing things and beginning to talk about it.

And who are those, I mean, not by name, are they business people, civic leaders, semi-former hippies, and political activists?

All of the above. I mean, I think this is great that the mayor is coming to meet them. Some people in the chamber have been through here. We have an area planning committee, a number of those. Margaret was the regional director, we have to get the present regional director here, but we're hoping for a future one, we need a future one quick! We're targeting the credit union, I mean there are lots of, Gary's got a good network. These salons that we're going to have, it'll actually be invitational, we're going to serve dinners. We aren't going to be trying to flog workshops, we've decided to take on a program that's our gift to the community and the region. I mean, the credit union and all the area planning committee are around, and we want to get the regional directors and just everybody. We have such a broad range, but not just anything, we're not just shooting at anything, but vital links to the region and have it be an opportunity to educate them, not just educate though, create the community while you're imparting the information, it's the two things going on.

Not just in one direction,

Us, preaching to Them. That's not it. You know, so come back in a year after we've run this program, we'll really talk about alumni then.

Great! You did talk a little bit about the strategy for building and growing, that you have a list and you have a sense of who are the people. Are you hopeful?

Oh very, very very. That's the other thing that sustains, of course, the SEED taking root, sending up nice healthy shoots. You know, we have a chance here at Christina Lake to create a path and now that the interest is getting broad the way it is, I am really hopeful that we will be able to. It's gonna grow, it'll be dumb and ugly, or it'll be beautiful and strong. We have a really good chance of being beautiful and strong. I'm very hopeful. And I like that we have the opportunity of bringing people here. We can have a training program that instead of people going away, they'll be coming here and being part of our projects.

You started off talking about the questions for others. Any more come to mind, because this is a conversation among organizers and activists? Quandaries?

Well I would love wisdom from others; there's lots of ways of social activity getting started. Mine has been from the point of view of being a philanthropist and being able to fund something, which has been sometimes really very difficult. I would love conversation with others in that boat, the wisdom that they have learned about how to handle some of the issues, power and control and money, it is very difficult and challenging the being to get into action. So I'd love...

I'd love to hear your answer to that question. It's a little trick that, to turn the question on the person like that.

Well this is really baring the bones as it were. But it was very scary for me to kind of come out in the community, knowing first of all that I had the financial resources, I think I was afraid to take on the responsibility of it in some ways. I still had a full, grown up understanding that I'm really responsible for doing this and setting this in motion. There’s also sort of a myth, there was I think a genuine impulse and intention to give away, so that it wouldn't be, you know, me saying, this is my vision, this is what should happen. Boom, you know, but how to give it away so that there was a shared sense of how to handle the issues without controlling. And I think what I've learned is where I need to dispose my responsibilities and power, control and trust my own instincts.

And not give away,

And not give away, and you know, what do I need to hold and not give away, and what do I need to give away. And the only way to learn is to make some mistakes.

Hit the wall,

Hit the wall - and survive it!

Where do you get those hard lessons from, besides just general life that relate to relationship and accountability?

The SEED board was invited to take it up. My invitation was if the opportunity entreats you of using the financial resource to seek a shared vision, or see what we can do in our community to affect the kind of change we want, of course we need to discover what change we want. Then my two requirements would be that we clear things emotionally with each other. That doesn't mean bring your whole personal life in, but the emotional stuff that comes up among ourselves, we need to be committed to clearing that, I think I put it like seek spirit's wisdom, whatever that means to you. We open our board meetings with a few moments of silence, I wouldn't say we've done this perfectly, but we have held it as an intention, and there's been some difficult emotional times of clearing and feelings and money brings a lot of that out. So we have an accountability to each other. It's held us pretty well. And I really take Kate and Flo on that I'm in the process of building a council around me personally, I know I need that, and just personal support. I think that will help me to work with people in that way so that I'm not always having to get it in the fray, you know, run it by my own council first, you know. So I'm seeking that, I've increased personal councilling.

I want to end by saying what are the questions that you would like to ask?

Hmmm, Well, what kind of pops into my mind, is, and it's my own question, is what have we done the best, not just the most, why are we as well perched as we are right now, to really serve a very wonderful change here. I really think we are.

Well, the question occurs to me, what have you done that brought you to this point?

Well we hung in there through the difficult bits, we've been open to the helps that have come, we've taken our time to make relationships in the community, gotten outside of our own boxes. An answer to that is I have held some kind of light alive inside, I feel like, and that's maybe not something that I've done, it's just my path, light has been bright enough to stay, and together we've… The best thing is that we've taken time to build relationships.

And is there a story, an example, an event, an illustration of that perspective?

Well I think the best event we put on was called vision 20/20. And when I looked around the room and there were old and young and conservative and alternative and we all talked about our passions, that was a highlight, that was the sense of ah, this is the heartbeat.

Say more about that? How many people were there? Where was it, how was it? What was the program?

There were about 20 of us, and it was here at the Green House. And we brought in some guys from Vancouver. They're called Urban Ecology. They're guys who are architects and in systems design for 30 years and so on, so they design according to natural systems. They do very beautiful community design, and one thing they really get is that how can you make a community design without engaging with the community? So they really you know, they were great to come and get the community to participate and did it's own creation and at the end then, had beautiful slides of some things that they're engaged with, clusters of commons, for example, a wonderful solar aquatics way of sewage treatment. I mean, how do we deal with shit is number one, every community has got to deal with their shit.

Everyone who is alive, has shit.


That's the way it works.

Might as well take that one on. And we've circled the question in this community forever, what are we going to do about sewage treatment, so to start with people talking about their passions and things that they love here, a really diverse group, and then to move towards seeing options that we would have. It was smart; it was really cool to have Russ Esson, the plumber, as he was leaving, going, that solar aquatics thing is cool!

And he'd know how to hook it up!

Yah. So that was a nice combination, I think it was the vision and the community part, the relationship. That was a nice piece of work.

Well, I was trying to think of another question that I forgot to ask.

This has been it's fun to, sometimes you don't see things out there, you know you see them when you show somebody else your territory.