Cover of Common Ground magazine, November 2015 edition, featuring bold orange and yellow flames with a text overlay discussing various articles.

November 2015

41st Anniversary Gratitude Issue

It’s November and we still await the rains. Fire, mixed with gratitude, is the theme of this issue. I shed some tears working on this edition. Last month, the Valley Fire captured weeks of headlines as it ravaged over 76,000 acres in Lake County—and with it our beloved Harbin Hot Springs. The drought-weary trees and grasses were no match for the force of this red hurricane. Giant trees imploded from the extreme heat. Harbin was quickly evacuated and didn’t stand a chance.

A month afterward, I had the special privilege of sitting down with Harbin founder Robert Hartley, who goes by the name Ishvara. Born in 1933 to East Coast Old Money, Ishvara attended prep school and was later at the precipice of getting expelled from Harvard for showing porno movies. It’s a rarely told story he shares in my interview.

Though brilliant at making money in the financial markets and real estate, Ishvara is the most thoroughly nonmaterialistic person I’ve ever met. An ecologist to the core, his only interest in money is to finance his utopian New Age dreams. The extent to which Harbin is cherished by the Common Ground community is indescribable.

Read my interview and learn about how this fascinating octogenarian outgrew his gawky youth and came to found Harbin. His stories and reflections on spiritual life, community, sustainability, loss, grief, life, death, gratitude—and of course, fire—are exclusive. Requests from the mainstream media to speak with Ishvara after the fire headlines were denied. Only Common Ground, given our long history with Harbin, was granted this rare visit. For this I want to acknowledge Harbin manager Julie Adams and T. O’Rourke, both of whom I adore.

After my interview, I was given another exclusive opportunity—to tour the grounds to pay my respects and take some personal photos. Realizing that there was a rare beauty in these images, I later requested that a professional photographer be allowed to capture the scene. That permission was denied, but I was allowed to use the photos I’d already taken. They’re raw and part of our pictorial. Spoiler alert: if you know Harbin, these images may bring tears of nostalgia. The good spoiler alert: plans for rebuilding Harbin are underway.

To round out the issue, we have some deep stories by Arjuna Ardagh about how to grow from disappointment, while Kate Targanski, who has written for us before, submitted a poignant piece called “A Thousand Names for Grief: My Grandfather Died Yesterday.” We just got off the phone with her. Indeed, her grandfather died yesterday.

Thank you, Carol Orsborn and Robert Weber, for your essay about conscious aging, an important topic for everyone, young and old, associated with a member of the baby boom generation. Amy Hall’s piece on gratitude is wonderful, as is Susan Bradford’s “Birth: The Original Vision Quest.” Thanks to Stephan Schwartz for his article about the consensual strategies of beingness and the eight ways social change comes about. And many more.

As ever, we implore you to show your appreciation for the magazine by patronizing our advertisers, to whom I bow in gratitude. December-January is a combined issue themed “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise.”



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