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Interview with The Dana Hall Bulletin August 1999

Dana Hall School


Wellesley, MA

(Connie graduated from Dana Hall in 1964)

Who were you at Dana? How did you get here? Did Dana give you any convictions,
experiences, understandings that have partly led to where you are now?

Having been raised in Pittsfield, Maine- a small town of 3,000 in the middle of
Maine(which we considered to be the middle of NOWHERE!), sent to summer camp for
2 months from the age of 10 and told that prep school was a given-I followed the path of
my favorite camp counselor Jane Newton to the only prep school I had ever heard of,
Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass. My father and grandfather had gone to Deerfield
Academy, and EDUCATION was the top priority. (My older brother had finessed his
way out of prep school, had fallen in love and somewhat blew off his high school years,
ending up at Deerfield as a PG to pull him back on board so he could follow in the
family footsteps to Bowdoin, which he did.)

At Dana I was somewhat of an oddity, coming from the woods of Maine and all. The
girls thought I had bears on my doorstep and somehow pictured my life as radically
different from theirs. (In fact Pittsfield was home of Maine Central Institute, a prep
school that doubled as the high school. It was a rather civilized little town where several
of my friends were shipped off to private schools in Massachusetts.) That difference set
me apart from the main stream of Dana and I never really got in the groove. That
difference allowed my heart and my spirit to stay wild and free. But, I was Daddy's good
girl, and recognized his effort to educate me properly so I fit in as best I could, stayed on
the honor roll (barely) to keep everyone happy and generally went through the motions
that were expected of me. My roommate, Suzy Belmer and I hung together the whole
three years-sort of strangers-in-a-strange-land together. We played field hockey and
basketball and softball and made great friends with Jane Turton our field hockey and
basketball coach. (We are all friends to this day.) I was treasurer of my class, captain of
the softball team, nominated for best -dressed and was a member of the May Queen's
Court. (The best-dressed part was funny because I wore my mother's clothes due to a
financial crunch in the family, the rest I sewed myself.)

Dana Hall gave me passage into the upper, ruling class of America. It was a crucial piece
to the puzzle that was to become my life. That piece, more than any other, tells the main
stream that I am one of them. It stamped me indelibly with its stamp of WASP, of New
England, of everything we as a country and its founders hoped to be when they wrote
"The Mayflower Compact" , The Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Being a Maine
Baxter, thankfully not a male (see below), with governors, mayors, parks and mountains
bearing my name and heritage, with some rumors I was descended from John and
Priscilla Alden of Mayflower fame, I had a real sense of public service and high ideals,
and they lay at the foundation and were the driving force of who I was to become. Just
as being from Maine gave me the freedom to be different at Dana Hall, so did being a
woman give me the freedom from carrying on the Baxter tradition of achievement in the
arenas of politics and business.

My experiences at Dana Hall gave me the sense that I was being asked to fit into a world
I did not resonate to. I realized that as long as I played the game I could keep everyone
happy and proud of me and thinking that everything was fine and that they were doing
their job, which was important to them. Meanwhile, I kept my heart and my spirit alive
and free.

What about you makes you push the limits of some experiences? What motivates you
to pursue the "extras" beyond the expectations of much of human life? Why do you
take on an extra challenge? Encouragement from others? Your own
impulses/curiosity? Particular interests or beliefs about what is important?

When my Uncle Percy was governor of Maine in the early 1900's he lowered the state
house flag to half-mast when his dog Carry died, causing all manner of ruckus from
Maine to Washington. That act of courage to follow the dictates of his heart with blatant
disregard for the "law of the land" gave me license to "go where the brave dare not go" in
my thinking and with my life.

My ancestors challenged a few other tenets of the prevailing paradigm that kept me out
of sync with the emphasis on competition, saving, and amassing stuff. Our family
fortune had been spent to acquire 200,000 acres in northern Maine to set aside 50
mountains and the surrounding wilderness to be held in trust by the people of Maine for
future generations and the wild birds and beasts. The family estate on Macworth Island
had been given to the state and turned into a school for the deaf. What was I going to do
with this generosity and concern for man and the future and the rest of Creation?

As I watched the American Dream begin to crumble with the assassination of Kennedy in
1963(I was a senior at Dana Hall), confirming my feelings of frustration with a system
out of balance - which culminated in my transferring from Wheaton College to UC
Berkeley in 1967 where I witnessed my peers challenge the "establishment" in profound,
courageous ways. I tell my children I was a preppie in Berkeley in the 60's. I stayed
little old Maine-Dana Hall-Wheaton College me - finished my economics major, became
a photographer involved in the West Coast black and white photography scene - and felt
a freedom I had never felt before - I was one being in a sea of 30,000 students of all
different colors, belief systems, sizes, shapes - it didn't matter what I wore, what I
thought, what my name was - I could just be ME! (I did discover a reverse snobbery,
however, that was disconcerting - around the edges there was some sense that I was not
okay because I had all the things the East had so valued - it wasn't a new paradigm, it
was just the old one flip-flopped.)

I remember at Dana thinking that the ultimate act of selfishness in those times would be
to bring a child into a world that was obviously a ship off course in turbulent seas. By
the time I was 30, however, and the biological time clock was ticking away my last
fertile years and I had seen enough of the world, gone to enough movies, eaten at enough
fine restaurants. I was ready to have a family. I picked the boy next door(although he
was raised in Colorado) in Aspen, Colorado-a skier, a mountain climber and river runner
- who was embarking on an "acceptable" profession-photography-but far enough out of
the main stream to keep me safe from the corporate life-style and value system.
Photography was an "acceptable" field in my family because my father had been an
amateur photographer all my life, and had supported my own photographic endeavors.

When I became pregnant with my first child, I made a commitment to that child and to
the world that set me on an irreversible course - That I would bring, as my gift,
magnificent beings to the human race - people who were connected to their hearts and
their spirits and the human potential IN SPITE of the fact that they were born into the
20th century and the western world. I had never given 100% to anything but my
commitment to my responsibilities as a mother became a driving force that was to take
me places I had never imagined. I became a radical. I didn't fight city hall and try to
change how others raised their children (it was really none of my business). I simply
disregarded the prevailing childrearing practices of my ancestors and my peers and set
about following the dictates of my heart on how the human heart and psyche must be
treated in order for it to blossom into its inherent beauty.

My infants and I walked to the beat of a different drum, as do my children and I to this
day. As at Dana Hall, Wheaton, Berkeley - appearances spoke of an everyday all-
American lifestyle - the husband, the home, the three little kids - our white picket fence
was buck rail - it was the Rocky Mountain High version of the American dream-but how
do you live the American Dream when you've made a commitment to the hearts, minds
and spirits of your children - and ultimately yourself? This became the unreachable star,
that I was determined to reach.

How did you arrive at your current path? Plan? Fate? Evolution? Can you briefly
outline the journey, including some sense of the day-to-day pattern or lack of it?
Examples of specific events which were satisfying, frustrating, typical, the best or the
worst would be edifying.

The prevailing paradigm had never worked for me. I had always sensed there was
something missing, something that was keeping the human race from reaching its highest
potential. When my parents moved from Maine to Oregon in 1966 the door opened for
me to travel beyond the borders of the New England mind, way of life and landscape.
When I set out with a friend from Wheaton to drive the 3,000 miles west to Oregon in
the summer of '66 and I discovered the wide open spaces of the West - both figurative
and literal - open minds, open hearts, big sky, big mountains - I became a seeker.

I was a ski racer, and president of the Women's Intercollegiate Ski Conference at
Wheaton and in recognition of my accomplishments my parents sent me to a ski racing
camp on the glacier at Mt. Hood, Oregon that July of '66. It was there amid the sun, the
snow and the wildflowers that my path began to diverge from the expectations of my
father - who to date had been my best friend and greatest supporter and mentor. I was 19
and I fell in love with Pepi Stiegler a 29-year-old Austrian Olympic ski champion. The
attraction was mutual and I soon discovered he was ready for a "hausfrau" and a family
and wanted to take me to Jackson Hole, Wyoming lock me in a little cabin and play out
his version of the great dream. It all sounded great to me - but later, much later - after I
had seen and experienced the world a bit. I wanted to live a simple life in the mountains
serving the man I loved far from the tentacles of the life and value system I had been
raised in. But it had to be a real CONSCIOUS choice (regret was not a word I intended
to be using on my death bed) and I was too young and too naive to make a commitment
of that magnitude. His vibrant good looks, highly disciplined life style and "old world"
value system was offering me a deep alternative to what I had experienced thus far in my
life.

So, with Pepi in my hip pocket, I began my worldly explorations. First Berkeley, then
Europe where I spent 9 months studying French and German, drove 15,000 miles from
England to Greece to Sweden in my MGB-GT sports car and realized that I wasn't
experiencing an alternative to my New England upbringing, I was discovering its source!
EEK! Meanwhile, back home in America, the effort to mix oil and water - an all-
American free-spirited woman with an old world Austrian male was taking its toll. Try
as I might - I gave it 10 years - (only donned the apron for 2) I could not remake myself
into an Austrian hausfrau. As great as 4,000 verticle feet of bottomless powder (Jackson
Hole's vertical drop of the most outrageous skiing on earth) and as much as I truly loved
my handsome Austrian - I had to cut bait. At that point I was 29 and executive director
of Ski The Rockies, a marketing group of the 12 major Rocky Mountain ski resorts. I
moved the office from Jackson Hole to Aspen, Colorado.

Taos Ski Valley was a member of Ski the Rockies and we used to go to Taos for
meetings. It was there and in Santa Fe that I first came in contact with the Native
American culture and way of life. I felt a resonance I had never felt before. In 1976 I
picked up a book by Nancy Wood called Many Winters - in which she speaks as the
voice of the Indian people. Those words embodied everything I knew, everything my
heart had been yearning for. I discovered 500 Indian nations who felt and knew what I
knew! My heart had come home. I remember looking at a map put out by AAA called
"Indian Country" and knowing that somewhere in that land lie my destiny. It wasn't until
15 years later that my path was clearly revealed to me.

By 1990, I had unwittingly traded "hausfrau" for "housewife"(I had no intention of


marrying a house! I thought marriage was all about companionship and adventure and
fun!) - I had three children, a husband who worked 12 hours a day (who never climbed
another mountain, ran another river-in fact, never climbed into my VW van for an
adventure in the 20 years I was married to him-his response to marriage and
responsibility was to become everything I had chosen NOT to have in my life), an
unarticulated commitment on my part to be everything my mother had been for my
father, a vice-like grip on living-happily-ever-after and an unswerving focus to be a
present and conscious mother committed to the hearts, minds and spirits of my children
in a world I considered to be completely mad! Then my body began screaming "red
light, RED LIGHT!" I was suffering from what I was later to call "the malaise". I
couldn't function. I loved my children, my life - I had chosen it, I had created it, it was
ME, it was THE DREAM! I thought I had a brain tumor, MS, something HORRIBLE,
but medical tests came up with nothing. The doctors prescribed pills that made me
dingier - WHAT WAS GOING ON? Main stream medicine was not giving me any
answers and something was definitely WRONG. So I began to pursue alternative
medicine, acupuncture, Reiki, massage and I began to question my life, to look at what I
was, who I was, where I had come from, what my core beliefs were that had me
enmeshed in something that was pulling me under.

In 1988, I quit working for my husband(I had been doing the books, billing and film
processing for his photography/advertising business on a part-time basis). I bought a
new Chevy van, had it outfitted with the best attributes of the VW Vanagons I had been
driving for 20 years, and piled my 8 year old, 6 year old and 2 year old into the van with
my mother and headed East back to my roots to discover who I REALLY was. On our
way out of town I stopped at the bookstore and Ram Dass's tape "Finding and Exploring
your Spiritual Path" was sitting on the counter-I had no idea what a spiritual path was,
but grabbed it and took it on my journey.

Once East my mother hooked up with my Dad for their visit and the children and I spent
months following the course of my life, visiting with childhood friends, roommates and
teachers I discovered that things had pretty much been as I remembered them to be -
there weren't any great gaps or differences(so many of my friends had discovered denied
abuse hidden in the far reaches of their unconscious). It had been good, it had been
loving and supportive. So why had my two main relationships- Pepi and my husband,
Dave, taken the form of critical emotional abuse? Why wasn't I loved and cherished and
supported for being who I was? Could it have had anything to do with that indelibly
etched comment of my brother's in 1966 when he said "You're just like Dad, and it
makes it on a man and doesn't on a woman."? Could it be the result of me denying me
when from that day forward I made an agreement with every man in the world I would
NEVER be my true self? Was their criticism of me merely a reflection of my own self-
criticism?

In 1990 I went to a shamanic healer in Santa Fe. He worked on me with crystals, and
energetic fields and he told me that he saw in me a "failure to thrive" at deep levels, that
my life had been like “one long winter”. We must remember, I was raised in New
England. Respect and support were substitutes for touch, emotion, demonstrative love,
sadness, joy. As a 83 year old New England woman friend expressed it "Feelings? They
didn't have those when I was growing up." The shaman told me that within three
months I would have some idea what had gone on in our two-hour session.

Within that three months my life shifted dramatically. Bizarre things began to happen
with clocks stopping and starting at significant times, synchronistic events occurred that
appeared to be leading me somewhere. He asked me to write him to let him know how
things were going. I wrote him repeatedly asking "What is this? What does that mean?" I
had stepped out of one world into another.

One day, I opened our mailbox and sitting together, one on top of the other, were two
letters addressed to me. One from my father, and one from this shaman (the shaman was
a white, former pediatrician, by the way). Needless to say, I opened the shaman's letter
first. In it he told me that I was an "old soul" who awakened easily to the mystical. That
I had "made contact with the Divine energies and they were communicating with me
through my experiences." My father's letter espoused his atheist beliefs and declared that
anything having to do with religion, or mysticism was "the opium of the masses". I sat
down and wrote my parents a loving goodbye letter. At that time I consciously walked
out of the world of the mind, out of the "prove it" paradigm and into a world of magic
and beauty unreachable within the parameters of the prevailing belief system. My
husband attributes it to the day I came off my horse while fox hunting and was knocked
unconscious and flown by helicopter to the hospital.

All anyone really can say is there came a time when I no longer was playing by the rules.
Something incomprehensible was guiding me and although I appeared normal I was not
manageable nor controllable and the choices I allowed my children to make were entirely
unacceptable. Everyone close to me who loved me and cared for me and my children
became concerned for our well-being and our safety. Our lives challenged the most
basic, fundamental laws that were guiding their lives and choices. They threw up their
hands in frustration and in anger. In a culture that is taught to hate or avoid things they
don't understand I became something to be avoided and disliked. In the civilized nature
of our family, my parents and brother and sister simply avoided mention of the sensitive
subjects – thus keeping some semblance of peace and support. My husband's already
hostile attitude became more so and I had no idea how to extricate myself from the
commitment to the dream and to the family that had been driving me for 20 years.

I can best give an image for what we were dealing with by calling up the movie "Field of
Dreams". All the elements of our lives are expressed in that movie-except that it's real
and it's our life and it's been 10 years and is ongoing. The dream has to do with the
future of man on the planet and the unfolding of the Divine plan on Earth, and the
process has to do with living in alignment with Universal Law every day, every hour,
every thought, every motion, every action. “The issue is plain: What is the truth, or
nature of things, and how do we incorporate it into our social living?" Ghose

I incorporate the truth as I understand it into my social living - and it challenges all of the
basic tenets of our paradigm - because in my opinion we have built our lives and our
systems on mis-information. From birth we have been taught certain basic assumptions
that are in my opinion erroneous and not in alignment with the true nature of things-and
those assumptions guide our choices on how we live day-by-day. With these choices we
have painted ourselves into a corner we can't get out of within the parameters of the
prevailing belief system. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying "No problem was ever
solved in the same consciousness in which it was created." To get ourselves out of this
situation we are in we must look to our very basic essence - our consciousness.

How has this manifested in my life and the lives of my children? Through the years my
children and I have spent considerable time with the Hopi in Arizona, the Lacondone
Maya in a remote jungle of Mexico, the Tarahumara in the Copper Canyon Mexico, and
visionary elders from many North American nations. My facet of the diamond has to do
with communicating the role the Native peoples have to play in the future, sharing the
idea that they have been holding clues as to how humankind can walk in alignment with
Universal Law, putting into practice what I learn from my life experiences, and
communicating the vision I have been given concerning the nature of the future here on
Earth.

Do you plan to continue on this path? Do you plan to segue into something else?
Future plans?
Once one crosses the line from guessing and hoping to seeing and knowing one's
vocabulary changes. Words such a goals, plans, risk, competition, should, if only, what
if, no longer have meaning. Living daily in the magic where things come that money
could never buy, knowing that with every breath and every action one is serving the
higher good of others, is a high that I would never choose to leave. It takes fortitude to
walk alone amongst people who, with every good intention and conviction, choose to
ignore the signs that our ship is off course. My mother used to say "The road to hell is
paved with good intentions." I just recently came to understand the profound nature of
that saying. What does it matter how well intended we are when the results of our
actions bring misery and suffering to the hearts and spirits of our children, the earth and
ourselves?

My destiny path is multi-faceted and involves the lives of my children and my family. I
will continue to respond to however I am called to serve - and will weave a beautiful
tapestry that one day will come together in an unimaginable way.

Forrest Gump is my hero.

How have you changed since Dana? Is there any little piece of you that remains the
same? What do you know and understand now that you didn't then? What part has
your work/life experience played in these changes?

To me we are the sum total of all our experiences. Dana is a cornerstone of the
foundation of my life. It was an important part of the process of becoming. Without Dana
I would not have the personal power and confidence to go where my life will take me in
the next few years. As I go forth I honor the people and the forces that shaped me. Dana
was kind to me, loving and supportive. I am thankful for the education it gave me and
the worlds it opened for me. I only ask that I can put my life to good purpose where I
can somehow contribute to bringing peace on Earth and a freedom for all.

JAK: I've seen your lovely little book of photographs on Mt. Katahdin in Maine. From
what I gather you took the photographs 30 years ago, the first edition of the book was
published then, you have been spending extensive time with Native Americans for the
past 10 years and this new edition of the book brings the Native American worldview
forward as it relates to their sacred mountain.

CBM: Yes, it's fascinating that something I did 30 years ago, with none of my present
consciousness, has become a vehicle for the ideas I have to share as a result of my life's
journey. It's as though the stage had been set by my ancestors and I played out the first
act by taking the photographs and having the book published and now I get to see what
the second and third acts will bring as I bring forth the information I have been given,
with the help of my co-authors.

JAK: In reading the book I notice you speak of freedom in your dedication, you give
away all copyrights, throw in the concept of a trust-based paradigm, suggest that
"perhaps Nature is a conscious, living, loving entity" and state that you have "caught a
glimpse of a world that exists beyond the scientific paradigm, where beauty, freedom of
the Spirit and infinite balance and abundance reside, and we all, each in our own way,
will bring Peace on Earth.". It all sounds very wonderful and quite contradictory to the
world we are experiencing at this time. How do we make the leap from here to there?

CBM: The good news is that the human race is about to take a huge evolutionary leap
and it has to do with each of us choosing to align to our innermost feelings and intuitive
knowing, living our dreams and coming to understand the loving nature of the human
heart and the world around us!
In the words of H.D. Thoreau: When one "advances confidently in the direction of his
dreams, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an
invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish
themselves around and within him, and he will live with the licence of higher order of
beings." (Conclusion to Walden) All it takes is courage, trust and fortitude! In Nature,
the darkest hour is just before the dawn. We must look to the light of the new day
dawning, that is what the Katahdin book is about.

JAK: You say you've been living with the Native Americans in the US and Mexico over
the past 10 years and present in your book theWabanaki connection to their sacred
mountain, Mount Katahdin and talk about the Native Americans' role in the future. How
do you connect it all?

CBM: It's like I have been in training for the last 10 years so that I could put it all
together and see something many people have an underlying gut feeling about, but
haven't actually seen how it could come about. Many people have a sense that if we
don't listen to the Native Americans we are doomed - but how do we go back to what
was, when we are already what is, heading for what will be. The cool part is that we get
to put who we all are and what the native people know together and all create something
entirely new - and better than anything we've ever conceived of! The Native American
profound connection to the energy forces of the Earth, and the unseen universal forces
and resultant understanding of the true nature of things - e.g. that all aspects of Creation -
animate and inanimate- are conscious, loving entities brings an aspect to the whole that
we have not been aware of or have ignored in the past. Once we really get it, and live
that understanding, everything will shift.

Edited slightly by CBM in 2011