The Yahara Center isn't trying to turn anyone into the next Henry David Thoreau. Although if that happened, that would be okay too. Troy Hess, the center's founder and guiding spirit, started leading small group classes on poetry, nature writing, and mindfulness almost six years ago as informal get-togethers in area shops. “It grew out of the Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership master's degree program at Edgewood,” says Hess, who was enrolled in the program then. (It has since been discontinued.) Participants were to “develop a community-bound ” as a capstone, and that project was an “incubator” for what would become On the Yahara. There's still no brick-and-mortar “center.” Classes take place in a variety of settings. Hess has led sessions at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Olbrich Gardens and the UW Arboretum, conducted book groups at the Middleton and Waunakee public libraries and gathered poetry lovers together under the rubric of the Mary Oliver Society — celebrating the much-loved American poet, who died in 2019. And since the pandemic, he has conducted many a class over Zoom. While the pandemic put a damper on meeting face-to-face, it also opened up a whole new audience for On the Yahara, says Hess. Nature was suddenly one of the few available entertainment options. People were stuck at home with time to follow up on abandoned writing projects. Many were looking for new avenues to explore and any community […]

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