A spinner works her magic at Web-sters, a woolen goods shop in Ashland.
// Photo by Jamie Lusch
More recent migrants to town also speak of a “fatal attraction” syndrome.
EcoNest owners Robert Laporte and Paula Baker-Laporte both say they feel a oneness with the community in Ashland that they have long sought in their lives. They teach a construction method commonly used in Europe that dates back to ancient times. The technique is based upon sustainability as well as a signature clay-straw insulation process. Their homes are built without nails, use very little concrete and no toxic materials. Their method found immediate acceptance in Ashland, where both are busy teaching its principles to other builders and consulting on various homebuilding projects.
“I’ve lived in some beautiful places — Santa Fe, Salt Spring Island — but Ashland is different. I am never leaving Ashland. It is home,” says Baker-Laporte.
The internationally recognized author, lecturer, religion and spirituality scholar and teacher, Jean Houston, moved her business headquarters from New York City to Ashland in 2000. Her presence in the community adds an unmistakable film-star mystique to the local spiritual community. Everyone claims to be on intimate terms with this living legend of spiritual exploration. She too has one foot firmly planted in the business world. She consults with businesses who seek her help in bringing a spiritual, holistic element to their workplaces, and she leads tours of sacred locations around the world.
Houston and her business partner/husband, Robert Masters, built their empire, which included Foundation for Mind Research and the Mystery School, on the East Coast. Although Masters died in 2008, Houston has carried on their work in their new home in Southern Oregon. Houston and Masters encouraged many of their students and colleagues to relocate to Ashland, telling them that it was a spiritual “human potential hot spot” where they would be able to thrive.
“Are people being drawn to Ashland? Oh, heavens. Yes!” says her assistant, Connie Buffalo. “We are looking at how to build a new society, with spirit as a central part of it. It’s happening elsewhere, but in Ashland, people are really going off the grid to find a sense of meaning and purpose in the world.”