I met Scott Pittman in 2005. I was introduced to him during a traveling advanced design course with Andrew Millison where a large group of us piled into a Prescott College van and set off with reggae sounds from Midnite Band. We toured through the mountains, mesas, and high deserts of Northern New Mexico and Arizona, visiting various famed Permaculture sites from the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, Lama Foundation, Ecoversity, Lots of Life in One Place/Casa Las Barrancas, Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute, and a dozen or so other stops. Our time with Scott was a highlight for me. Afterward, I knew I needed to study with him.
It took 6 years before Scott and I connected again at his stunning hand built home and small ecovillage community in Pojoaque, NM. Scott and Larry Santoyo were hosting a teacher training through the Permaculture Institute. Together, they were astounding. By that time, I’d accomplished some good things professionally, but Scott and Larry woke something more up in me. It was their unabashed confidence and authenticity in themselves that stirred me so deep and set me on a journey to find my real voice as a teacher. Scott and Larry transmitted their confidence, giving me encouragement and some praise, while picking me apart too. I remember standing up to teach one day in front of the class when Larry sarcastically heckled me with “nice uniform” before I could even get started. I looked down at my carhartt double fronts, chaco sandals, and short sleeved collared plaid shirt. Scott gave a great belly laugh. Even I laughed with Larry’s great humor. I knew I was being poked, asked for something deeper from myself. To truly learn with Scott and Larry required a willing and hard look in the mirror. A tough, transformative crowd.
Scott first invited me to teach with him on a two week Permaculture Design Course in July 2012 at Brook LeVan’s Sustainable Settings in Colorado. Scott’s wife Arina, and young son Sasha, joined us as they often did for Scott’s courses. Thirty students from around the world gathered at the base of towering Mt. Sopris to experience Scott Pittman in action. He barely got tired, but when he did I was suddenly left with the class on my own, improvising on the spot.
“I said to Scott, “what the hell are we doing here?” He looked straight ahead and said, “we’re empowering people to think in the ways they always wanted to, but were always taught not to.””
I watched Scott’s health start to decline in 2015 as we taught together at Lama Foundation near Taos, NM. I took on a majority of the teaching duties and assisted Scott with whatever he needed. At the end of that course as I helped load up his truck, Scott looked me in the eyes and gave me the most sincere “thank you” I’ve ever received. It hit me then that he knew he was declining and needed people around him for support. Not an easy thing to admit for such a world-traveler. I happily served that role for many more courses with him.
In 2017, Scott, his brother Robert, and I travelled through Costa Rica for a long course in the southern jungle. Scott seemed right at home in Costa Rica. He introduced me to the tropics and told Robert and I many stories of teaching with Bill Mollison in Brazil and Ecuador as we travelled. I was enraptured the whole time. Permaculture is a lineage-based transmission and I felt like I was receiving original instructions. I remember one day sitting on the veranda of Scott and Robert’s casita deep in questioning. I said to Scott, “what the hell are we doing here?” He looked straight ahead and said, “we’re empowering people to think in the ways they always wanted to, but were always taught not to.” He caveated, “at least that’s how I’ve always looked at permaculture” as he quickly shifted his gaze at me.
Scott loved Costa Rica and dedicated a significant amount of teaching time to the country. It was his second homeland in a way. He trained a lot of practitioners there, and some incredible teachers too, including Natalia Vega-Durga. Natalia and Scott crossed paths auspiciously. Scott had always been shy or even outright disdainful of describing permaculture as a spiritual practice, and Natalia was a monk at an ashram, obviously spiritual. She helped Scott remove his fear, with Scott going so far as to write and speak about spiritual dimensions of permaculture, and moving into the ashram himself for a year or so. Natalia, Scott, and I were exploring permaculture from a spiritual angle for a long time relatively quietly. We’ve kept most of it to ourselves, but I know Scott wants us to work on carefully sharing it with the world through the Permaculture Institute.
“He always had something good for me, something I needed to hear. He was encouraging, even when I felt unsure. Scott was a righteous teacher. He inspired me, instructed me, and sometimes frustrated me.”
Scott and I did a lot of professional things together, travelled a lot of places, but what I’ll miss the most of him is just hanging out. I loved the times we spent at Brigid Meier’s farm in Taos especially. Brigid always made a marvelous display of homegrown food, had good drink and smoke, homemade cheese, and was full of her own captivating stories from an incredible life lived deeply. I mostly just paid attention, learning from those older and wiser than me, eventually feeling like I earned my friendship with these two wise beings.
Just hanging out…I’ll miss going out to eat with Scott in Santa Fe. I’ll miss carrying his oxygen tanks as he declined. I’ll miss his regular calls for help with computer technology (ok, I won’t miss this part to be fully honest). I’ll miss our monthly phone conversations with his incisive insights about life. He always had something good for me, something I needed to hear. He was encouraging, even when I felt unsure. Scott was a righteous teacher. He inspired me, instructed me, and sometimes frustrated me. In the end, my relationship with Scott just felt like phoning a friend and saying “hey”. I wanted to spend more time with him.
We get what we get, and I’m just grateful for what I got to know of you, Scott. Thank you for everything. You are a gem. I didn’t require you to be flawless to remain precious, and I know you felt the same in return. I’ll see you in every thought I have because of your influence. We’ll enjoy it all together because we inter-are. I can no longer see myself without seeing you in me. May it always be so. All the love to you, dear friend.