Your Life Calling: Behind the Scenes on the Pacific Coast

The following is a guest post from Kim Sedmak. (Dispatches from Boston here, Yellowstone here.) 

We've been on the road again - this time on a very large ferry boat to Bainbridge Island, WA, just a 35-minute ride from downtown Seattle. This is where Jane Pauley interviewed Gifford and Libba Pinchot, the founders of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) for AARP's TODAY SHOW series "Your Life Calling." Ten years ago at age 58, this dynamic duo decided to do "one more big thing" and created an accredited graduate school where students obtain MBA degrees in sustainability. BGI uses Islandwood, a 255 acre environmental education facility known as a 'School in the Woods,' as its base of operation for classes.

The place feels much like a summer camp complete with a dining hall, an arts and crafts barn, a suspension bridge in the woods that crosses a ravine and cabins which they prefer to call cottages. There is no room service, no bar, no ice machines, and no CNN! But they do have Wi-Fi which we of course accidently somehow managed to disconnect throughout the facility! TV crews are not known for doing well under these circumstances. And yet, it's probably one of the most beautiful locations that we've stayed at while working on this series.

I felt as though we were all staying in the midst of a large forest (and we were) with Jane housed in one of the few private cottages while the crew and I stayed across the way in a larger cottage called the Bird's Nest Lodge. Each of the rooms is named after a type of bird, and Raven was plastered across my room door!
You also have to leave your car in a parking lot at the front door of Islandwood and it takes special permission to bring a vehicle onto the property. Luckily we did obtain that special approval! This is very much appreciated especially when we're known to travel with 23 cases of gear!

Jane and I both agreed the all organic cotton sheets, towels and blankets used throughout the rooms were really lovely! These touches make you feel nice when you get up in the morning, given we had a 7:30 a.m. crew call! As a special treat the chef in the dining hall the night before made Jane three fresh hard boiled eggs which Gifford very sweetly hand-delivered to her door.

The next morning, I met my very first banana slug on the path while walking back from our delicious breakfast in the dining hall (fresh baked peach and apricot scones). I had never seen a banana slug and I soon learned they are sacred here at Islandwood! This is because banana slugs are considered decomposers. They process leaves, animal droppings, and dead plant material, and then recycle them into soil. Obviously all reasons why the BGI graduate students look upon them favorably - banana slugs could become a highly valued commodity in the world of "green" business!

We had a very long day that not only included Jane's interview, but after dodging a rain shower, shooting a mini tour of the Main Center and finally getting a sunshine shot of Jane and the Pinchots in the garden (things are very unpredictable in the Pacific NW), the day was done.

The crew and I ended up having dinner afterwards with Libba and Gifford in Winslow then taking the ferry back to Seattle with them. As you might imagine, the wine flowed and so did the conversation. As we left the Bainbridge Island shore with the sun setting in the distance and the Ferry's expansive deck awash in the evening light, I kept thinking - these two should be nominated for something big - something like a MacArthur Grant!

Kim Sedmak is the producer of Your Life Calling, which airs every month on the TODAY Show. Catch it next on Tuesday, August 16. 

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