August 2019 Philosophy Walk (Missoula/Huson): Reconnecting with Nature

We had a great time on our first Missoula county Philosophy Walk! Big thank you’s to the 9 Mile Community, Steve King, and Deborah Slicer and to the numerous community members, visitors from out of state (The Kramer clan!), and University of Montana students who came out to participate in the fun!  Thank you also to Mother Nature for providing such a beautiful setting for our meandering.  

Led by 2019 Merlin Student Scholar Fellow & Philosopher, Henry Kramer,  and Grants Manager & Humanitarian, Ryan Aikin, on this walk (a “spin-off” of our August Helena Philosophy Walk) we explored the importance of “reconnecting with nature” through the lens of phenomenology and animism. 

Some of the questions we explored included:

  • Why reconnect with nature?  Is this a good thing?  What does it do for us?  What does it do for nature? 
  • What insights can we draw from phenomenology and pragmatism to help us answer these questions?
  • Does technology (and the world of mass-produced things) disconnect us from nature?  If so, how?
  • How do animism and language factor into the ways in which we see and experience the world?
  • How does wonder factor into the ways in which we relate to the natural world?
  • What are some of the ethical implications of reconnecting (or not) with nature?



About Nine Mile Community Center

The Nine Mile Community Center (and surrounding community) is a place of social gathering and connection.  Maintained and supported by a group of dedicated individuals, its purpose is to benefit and serve the community.  An overview of its history (as cited from its “About Us” page is provided below.

The Nine Mile Stark School House was built in 1915 and served as the valley’s school until 1949, when it was deeded to the community. In 1995, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recent renovations have been performed in keeping with its historic look and function.

The Church was originally a storage shed, owned by the Beaver Dredging Company’s dry land mining operations, probably in the 1930’s.  About 1949, mining operations ended and the storage shed was abandoned.  Local residents moved the storage building and a second smaller structure from the mining camp to the Proebstel property on Kennedy Creek Road. It was then lovingly converted into a community church and the smaller structure became a Sunday school. The pews, chancellery furniture and bell were relocated from the Cut Bank Presbyterian Church after it built a new church in 1950.  In 2006, the church building was donated to the Nine Mile Community and moved to its present location next to the school.  In 2012 the Nine Mile Community Center added an outdoor pavilion to the property to give a place for covered outdoor picnics and activities.

[Some examples of the community center’s uses include:] Nine Mile Weed Group, Open Land Working Group, Nine Mile Land Use Planning Group, Water Trust, and Nine Mile Creek Restoration group meetings. Missoula County officials also use the Center for public hearings, as an information center for briefing meetings during forest fires and wildlife encounters (grizzly bears, wolves). During election campaigns, it provides a location for candidate fora. The Community Center functions as the valley’s social center, hosting holiday craft fairs and potlucks, and provides space for weddings, graduation celebrations, and summer barbecues.

About Our Walk Guides

Henry Kramer, MA (In Progress) is a Masters student at the University of Montana in both the Environmental Philosophy and Environmental Literature programs.  He is also the 2019 Merlin Student Scholar Fellow.

As an undergrad, Henry studied comparative religion and philosophy, with a particular focus on indigenous perspectives and phenomenology.  He has traveled extensively, including spending several months in New Zealand studying Maori culture and society.

After graduating, Henry was involved in the creation of Storyeon, a think-tank based out of the Jung Institute in Manhattan, and with them, presented on a panel at the United Nations on the wisdom of myth and story. 

Henry is currently writing a thesis on wonder, and the role of wonder in fostering our connection with and ethical treatment of the natural world.  In his spare time, Henry enjoys eating vegan food that other people have cooked. 

Ryan Aikin, JD has been an integral part of the Merlin volunteer and strategy team since 2017.  He graduated in 2005 from Purdue University with a BA in philosophy and minors in political science, management, and German…and in 2011, with a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School. 

He was a lieutenant in the Navy serving as an appellate defense counsel with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as well as a former assistant attorney general in the Appellate Services Bureau of the Montana Department of Justice.  Amidst all of this, he also served on the Peace Corps for several years.

Ryan lives in Missoula and currently serves as grant manager for Youth Homes.  An avid learner and philosopher of heart and mind, he is also working on another degree – a Master’s in Education – at University of Montana…and runs our Missoula-based Philosophy Think & Drinks each month (alongside Henry Kramer).

Thank You’s

Thank you to P.L.A.T.O. (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization), Montana Internet, BWP Helena Great Northern Hotel, and the American Philosophical Association for helping support our philosophy in the community programs and making events like this possible!  Thank you to the Nine Mile Community, Deborah Slicer,  Steve King, University of Montana students, out-of-state visitors (The Kramer clan), and our Guest Speakers/Co-Philosophers-on-Trail Henry Kramer & Ryan Aikin.

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