Margo Adair Remembered ~ by Rick Whaley and Ellen Smith (Milwaukee)


Margo Adair (San Francisco, Seattle) passed away in early September 2010 surrounded by loved ones.

Margo’s activism and commitment in Green circles was always at the highest level. She facilitated early, national Green Party (GP/GPUSA) meetings. Over the decades, Margo fearlessly facilitated mediations among some Green titans at various bioregional and Green gatherings (notably at Amherst in the very beginning of Greens, 1987). She was a main facilitator at GPUSA gatherings at Estes Park, Elkins, and Twin Cities, and it was a great gift to the formative stages of the Green movement in the United States. The “Racism and the Land” workshop she did at the Turtle Island Bioregional Congress in Squamish, British Columbia, was Olympian.

Her work directly and indirectly aided our regional environmental-justice work in Wisconsin, including the boat landing Witness for Non-Violence around Chippewa treaty rights.

She gave Chippewa activist, the late Walt Bresette, a national audience and even hosted Walt and his kids in San Fran as well in his California political tour in 1991. Her Green Letter/Greener Times was the first national environmental justice journal (unless I count The North Country Anvil as national) to publish my (RW) Green writing and theory.

Just as important as her political leadership has been the breadth of her political ideas, especially the integration of spirituality into politics…meditations I still use…this notion of personal transformations as part of the highest citizenship …alliance building skills and principles that she did with Shea Howell…her vision and relentless activism…all of it was immensely helpful. She managed to make a living doing her politics (not merely bring her politics to her job like most of us) and that was no small accomplishment.

The fondest memory Ellen Smith (former chair of the Upper Great Lakes Green Network) has of Margo is of her leading the Black revolutionary heavies through meditations to start cadre meetings in the 1980s. What I learned most from Margo and Ellen was how to facilitate difficult meetings and why, especially this feminist notion of having participants listen for the emerging consensus, rather than put up with what position or tendency was trying to dominate or win.

Ellen and I also both remember what a wonderful stay we had in San Francisco with Margo at her home/collective on Church St. in 1997. We had just finished camping and hiking the Redwoods and needed some city amenities (warm showers, organic food, and urban culture). We greatly enjoyed Margo’s hospitality, friends, conversations, trips to the markets and Telegraph Hill, the political murals (especially at the Women’s Center), the neighborhood stories, all of it.

As the Tools for Change website notes:

“Margo worked in hundreds of different settings, including hospitals, conferences, grief groups, healing centers, corporations; AIDS support agencies, college campuses, jails, youth organizations, labor unions, women’s centers and neighborhood groups. Her earlier two books, Working Inside Out and the companion volume Meditations on Everything Under the Sun, as well as her newest book (coauthored with William Aal), Practical Meditations for Busy Souls, outline the techniques of Applied Meditation as an extremely successful way to awaken imaginative and intuitive capacities.

Margo wrote numerous pieces on [political empowerment], including two pamphlets co-authored with Sharon Howell: The Subjective Side of Politics and Breaking Old Patterns, Weaving New Ties. These pamphlets have been widely reprinted and influenced the development of workshops across the country concerning issues of race, class and gender. Her ideas have been instrumental in the development of the Inter-group Dialogue movement on college campuses, helping thousands of young people grapple with issues of diversity. Her work has also been used extensively in the movement against domestic violence and for trainings in corporate and non-profit worlds.”

Ellen and I want to express our appreciations for Margo, her work, and to who she was in our lives and politics. Please check out the other remembrances of Margo and her work, especially Starhawk’s, at

  1. hank chapot says:

    I met Margo early in my green years, we both lived in San Francisco. I took workshops on mediation and facilitation from her because I was flummoxed by the communication traps the California greens were falling into, and Margo was a sage on that kind of stuff. We all die too soon…

  2. John Salter says:

    My family and I met Margo in the early sixties when I was a graduate student writing my anthropology dissertation and caretaking the Adair family house in whale Gulch. At that time I had worked with John Adair and known Casey for around ten years. We always looked forward to seeing any of the Adairs. I was always interested in talking with Margo about the overlapping elements of our environmental/cultural work. I will miss Margo very much.
    John salter


stories and memories

How did Margo’s life and work affect you and your community?  What was the impact of her particular integration of justice and spirituality?

Join Margo Adair’s Community on Facebook.

a letter to Margo ~ from Starhawk

{read to Margo by Bill and loved ones as Margo made the transition}

Dear Margo,

Bill and Vicki let me know, this morning, that you are struggling for your life today, and that the prognosis is not good.  I wish I could be there with you, to hold you and sing to you, but I know that you are surrounded by so much love and caring.

Since I’m a thousand miles away, I wanted to set down a few thoughts about our long friendship, and what you have meant to me and so many others. We’ve been friends for so long that I honestly can’t remember when we first met—sometime back in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s.  Maybe it was David Kubrin who introduced us—it was somebody who knew we were both interested in the intersection of the spiritual and the political.  Maybe it was around one of those Take Back the Night marches back in the ‘70s?  Whatever, we became aquaintances, then friends. I admired your willingness to stand up for things of the spirit even in the face of hard-core, cynical politicos. And I admired your book of meditations, Working Inside Out, which brought political awareness to the world of meditation and the spirit.

Over all these years, I’ve seen you hold firm and consistent on your devotion to social justice.  That’s always been the focus of your work and your life.  You’ve embodied in your life the values you believe in. It hasn’t made you rich, or a famous superstar, but you have influenced thousands of people along the way. You’ve made the world a better place than it would have been without you.  You’ve made sacrifices in order to put your best life energies behind what is truly sacred to you—and in so doing, you have made your life a sacred journey.

You are a woman of integrity, and you taught me once a powerful lesson about holding boundaries.  When we were organizing the WomanEarth Institute, back in the late eighties or early nineties, and we had a commitment to parity between women of color and white women, there was that meeting in San Francisco when a few of the women of color didn’t show up, for various reasons. You and Shay said simply and graciously, “Hey, we’ll bow out.”  I would have waffled—and maybe now I wouldn’t make that same commitment in quite that same way—but you and Shay were clear—we had made an agreement, and we should keep it.  Thank you for the gift of that clarity and integrity.

We’ve had many moments together that I cherish—hanging out in your kitchen in Seattle, having intense talks.  Walking into the convergence center for the WTO protests, looking at a sea of youthful dreadlocks and telling you, “Take me home!  I need a cup of tea before I deal with this!”  Marching with you on that day of action, you limping with a cane, with the flags flying and the puppets raised high.  Holding the line all day in that peaceful spot by the union truck and then venturing around the corner to find smashed windows and fires in the trash cans, tear gas casualties weeping on the sidewalks and battle in the air. Going to the grocery store in the middle of the night to replenish our supply of vinegar—no, Japanese rice vinegar or balsamic on your bandanna, not a good protection against teargas. Worse than the gas!

In the last couple of years, I’ve been privileged to work with you and Bill on our Earth Activist Trainings.  Especially over this last year, I’ve seen your immense courage as you faced this battle with cancer.  Always, I’ve felt your deep desire to continue doing your work, giving what you give, offering what you have to offer.  It speaks well of your life and your choices that, faced with the possibility of death, your greatest wish has been to continue doing what you were doing.

I’m so glad we got a chance to work together at the US Social Forum. There I saw you lead workshops and meditations in a new way.  I felt like you were more open, more vulnerable, more alive than I had ever seen before, as if the struggle for life had worn away some barrier between you and you were simply and intently present in life itself.

I’m glad we had a little time just to hang out together this summer, to lounge on the couch and go see a movie and have fun.  I wish now we’d had more of that.  I know that you are surrounded today by love and care—that you’ve been held through this struggle in the arms of the caring community that you have built.  That love is the measure of your life, and of who you are.  May it carry you on to the next adventure, whatever it may be.

Here’s a bit of a song I would sing if were there:

Lay down, lay down your burdens,
Lay down your treasures, too.
For the love you gave and have gathered,
Is all you take with you.
Lay down your body on the earth,
Like a child on its mother’s breast,
And may you then grow young again,
On the island of the west.

They say there is an island,
Beyond the farthest sea,
Where fruit and bud and blossom
Grow together on the tree.
The hurt will there find healing,
The weary there find rest,
And may you then, grow young again,
On the island of the west.


I love you,

from Karen Hutchinson

Margo became ill after I had been struggling with a serious illness for a couple of years and it was her courage and her constant positive vision that set me on a new tract to healing. I believe I am here today as a direct result of Margo’s deep compassion, her unfailing positive vision and her love for humanity. I will miss her as we all will and I thank her each day for the new vitality she brought to my healing journey.

Love to her and to Bill

from Mali Rowan


Whenever I think of you in my heart I find myself pondering the life of a Sensei. The Sensei is always aware of the life force, and the delicate balance of grounding and spirit-given, or Heaven and Earth in balance, through our physical form. You have shown us mastery in walking quietly as an Aiki master does, with great condensed power and wisdom. I learned from you the art of absolute honor of one’s own life’s offering, in all forms, and wavering not on that certitude and self appraisal. You have a wonderful succinct honesty about you that was always such a breath of fresh air: you saw things for what they were. Of all the thousand things I love about you Margo, this one shines so brightly. You had a way of clearly seeing and honoring and you did it in the multi-realm balance blending our humanness with our highest selves. I love you friend, sister, colleague and I see you with Saraswati having a great chat about All Things as you dance and ride the White Swan. I bow to your life, and its continuum.

With utmost love and respect,


from Jacque Larrainzar


Este dia de Muertos tendras un lugar en mi ofrenda. De este ano en adelante mis abuelos y amigos te mostraran el camino a mi casa. Por que tu casa es mi casa, y ahi celebraremos la vida, la libertad y la justicia. Cantaremos Cielito Lindo y Gracias a la Vida y yo escuchare en silencio tus historias. Por que en el cielo tambien se trabaja por la liberacion. Nos vemos el 1ro de Noviembre!

from Carol Kibble

Dear Bill,

My heart goes out to you. I feel so honored to have known Margo for the short time that I did. She truly had a radiance in her that I’m sure is still shining. May you feel that warmth whenever you need it.

With love,

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