This Woman is Helping Save Environment Through Transformational Learning

Meet Marnie Alice Jackson, co-executive director at Whidbey Institute, a non-profit organization that works to grow human capacity through transformational learning for a future where people and the planet thrive together. 

In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy”- Brother David Steindl-Rast

Marnie is a lot of things- a writer, executive director, poet, sister, partner, and a lover of all things nature. She joined Whidbey in 2013 as a Communications Manager and was recently promoted to Co-Executive Director. Her journey hasn’t been easy, but she is grateful for everything that led her to the place she is at today. 

Growing up, Marnie was always supported by her mother and her father was caring but was rarely around. When she was 3, her parents got divorced. Alcoholism, addiction, and mental illness touched her family. She also faced child abuse at the hands of a neighbor. She graduated from Suffolk University with English as her major and worked as an editor at The Humane Society of Skagit Valley, and Timber Framers Guild. Prior to this, she wrote for several magazines and blogs. 

While most of us experience heartbreak at 25, Marnie experienced a heart attack and found herself in a deep depression. She found comfort and friendship in her neighbor’s mule and bought it a couple of years later. She started trail riding and blogging about her experiences from a mule’s point of view. The blog was called “Brays of Our Lives” and it soon flourished. She started getting paid gigs and commissions as Fenway Bartholomule, her pen name. Writing became her passion and helped fight her depression. By the time she turned 30, she had several published articles in her name and found work as a Communication manager at her current organization. 

Talking about her organization, she says, “Whidbey Institute is a home for transformational learning and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. I believe that the future of humans on earth depends on individual and cultural transformation”. It gives a chance for people to deepen their relationship with nature and one another. They do so through events like creative and community conferences, leadership, cohort programs, ecology, and mindfulness events. From advocating for social and environmental justice, campaigning, fundraising to writing, editing, and graphic design, Jackson plays a lot of roles at the Institute.  

Over the years, Marnie has learned the importance of gratitude. She keeps a positive attitude and frame challenge in terms of gratitude. Her success didn’t come without its challenges. Initially, she was a stay-at-home mom in an unhappy marriage. Both she and her husband were under-employed, struggling to make ends meet, and she had her health issues as well. Her loneliness and financial insecurity limited her creative expression at one point. But soon things came around. COVID-19 has posed a financial challenge to her organization, but she is proud that she and her team are navigating through it together. She struggles with the post-capitalist vision while being limited by the constraints of capitalism. “For instance, I would like access to our work and land to be free, but we rely on earned income from tuition and rental contracts to pay the bills”, she says. 

When asked about the driving force behind her success, she says, “When we liberate our love and our joy in service to what matters most to us, we become incredibly powerful. What do you love? What are you grateful for? What is worth protecting? Fueled by love, joy, and gratitude, you can do seemingly impossible things”.