Growing Wheel rolls into summer

By Makenzie Holland (

Article Published: May. 22 | Modified: May. 22
Growing Wheel rolls into summer

Growing Wheel International director Susan Gurnee stands outside the House of Five Senses at the organization’s headquarters in Todd.
Photos by Makenzie Holland

Nestled in the heart of Todd, a place exists where gardens grow and prosper, where perception, awareness and peace are amplified, where feelings and emotions are connected to the Earth, where energies are studied.

This place, spread out over 125 acres, is called Growing Wheel International.

Supported solely by volunteers and visiting students, the tax-exempt organization is a place for people to observe nature, develop and shape values, perspectives and ideas and to learn, organization director Susan Gurnee said.

“We are very fortunate that we get people here who are local and local from around the world, meaning that we all are kindred spirits,” Gurnee said.

The purpose of Growing Wheel is to promote “community awareness of health and healing through research, education, publishing and teaching,” according to the organization’s website. Though started in Todd, Growing Wheel’s educational programs for students have expanded to Europe, Africa, Central America, Mexico and Europe.

Referring to every participant as “students,” people who book a visit stay in one of several cabins with names, such as Summit and Rose, and from there can work in the diamond gardens, a project started by Gurnee, take physical and mental journeys down the trails, hang out with others in the Havendell Community House and meet for food in the House of Five Senses. Guests pay the organization for their stay through donations. Though the property is now home to several buildings and gardens, it took many years to get to where it is now, Gurnee said.

Twenty years ago, Gurnee traveled to Todd at the behest of a woman who couldn’t sleep on the very property upon which Growing Wheel is established today. The woman told Gurnee the property had terrible energies and that she was having nightmares, so she asked Gurnee to balance the property.
“I said ‘Sure, I’ll take a week,’” Gurnee said. “I was living in Wilmington then, a really nice place by a salt marsh. So, coming here and balancing the property started out as just a couple weeks, and then 10 years later, I was still balancing the property.”

Gurnee is the fifth owner of the property since the pioneer beginnings.

“The energies had very distinctive vibrations, not because of the people, but because there were geopathic zones here to begin with,” Gurnee said.

While working with the property, Gurnee learned about land, how to increase the production of plants, how to energize water and how to take vibrations and move them to other locations. After 10 years of this research, Gurnee became inspired to build.

‘Tree of Life’

“I decided, or was guided, I don’t know how that happened, to build, not a labyrinth, which many people are interested in, but actually a tree of life,” Gurnee said. “I didn’t even know really too much about it. I just felt so compelled to build it.”

The Tree of Life took 10 years to build and consists of 22 paths visitors are allowed to wander. The trails embody qualities “that are part of growth and development of any person from any culture,” Gurnee said.

Bear Brown, a volunteer with the organization, said by walking one of the many trails, a person finds themselves experiencing the virtue associated with that particular path.

“When you stand in one area of the trail, you may feel different influences, as well as inspirations or insights,” Brown said. “And so it’s very intentionally organized to be an experience of yourself and others as you are encouraged on the trail.”

During the summer, Growing Wheel offers seminars and workshops that bring people together from near and far. This summer, the organization has awareness retreats planned for June 14 to 18, 21 to 25 and July 19 to 23. An Aura-Soma training course is scheduled for July 12 to 16. The fee for both the June and July seminars is $795 per event.

Debbie Blake, one of Gurnee’s original students, will be teaching the Aura-Soma training course. During the course, students will be learning how to interpret the language of color through the use of bottles containing gyms, crystals, essential oils and other ingredients.

“I’m passionate about this system,” Blake said. “It’s all about asking the questions and picking the bottle. The bottle will tell you what you need to address.”

Blake said there are 112 bottles, and each contains a different message.

“It’s all about the individual taking responsibility and diving deeper into their feelings, their perceptions and understandings,” Blake said. “So, this whole system is just a tool, a tool to bring greater awareness to the individual, and that’s what I’ll be teaching.”

Blake, along with Gurnee and others, will be teaching and helping others grow this summer, as Growing Wheel begins its summer session after May 27.

“The perception and awareness that we like to teach is not only about nature and the environment but also the energetics of our own bodies and how our energetics and the energetics of those in interactions are really important,” Gurnee said.

Additional Images

Growing Wheel International director Susan Gurnee stands outside the House of Five Senses at the organization’s headquarters in Todd.
Photos by Makenzie Holland

Gurnee and her dog, Sicily, explore the diamond gardens at Growing Wheel International in Todd.

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