Lindsay's blog

Breaking the Spell

04-17-2018 | Lindsay

"They say Aslan is on the move."  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis has enthralled me ever since I was 9 and read the Puffin book with its pen and ink illustrations by Pauline Baynes.  Many generations of children have loved the secret world filled with unconventional and magical creatures, and the young heroines and heroes who are neither patronized nor belittled.  I too loved Narnia, every thicket and lamppost, faun, centaur, and dryad. I loved how in the story subtle sounds and shifts in the air foretold the approach of the yet unseen Aslan and the breaking of the Witch's spell.  

Imperfection

04-14-2018 | Lindsay

Last week we changed the clocks, “spring forward”, shifting the hours to catch more afternoon sun.  As the daylight slowly widens toward the solstice, we strive to let the natural light linger, to grasp its presence.

Around here we have taken advantage of the longer afternoons to spend more time outdoors, in the still-chill air, looking toward the sort of green and golden light of summer in which Mary Oliver wrote her well-known poem “When I am Among the Trees”. In it, despite being drenched in light, Oliver sighs, “I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment…” 

Processes and Small Circles

02-26-2018 | Lindsay

It must be the season, or the year.  This snowless winter I was part of three retreats, one per month, about finding the grace in darkness even while leaning toward the light, about the essential rhythms of descent and renewal which keep our lives and our planet from ending, about the fertile dark as soil for the seeds of hope.  There seems to be a need in these shadowy times to seek the lantern of soul and to hold onto one another while we quest, hands clasped in sacred circles.  During these retreats, we danced in this way in fields in the late afternoon as the sun turned rose and coral and the moon appeared delicately in the lambent sky.

Gratitude

01-26-2018 | Lindsay

How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of … the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself?  ...  One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse.  There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions.  You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light. -- Barry Lopez

On This Threshold Singing

01-12-2018 | Lindsay

As is our annual practice, some of us gathered at the Meditation Shelter in the night of December 31 for a time of quiet, bringing whatever was in our hearts.  Once again we walked through a moon-bathed forest to the Shelter, aglow in candlelight and warmed by the wood stove.  The Shelter has wonderful acoustics, and I was eager to hear the sound of us singing in it.  I had brought a new song, a simple chant from West Africa, that I learned from Michael Meade's new cd A Song Is a Road.  It is called "Azima", and it is a song in praise of the Earth.  But before (and in between) our singing it, I had a few reflections to share.  Below is an adaptation of those thoughts:

Holy Days

12-19-2017 | Lindsay

The retreat we hold annually during Advent and the days leading up to the winter solstice is named for a gift, one among many, that of story. Planning it, I was drawn to the idea that while in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice marks the beginning of the return of the light, it is the longest night of the year.  I found myself wondering about the gifts of that long night. In times like these, mining the abundant dark is a soulful necessity.

The Gifted Darkness

11-27-2017 | Lindsay

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
--Mary Oliver

At dawn my small dining room window framed a patch of gauzy coral cloud pierced by a morning star.  As I watched, light wafted from the bare treetops and painted the sky silver. Dawn is almost always a welcome turn in the revolving waltz of night and day, dark and light.  For several years I was a teacher of 3-6 year olds in a school that had a Montessori-based program of spiritual development, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  Around this time of year, we reflected on the verse from Isaiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”  We would gather the children and ask them about their times of light in darkness.  They told of happiness upon waking in the night and seeing the reassuring nightlight on the bureau, or the crack of light where their dad had left the bedroom door ajar.  From infancy, it seems, light has evoked comfort, safety, and joy.

Gravity, a snake, and gratitude

11-20-2017 | Lindsay

I’ve been taken with a Rilke poem, "Gravity's Law", which begins:

How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

I like the idea of gravity as a flow taking hold of  “each thing—each stone, blossom, child”, and pulling us toward something deep and vital. I wonder about the mystery of this; why it is that so often we miss knowing ourselves securely held and carried; and I wonder about the graceful and strong current that connects individual arcs of being to the communal experience of belonging that we so need and long for.

At Summer's Turning

09-20-2017 | Lindsay

“Your great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone…”
David Whyte

I heard the first geese a few days ago, flying overhead, their calls to one another heralding autumn, the season of mystery and transformation.   The tupelo trees have been sending out their own bright signals, leaf by ruby leaf.   For weeks until now, the forest has shimmered with glinting green light, without nuance or hint of fall. Perhaps it is the way the late summer sun falls against the trees, which remain full to the brim with green foliage made dense by bountiful rainfall.  A multitude of mushrooms decorate the forest floor: some rosy red, others pale, nodding on delicate stems, still others orange or brown, diminutive or broad.  Wild grasses and plants burst with yellow, magenta, bright blue blossoms; insects sing.  The garden is bursting with growth, and the peach trees and grape arbor lean gracefully, heavy with ripe fruit.

July

07-29-2017 | Lindsay

The dark green leaves of the vine-laden, twisted old ash tree are twinkling in the light after the sudden rainstorm.  Beyond it, down by the creek, the ancient willow stump is fat and full with graceful, slender branches rising directly out of the gnarled core.  July at Rolling Ridge has meant an outpouring of untamed green life, driven by capricious skies: nourishing downpours giving way to brilliant sun, and back again.  It’s a changeable season, unpredictable; and that seems of a piece with affairs on all levels of our world right now.  Whereas the rockiness of the wider, political world foments distress and anxiety, the topsy-turvy tumble of rain and light in our small nook of the universe gives rise to exuberant foliage and riotous green life.  The Earth holds it all, the trouble and the joy, but it is hard to find footing.

Risk

06-11-2017 | Lindsay

I'm bringing you this afternoon a little story about what happened in the Rolling Ridge garden on a rainy evening in April.  Rolling Ridge is a haven for wilderness and wild things, a place for Partner Groups to renew themselves in faith and friendship, a cradle for ministry and retreat and study, a laboratory for permaculture. For me, though, its essence has always been the call to live in community, which I believe is the one thing being asked of humanity on every level from the personal to the cosmic in this time. The call to community has a tenacious and essential pull, like gravity, yet, honestly, we do well to look before we leap, for there is real risk in launching forth.  Here is a warning from Adrienne Rich, a poem called “Prospective Immigrants Please Note”:

Next Doorways

05-31-2017 | Lindsay

The rain has played with the clouds and the peeping sun for days.  Sometimes the forest glows lush and golden; then it drips and drips, the earth sucking at our galoshes.  Nothing lasts for long.

Here spring is in full swing.  Outside my window, bluebirds are nesting in the box fastened to the old smoke house.  Brilliant blue and orange, they flash from tree to box, bearing a morsel of caterpillar, or sweet grasses for their nest.  Back and forth they go, slipping again and again through the small, round opening, into the mysterious dark interior and back out again. 

Changes

04-27-2017 | Lindsay

In an old story, it takes Christ three days to let go of all that holds him to this world, including the breath of life, and journey to the underworld. There he “harrows” the darkness and the depths, as an ancient farmer might probe and stir and prod the soil for planting.  Then on the third day he stands next to Mary in the dawn twilight so utterly changed that she doesn’t recognize him, her dearest, most intimate friend. It is Easter, the fire feast of the Resurrection, when Christians hold services at dawn and look to the rising sun in the East while the Earth turns green again and flowers. Thus the holy, uncontrollable alchemy of descent and inception, release and grace, death and transformation, is celebrated.

Extraordinary experiences

03-29-2017 | Lindsay

February had days and days of balmy breezes; insects hummed; the tree frogs made the pooling creek water boil.  Then in March a bitter storm cracked tree branches and froze the forsythia blossoms.  The days lurched from sunny warmth to sullen cold, and the wilting daffodils nodded amid crumbling brown leaves: an erratic, unsettling season. 

Things are turbulent on every level. We know this.

Forgiveness

03-15-2017 | Lindsay

The evening has fallen. Our day of silence is slipping into another, darker realm. I am remembering a haiku by Alexis Rotella:

No moon tonight
I light a candle
And listen to the
Dark

We can do this

02-14-2017 | Lindsay


There is a chickadee outside the window.  It has lighted on a slender branch of the nearly leafless bush and is turning its black-capped head this way and that while its little body dances briskly, feathers puffed against the chill.  The day is harsh. A bitter wind tosses the tree tops. A dusting of snow, remnant of a fierce winter storm to our north, lies in patches over the curled brown leaves on the ground.  Not lovely, nor inviting, still the rugged scene is worthy of contemplation: the nuthatch running up the tree trunk, the sudden red flash of the pileated woodpecker, the woodshed tarp rippling in the wind.

Sitting on the Rim

01-22-2017 | Lindsay

I expect that 60 miles away, the nation’s capital is vibrating: filling with celebrators and protesters: the triumphant and the grieving, the jubilant and the angry.  I expect that it is loud and edgy and unsettled.

At the gate of the new year

01-02-2017 | Lindsay

This was a reflection offered near midnight on December 31, in the candlelit Meditation Shelter at Rolling Ridge, part of an annual gathering of friends and journeyers to cross the threshold together.  I began writing it while on the way to visit family in North Carolina on the day after Christmas.

Learning to Walk in the Dark

12-08-2016 | Lindsay

Advent always was an interim time, spanning the threshold between the harvest festivals of autumn and the vulnerable, fierce hope of Christmas.  That “betwixt and between” time and place, where things tend to happen, wove itself around us as we gathered for retreat in a time when the forest waited, bare-branched and leaf-carpeted, for that first snowfall, likely still weeks away. 

In a season when it is traditional to think about the coming of the light, I was pondering darkness.  It seems that this Advent falls at a moment of history when the world is in an up-ended, uncertain, and, yes, frightening between-time, when we struggle to know how to be and what to do and how to behave as things all around us in politics, in governance, in world affairs, and in our psyches, slide toward the dark.

How Silence Will Save the World

11-24-2016 | Lindsay

This was the opening reflection for the Friends of Silence Board Meeting November 20, 2016.

Our country and our world is in a good bit of trouble right now.  We live in what storyteller Michael Meade calls “black dog times”. The tale goes like this:

Constructing the Lantern of Soul

11-23-2016 | Lindsay


The Annual Meeting of the “Study Retreat Associates of Rolling Ridge” (our official name) is a gathering of the residential community, the Board, our Partner Groups, and friends. It occurred on Saturday, five days after the election. I wrote a piece for the opening of the gathering. It was meant to be both a report about life and activities at Rolling Ridge and a reflection. What follows is an abbreviated version.

...Hope, for me, means a ….sense of uncertainty, of coming to terms with the fact that we don’t know what will happen, and that there’s maybe room for us to intervene…. Rebecca Solnit (from an interview with Krista Tippett on “On Being”)

A boat, a wind, a blessing

11-03-2016 | Lindsay

We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty. GK Chesterton

I have been thinking about this two-sentence quote.  I saw it first in paraphrase form in an email from a friend.  The paraphrase collapsed the “men and women” into the collective pronoun, “we”. It left out “and tragic”, and the preposition “to”, and made the whole quote one sentence, so that it became,

We are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.

The Fierce Gift

10-06-2016 | Lindsay

By the time a small group of us gathers for our Advent and Winter Solstice retreat The Gift of Story in early December, it is probable that the U.S. presidential election will at last be over. Perhaps the ads, mailings, rallies, debates, harangues, solicitations, and polls will have ceased.  What is certain, however, is that the rancor and bitterness, the isolation and anger, the pain and suffering here in this country, in the Middle East, and around the globe will have dissipated not at all.  The forces that marred the summer and now the fall don’t care that the holy seasons of Advent and the Winter Solstice promise light in the darkness.  Fear and anger rampage on through the world. We will gather in December with full and breaking hearts. 

Equinox

10-01-2016 | Lindsay

The first mist in many months appeared and lingered all morning, curling among the trees and around the garden and sheep shed.  Everyone knows I have long loved this insubstantial Being: an interim element, neither air nor water. Around here, autumn is her homecoming.  The arrival of mist signals that change is afoot, a shift in atmosphere and temperature, a turning of the seasons.

The afternoon and days following were clear, sun-soaked, and warm, the trees mostly as full as ever, the moss on the forest paths lush and bright emerald; the forest glowing green all around.  Seasonal change is all in good time.

Rain and Incarnation

09-16-2016 | Lindsay

It rained early one morning, a brief respite in the dry spell; not a determined rain at first, it fell softly, a low patter in the canopy. Nevertheless it was a presence, a caress on my jacket and the stony path, gentle droplets condensed somewhere in the pale grayness far above misting on my face and hands. I was thinking about Jesus.  In early December we will have a retreat that falls in Advent, and that season, for me, is rich with wonder and the poetry of Incarnation. The stories tell of a baby to be born, a Holy Child, embodied Love, a child fully human and Divine.  It is amazing to me, how the unseen can become tangible in this world.

David Whyte’s poem “What To Remember When Waking” has these lines:

To be human
is to become visible,
while carrying
what is hidden
as a gift to others.

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