A Walk on the Perimeter Trail

07-17-2016 | Lindsay

I cannot cause light;
the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.

Annie Dillard

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

It’s summer, the sun’s shining season at Rolling Ridge, and everything is a riot: wine berries, honey suckle, sunflowers, mint, Queen Anne’s lace, kale, garlic tumble over one another in the garden and across fences and railings.  Grasses spring up behind the mower five minutes after it has passed.  The grape arbor is leaning, barely able to stand under the weight of the ripening fruit.  The forest floor is awash in green growth, barberry bushes, and paw paw

It’s a glorious thing, how light works its magic.

This morning Erin (the dog) and I took a walk on the Perimeter Trail that traces the boundary of the Rolling Ridge Foundation land.  We did the stretch from Mission Road to Christ Church, which winds down into a lovely valley and crosses Deer Spring Creek. Dappled light filtered through the high canopy, played across the stony path, and capered up the rough bark of the oaks and maples. The occasional mushroom stood slender and pale, delicate and luminous against the shaded browns of the forest floor.  The sun-drenched air was warm and palpable, a sheltering blanket over the woods.

I was hardly taking it in.  It’s been a difficult and painful season for our nation and for the world, one that provokes a deep and preoccupying and disheartening sadness. Everyone is staggering.  The tragedies that maul our collective and individual consciousness are like raw puncture wounds erupting from towering and jagged places in our societal and personal soul.  But that inner landscape is not entirely a rocky desert. While its crags become terrible news in seasons like this, streams of connection and compassion exist too.  I was thinking about this, and about an interview I happened to hear as the summer began with writer and activist Rebecca Solnit.  She had spoken about hope:

“…one of the things I’m really interested in is what are the stories we tell and what are their consequences, and are there other stories that don’t get told?...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…. ”

Here’s what I know: All over this planet there are thousands of unfolding stories of people who are quietly, determinedly, faithfully intervening in the seemingly entrenched and divisive and fearful narratives of our time.  Whether the ventures are grand or modest, they are the plot lines of hope. They are spontaneous communities rising up to hold the dying, wounded, and grieving in the wake of mayhem and violence.  They are small, intentional communities trying out permaculture, alternative energy sources, and gift economies; they are transition towns; house churches, co-operatives, religious orders, urban community centers, farming collectives, tribal councils, prayer circles, and hosts more.  They are the ones thrusting themselves wholeheartedly into beams of light, passionately chiseling at the cracks and letting the light pour in.

It’s true that we can’t and don’t know what the outcomes will be, but the astonishing thing is that when we choose to wrap ourselves in those shimmering strands of light, grace happens.  We find that we have the heart and fortitude to continue doing the persistent, dogged, fierce, and defiant work of widening the shores beside the rivers of vulnerability and humility and connection and so becoming chapters of an unfolding story both ancient and resurgent.

In this season in the northern hemisphere abundant light streams from our daystar, feeding gardens, fields, and forests all across the land.  Wondrously, what began as light becomes food and beauty and hope.

I walked on along the Perimeter Trail, Erin trotting in front and occasionally dashing off after a scent, returning panting.  So we made our way, sidestepping glistening spider webs stretched among the brambles, and went on through the verdant grasses and under the sun-spangled trees as they stood in the flowing light. So may we all.