Blogs

Autumn

11-12-2020 | Lindsay

Liminality

07-30-2020 | Lindsay

It was hot, a rainless time.  The stick weed and wine berries wilted among the straw grasses. The creek beds were scatterings of tumbled stones.  In the garden, Kate watered, and watered again.  The hard soil seemed to repel the moisture.  Several times a day the forest reverberated with the sound of a tree branch cracking and falling.  Everything was brittle.

A Prayer for the Threshold

06-11-2020 | Lindsay

Grief in a Time of Not Knowing. The podcast’s title had me at hello. It turned out to be an interview with Zen Buddhist teacher and author Joan Halifax. The discussion opened by considering whether living in these times means to be engulfed in a collective initiation. Roshi Joan noted that a classic initiatory experience begins with separation and moves through a threshold phase before reaching the time of return.  She pointed to the separations of our time: the quarantine and social distance caused by the alien coronavirus as well as the hurtful chasms we have carved for ourselves through hundreds of years of history.

Falling Out and Falling In

04-01-2020 | Lindsay

 

On the Schoolhouse Trail I passed an old tree with a craggy opening near the forest floor, an intriguing portal to the Underworld.  Meanwhile, the serviceberries are out, their delicate creamy blossoms like fallen stars in the woods.  Serviceberries are so named because they bloom at the time when the ground softens after the winter freeze thus readying the earth for burials and making services of parting and remembrance possible.  Gray fog is wrapping itself around the high, still bare branches, shrouding the tree tops.  So much is about fog and loss and descent.  Collectively we have fallen out of a world we thought—even worried—was immutable.  Mystery cloaks what comes next, what the eyes of the future see.  What do we do now?

Hope

03-17-2020 | Lindsay

The vernal equinox is a handful of days away, announcing the astronomical beginning of spring. On a morning last week, as dawn chased the darkness from the forest's edge, the moon was a glowing, golden plate resting on the western horizon. Tiny purple crocuses peeked up through pale brown grasses. Bright daffodils nodded on slender stems. Lacy green fronds adorned the old willow stump. On the edge of winter and spring, the moon, stars, and sun grandly and reliably spun a new day. The land offered delicate, deliberate promise of renewal and returning life.

But we know that around and just beyond this idyll, a maelstrom whirls at speed, carrying all manner of things ill and fearful. The virus raging through global humanity is a visceral, microbial emblem of a planet and a world profoundly undone.

A Prayer in the Divine Night

02-03-2020 | Lindsay
 
A new year’s turning at Rolling Ridge. The moment held a peculiar potency, for it passed on the hinge of a turbulent decade, when so much is at stake. The Earth and all her inhabitants, all that we love, is in dire straits.

Singing in the Dark Times

12-02-2019 | Lindsay

In the dark times

Will there also be singing?

Yes, there will also be singing

About the dark times.

Bertolt Brecht

 

Even the splotches of rusty orange and russet punctuating the lacework of bare branches have turned now to brown leaf-carpet.  They were what remained of one of the more brilliant autumns we have seen on this mountain, a season resplendent in scarlet and gold, back-dropped in azure blue skies and graced with crisp, invigorating air.  I wandered gratefully in the splendor, but images and news from other places intruded and captured me: a wounded and unquiet Earth, a world of injustice, people and creatures in peril; global reports of climate catastrophe; testimony to abuse of power and high betrayal.  These are the dark times, the dark edge we walk. 

Gold in the Darkness

09-22-2019 | Lindsay

We recently held a retreat at Rolling Ridge, “Finding the Gold in the Darkness: The Way of Soul in Troubled Times,” led by Jim Hall and Cheryl Hellner.  In preparation for the retreat we were asked to read an essay by Mary Evelyn Tucker, “Learning to Navigate Amid Loss.”  The essay ended with an image about the necessity to find “a compass into the future.”  This got me thinking, and that, together with elements from the retreat that followed, led to the reflection below.

Love of Tender Things

07-19-2019 | Lindsay

"Every day has something in it whose name is forever." 

(Everything That Was Broken, Mary Oliver)

Recently that "something in it" was the sight of my granddaughter and two friends plucking wine berries from the bushes by the dirt path and popping them in their mouths. The path they were on led to a large fallen oak. The girls hoisted themselves onto the trunk, which rested majestically in loam and leaves on the forest floor. They proceeded to walk fearlessly along the broad rounded beam, which ran crooked, though true, into the branches that once had danced in the sky. They were utterly at home, skipping effortlessly through imaginary worlds and back again to the present of tree, branches, leaves, balance, height; perfect play in the woods.

"The hardest love we carry"

06-11-2019 | Lindsay

Last month I stood with a circle of sixty people or so on a rocky beach on Long Island Sound and sang up the moon. As the soft full circlet of the moon rose above the water, the coral sun sank in the west. We gazed in awed silence, chanted, recited poetry. The luminosity of the experience was heightened by the occasion: we were on a retreat led by Robin Wall Kimmerer, "Returning the Gift: What Does the Earth Ask of Us?"

Reflection for a Still Point workday

05-14-2019 | Lindsay

Still Point Mountain Retreat is a sister community to Rolling Ridge Study Retreat. Located nearby, adjacent to the Rolling Ridge Foundation lands, Still Point exists for the same reasons and does the same work of wilderness preservation and hospitality for those seeking deeper connection with nature and soul. On a recent Saturday the Still Point partners gathered for a workday and meeting, at which I offered a version of the reflection below.

This is Spring

04-15-2019 | Lindsay

Children gambol on the gentle hillside between our houses where forsythia blooms.  The fronds adorning the old willow stump are filling out, a green fountain. These are bright compositions of happiness and hope, the faithfulness of Earth greening once again.  Yet for me they are splashed with other thoughts and emotions.  Perhaps it is the times in which we live or, just as likely, my particular heartbreak, but there are moments when I crave a more mottled canvas.  In The Seasons Book Parker Palmer writes

 …there is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck.  I have walked in the early spring through fields that will suck your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice.  But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created.

Other Possibilities

04-01-2019 | Lindsay

The old willow stump by the creek has sprouted pale green fronds.  The crocuses are pushing up through brown leaves. Water in the creeks gurgles irrepressibly over rocks, bird song wafts delicate music in the trees, and frogs make frothy love in the ponds. Spring has arrived, despite the world’s troubles. This means that for the next few precious weeks, or maybe only days, it will be possible to walk comfortably in the wild woods.

Where the World is Breathing

02-19-2019 | Lindsay

 

Something inside of me has reached to the place where the world is breathing.

--Kabir

Days each week, I go walking in the woods with a story in my pocket.  It’s winter now, and the landscape is a mass of tawny leaves, twigs and branches.  I pass trunks sprouting delicate scallops of pale fungi and fallen logs green with moss.  My boots rustle through the brown leaves, crisp with cold, and thunk in the mud along the creek banks.  A flash of red and a harsh call announces the pileated hurtling through the gray trees.  The rest of the forest is quiet.

Finding in ourselves what we criticize in another

10-05-2018 | Bob Sabath

A suggestion for an inner work practice comes from Elizabeth O'Connor, Our Many Selves: A Handbook for Self-Discovery, "From Judgment to Empathy: Exercise Four", page 71:

"What you criticize in another, try to find in yourself. We want to discover our dark selves, not in order that they may be blamed and banished out of sight, but in order that we may have conversation with them and they may lead us to the light. This is the promise if we will attend to them."

"An added discipline for this week might be to say nothing negative about anyone else or about yourself. This will give you more energy for inner work on the subject. If you find it a difficult discipline to keep, do not be discouraged. A discipline is to help us learn, and there is often more learning in failure than in success."

Way Upstream

09-17-2018 | Lindsay

A friend involved with regional efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay once told me of a meeting she attended in which representatives of area organizations and advocacy groups stood one by one to enumerate their steps and actions in the cause.  After quite a while of this, it was the turn of a rabbi from a local environmentally concerned congregation.  She stood at the podium and began her remarks, “Well, we work way upstream…we work at the level of soul.”

The Cedars of Lebanon

07-26-2018 | Lindsay

In the human imagination, and as they have been throughout the ancient world, the cedars of Lebanon are sacred trees, planted by God.  They are long-growing, strong, the material of temples and voyages in sea-roaming ships.  

Recently I read a piece in The New York Times by Beirut bureau chief Anne Barnard describing how the cedars of Lebanon could vanish by the end of the century.  The warming climate is stressing the trees, and political and cultural upheaval makes protecting them haphazard.  “Many thousands of square kilometers of forest once spread across most of Lebanon’s highlands.  Only 17 square kilometers of cedars remain, in scattered groves.”

At the Poor People’s Campaign in DC in June, the Rev. William Barber asked the assembled crowd,

Ghost Pipes

06-22-2018 | Lindsay

Monotropa uniflora is a small plant, wholly white, a pale translucent flute known as Ghost Pipe or Ghost Plant. It bends at the top and has but a single flower. Without chlorophyll, it cannot create energy as green plants do, from the sun.  Instead it draws energy from the fungi that cluster in the roots of trees as they reach into the dark earth.  Ghost Pipes appear rarely around here, in the threshold time between spring and summer, albino messengers from another realm.  Josh saw a covey of them in the Memorial Grove during his run on a cool misty morning. He was struck by their presence in that place of remembrance, reflecting, “It felt eerie and beautiful all at the same time.”

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:

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