Blogs

Grace for the Work Day

09-11-2015 | Lindsay

On Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, many friends of Rolling Ridge came together to help us haul and split wood for the winter, clean and re-organize the Retreat House, fix the spring, and tend the garden. This is an annual, joyful event, filled to the brim with good work, good food, and laughter. At 1 pm we paused for a festive potluck lunch, before which this grace was offered:

In her introductory paragraph to the September issue of the Friends of Silence Letter, (this month, appropriately, on the theme of work) Linda quoted Wendell Berry:

"Good work is a way of living...it is unifying and healing...It defines us as we are: not too good to work with our bodies, but too good to work poorly or joylessly or selfishly or alone."

A Birthday Gift

08-30-2015 | Lindsay

We celebrated Luke's birthday at community supper this week, which inspired me to write this short reflection:

Happy birthday, we say, knowing full well that each one of us is born into a world that is basically a crap shoot. Our day, at any moment, could be pleasant or terrifying; thrilling or sickening; serene or numbingly disheartening, or everything and anything in between. Around and within us whirl a mass of events, possibilities, images, newscasts, voices that refuse to coalesce into any descriptor at all, much less a word as wispy as "happy". "How are you today?" asks the man at the checkout, and we really don't know where to begin.

In all this, what makes sense? What would be a gift? What small, glimmering box could we cradle thankfully in the palm of our hand?

Seasons

08-18-2015 | Lindsay

Annually the residential Rolling Ridge Study Retreat Community and the Rolling Ridge Study Retreat Board comes together for a time of building relationships, connecting, looking down the path ahead, and fun. This was the opening reflection for our weekend:

I am writing this on the eve of the Rolling Ridge residential community and board retreat. We are mid-month, the night of what some would call a new moon and others the dark of the moon.

After a soaked summer, we've made it to the middle of August. The greens in the forest are tinting toward dark jade. Here and there, leaves are kissed with russet and gold. The light is beginning to slant. Walking home from community supper, we remark at the lengthening shadows, the nearness of nightfall. Soon we'll have to remember to bring flashlights.

Rain

07-18-2015 | Lindsay

It has been a watery summer, rain in many moods appearing on nearly 30 of the last 40 days. We have had almost 15 inches in the last several weeks, more than we usually get in a whole summer. It drizzles, showers, spits, pours, storms; it comes capriciously in fits and starts, or thunderously in colossal downpours. Our roads are rutted, leaves mounded and cast aside by careless torrents. Our streams and rivulets gush; the waterfalls cascade and splash; wading pools on Krishna Brook and Rocky Branch are thigh high.

Solstice

06-18-2015 | Lindsay

On a night two weeks ago, 15 women walked single file through the woods singing softly on their way from the Retreat House to the Meditation Shelter. The clouds played tag with the waxing moon, but still it shone like silver through the dark trees. As the group approached the Shelter, they saw candlelight glowing through the windows and heard the pensive cadence of a Native American flute. At the door, each was asked, "Are you willing to enter the door that leads to the realm of heart and soul and mystery?"

Alive

05-28-2015 | Lindsay

The fields of our residential community: the little one behind Pinestone, and the larger one that embraces the garden and often hosts the sheep, are awash in shades of green. The grasses are growing, it seems, more than an inch every day. The hummingbirds are back, dancing in the azaleas; the whippoorwill sings like a fool in love outside our windows and doors every night. Rabbits and squirrels hop and scamper. In the garden, radishes are busting out of the earth, lettuce and kale and an array of other growing things make a thick green blanket from fence to fence. Insects buzz and hum and chirp and whirr. The wood frogs trill and the air is thick with pollen dust and the smell of warm earth. The rain and chill of only a couple weeks ago is another world.

Morning Prayer

05-06-2015 | Lindsay

This weekend the Still Point partners gathered for two days of work together, part of the commitment each makes to share in the care of the cabin and grounds. This weekend had a twist: on Saturday evening, Still Point hosted "Celebrate Spring and the Breathing Earth", with the intention of raising some money for scholarships for the retreat with David Abram in October, 2015. On what can only be described as a perfect late spring evening, friends enjoyed a lovingly prepared meal, a dancing game around the may tree, a delightful concert, storytelling, and a fire drum circle, all lit first by the glowing sunset and then by the full moon. Earlier, just after breakfast, we had met for business and to get ourselves organized for the day. This short reflection began the meeting:

Restorying: some thoughts

04-17-2015 | Lindsay

Once, around this time of year, I walked alone into the creek valley behind Foxfire, where Bob had made a small pool in a bend of Deer Spring Creek. I was headed past this, on my way to the Meditation Shelter, when I heard an eerie racket, like banshees in an argument, or ravens in battle. A few yards away from the pool, I stopped in my tracks. The usually still water was rolling and frothing, embroiled in a mini-tempest, a witch's cauldron. I took a step or two closer and then, as if an invisible hand had abruptly dropped a veil over the scene, all was still. The pool returned to its looking glass state and was profoundly quiet. I waited. Nothing moved except the occasional water skimmer. Then I glimpsed a small brown back just under the water surface; then another. I slowly backed off and went on my way.

Air and Memory

04-17-2015 | Lindsay

It's Easter, just after the spring equinox: the season of emergent life, resurrection, and creativity, of the coming of the light and the primal fire--and the forest near our house is full of long-fallen pine trees. The gray trunks and limbs, all helter-skelter amid brambles and vines and mounds of decaying, brown leaves, resemble skeletons in a ghostly battlefield. Scot explained once that pines are pioneer trees, the first to take root and grow in poor soil and relentless sun.

Right Relationship

03-31-2015 | Lindsay

Today the air is raw again. Bare-branched trees sketch tangled patterns in a leaden sky. The forest scene is painted in straw and pewter. The spring equinox was a week ago, and I am trying to have a right relationship with the bitter breezes and hard-scrabble ground.

Walks

03-17-2015 | Lindsay

Winter is on the wane at last. On Sunday morning, 13 of us, seven adults and six children and babies, took a walk eastward up Peachey Trace into the bare-branched woods and over to the clearing known as Hunters' Field. We were giddy with the laugh-out-loud happiness of being out of our houses, liberated from days of confinement by snow and ice. The white stuff still shushed and crunched under our feet, but it hardly reached the tops of our sturdy shoes. Lingering small icy stretches made us use our walking sticks, grabbed off the porch at Foxfire as we went by. Our progress was slow. The children wanted to touch the textured bark of trees, peer intently at fallen twigs, wander into the pale winter field grass, and sit down on the intriguing ground.

Courage

02-22-2015 | Lindsay

On an intensely cold and sunny day, in a lovely old church in Rhinebeck, (in the Hudson River Valley north of New York City), Scot and Linda watched their son Galen marry a vibrant, intelligent, and beautiful woman. A few days later, as snow fell here at Rolling Ridge, we received an email from Mary Ann about the death of five-year-old Jacii, the nephew of Mary Ann's foster daughter, Karen. He had that morning lost a long battle with leukemia. Mary Ann wrote how Jacii had loved snowmen, and the movie Frozen, and that the family had gathered at his bedside, singing a song from that movie, as he died. Later that day, Josh, Kate, Emma, Wren, and Ana made a snowman for Jacii, rolling and rolling the powdery and sparkling snow. Then they took a picture and sent it to Karen.

Spring

02-04-2015 | Lindsay

It's snowing, and the temperature is hanging just below freezing. The flakes are light and small and fast, almost sleety; but they don't amount to much, a dusting of powder over the brown leaves and fallen twigs. Still, the sky is sunless, a blanket of soft gray. The elegantly arching branches of the tulip poplar and the robust, sinewy branches of the oak are dusky brown against the pale sky. Evidently, a winter landscape.

Evidence, though, is a poor foundation on which to make a case. Evidence is about surfaces and edges and boundaries. This planet, this earth, this life is blurry and messy and uncontained. Things like times and seasons bleed into one another.

The season of winter

01-27-2015 | Lindsay

It is cold. The mud on the path to the Meditation Shelter has frozen up in small bubbles and lumps. It crunches and crackles underfoot. The tree trunks and tangled branches are etched crisply against a pale sky, the high contour of the ridge clearly visible through the dry air. There are long pauses in the conversations of the forest creatures: a woodpecker's thunk-thunk, silence, a blackbird's caw, silence. The water in Deer Spring creek has stopped in icy patterns against the stones. I am reminded of the phrase we use when calling on the directions at the beginning of restorying retreats: "let us turn to the North, place of frozen stillness and quiet waiting, home of wolf and the season of winter..."

Mist ecology, or a thought for the new year

01-02-2015 | Lindsay

Our custom at Rolling Ridge is to mark the turning of the year quietly. Before midnight we walk softly, in silence, through the moonlit forest, down into Deer Spring Creek valley and up again, past the Memorial Grove, and to the Meditation Shelter, which glows from within with candle and firelight. There we gather in a circle and share what we have brought: a poem, a song, a thought, the warm silence of our hearts. Thus, as one of us said last night, we midwife the new year.

What follows is what I wrote for the occasion. Erin is the sweet, boundlessly energetic dog who came to us out of the woods in October, a little more than a year ago. She resides with us, and has a bed and a place in every one of our community homes. We are her pack.

Deep Into the Unexpected

12-22-2014 | Lindsay


The shadows of the trees in the creek valley behind Foxfire and Pinestone in mid-afternoon are long and slender strips. The sun's rays slant almost horizontal and deeply gold through the forest. It is nearly the winter solstice, and the dark comes early in this third week of Advent. It is a thin time, perhaps the thinnest of all: a threshold time of waiting and expectancy.

Stone Talking

12-15-2014 | Lindsay

Annie Dillard wrote a book called Teaching A Stone To Talk. It's a trick title. The book is about human beings learning to listen. Stones talk all the time.

This weekend there was a retreat at Rolling Ridge for Advent and the Winter Solstice. We spent some time in the Meditation Shelter tuning our senses and psyches to awaken to the animate, breathing world around us. We gathered by the glowing woodstove in candlelight and read poetry, danced gently, sat quietly, sang a bit, and told stories. Then we went out into the forest, that world, which as Mary Oliver says, "is faithful beyond all our expressions of faith, our deepest prayers", and listened.

The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Audio Files for Wisdom School 2014 with Cynthia Bourgeault

11-24-2014 | Friend of Silence

This excerpt from the Saturday morning teaching left us all breathless. The Saturday teaching continued an exposition of the mystical insights of Jacob Boehme, that Love and Light emerge from striking the fiery ingredients of Desire, Agitation, and Anguish. Cynthia is also referencing the fourth "striving" mentioned by Gurdjieff in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson: "The striving from the beginning of their existence to pay for their arising and their individuality as quickly possible, in order afterwards to be free to lighten as much as possible the Sorrow of our Common Father."

Giving the Best Mat to Your Friend

11-19-2014 | Bob Sabath

Dear friends of Rolling Ridge:

I am so disappointed that I am not able to be with you on this important day in the life of the Rolling Ridge community. I'm in Albuquerque meeting with Richard Rohr and about 350 men from all over the world who are seeking to find ways to deepen the work of transformation in their own lives and in the lives of other men that they know. As many of you know, this search for inner transformation is a passion of mine – and sometimes has driven my best friends crazy. There is such a thing as "over search" – and I know that my intensity and seriousness and the search itself sometimes gets in the way of what I am trying to find.

Soul Abundance

11-19-2014 | Lindsay

The trees are beginning to unveil their skeletal frames, releasing leaves of truest hue to carpet the forest floor. Autumn is in middle age, and while bursts of scarlet and amber still explode in the woods, for the most part the trees stand dark and airy, branches crossed and twining against the blue and pewter sky.

Still Point

10-24-2014 | Lindsay

A couple weekends ago, a group of 16 people gathered here for a retreat called Restorying, which sought to help us cultivate, or re-cultivate, the stories that will sustain and nurture us in our time. On the first night of the retreat, we clustered near the head of the trail that leads through the enfolding forest to the pond, which waited in stillness below. Singing, we walked under the darkening trees, to a fire, where each one was asked, "Are you willing to enter the door that leads to the realm of heart and soul and mystery?"

This is the kind of stuff that goes on at Still Point.

Extravagance

10-13-2014 | Lindsay

I'm looking through my east window at the maple tree next to the woodshed. I can't take my eyes off of it. It's on fire, or at least pulsing with red-gold light, moving ever so slightly in a light autumn wind. For sure it's the angle of the sun's rays this time of year, hitting aslant, that makes the tree glow, framed elegantly by its still-green neighbors.

On the other side of our house, out the west window, this morning before dawn, the moon hung near the horizon. A full moon, it was almost completely eclipsed, a delicately traced dark circle holding a slender crescent of light.

If I were Mary Oliver, I would exclaim, "Have you ever seen anything in your life more wonderful..." or "every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight..." and then I would write simply magnificent poetry.

Autumn

10-01-2014 | Lindsay

Three nights ago, according to the planets and the stars, autumn began. For those of us walking through the forest to the Retreat House or splitting wood beside Homestead, the season's edges are less defined. For days and days the trees have stood green and glowing, suffused with shimmering sunlight as the air blows alternately warm and cool around them. Then a crimson leaf appears on the path to the front door and the maple and buckeye next to Homestead are tinged red and yellow. The scruffy, molting cardinals are shaking off their summer plumage, replacing feathers to stem winter's chill. Second by second, dark cloaks the earth earlier each night; songbirds are departing; we hunt in our closets for sweaters and quilts. All around, here and there, incremental but persistent change is happening.

Work

09-02-2014 | Lindsay

I suppose it's customary on a work day that falls on Labor Day to reflect on the transformative power of using our bodies and minds to create, restore, sustain, build, and assist life on this planet. At least, in some small way, that's what we hope we are doing as we split and stack wood, weed, sweep, and plant. During our last work day in March, we took a moment to recognize the beginnings of a new and hopeful vision for work among the Rolling Ridge community, whose members are exploring ways to help one another live and work in relationship with the land and ecosystems that surround us. We realized that this vision went against the tide of conventional expectations about how to make a living, but we felt it was a good vision and one that felt right for our community and that we should try.

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