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.

It's autumn, the time of year when we tend to think about the Earth slowing down, at least in the northern hemisphere, as winter approaches. It's about letting go, falling, releasing. Autumn is the season of the west, the setting sun, oncoming darkness, the season of mystery and transformation.

Yet all around Rolling Ridge these recent days, there is extravagance and vibrancy. On Saturday, Josh and Luke were in the cathedral like beauty of the woods along Caddisfly branch, planting. The stately tulip poplars that live in this valley stand tall and strong, guardians of the imagination of the earth.

On a Sunday recently, Scot reported that the flickers had returned. These rakish creatures can be identified in flight by the bright white circle on their tail. In fifteen minutes while he repaired the sheep fence Scot heard and identified not only flickers, but 16 other birds, including the phoebe, red shouldered hawk, barred owl, and Carolina wren. "The place is hopping," is how I think he described it.

We human inhabitants have been tapping some deep streams of wellness and good humor too. The guys formed a chimney sweep squad a couple weekends ago, and while they didn't dance on the rooftops, all our woodstoves now are ready for primetime; joined by a new cousin happily installed at Homestead. Luke and Wren have been picking and harvesting everything in sight, from grapes to pawpaws; and we've enjoyed many delicacies prepared by Joy and Kate, including jams and pawpaw pie. We are preparing now to host the college service trip students from Messiah, who will build a new woodshed near Homestead; and we are happily anticipating the "Sacred Fire" retreat next weekend, where we will live into a world where, according to the flyer, "everything is alive, everything has soul, and everything speaks to us."

Scot has the delightful habit of ending his emails with a quotation from something he is reading or has read. These endings are always on target, zeroing in on whatever is going on in our lives and on the land, which on some level, are the same thing for our little residential community. Here's his most recent ending, a quotation from Annie Dillard, writing in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,

After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor. The whole show has been on fire from the word go. I come down to the water to cool my eyes. But everywhere I look I see fire; that which isn't flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames.


Reflection given at the Rolling Ridge Study Retreat board meeting in October, 2014.