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.

Our way into this half-season teetering between solstice and equinox has been topsy turvy: thrown in with the unbounded happiness of reunions with loved ones and swimming in the Still Point Pond have been epic and exhausting battles with mold; with the fun of music on the mountain and friends has been the sometimes terrifying and often tiresome snake sightings and removals; with the delight of spontaneous outdoor feasts and riotous garden abundance has been the pain and bother of hornets, gnats, and chiggers; added to that a crash with an ATV, the ever-shifting constellations of people coming and going for days or weeks at a time, and storm water seeping under doorsills, and the season comes in as a patchwork of bright and dark.

It strikes me that life lived with attention and intention is like this. One is aware and awake to its heft and nuance, to the swift turns and easy glides, to the sweet satisfactions and the nagging discontents. The tumble of life lived this way makes no promises of ever settling down: the next hummingbird at the honeysuckle, or anxious child, or shooting star in the night sky, or burial of a dear friend's ashes, or bear in the Niles Cabin woods is always just a heartbeat away.

The drumbeat underscoring this wild dance is the rhythm of transformation. The forest and all its inhabitants as well as the positions of Earth and the moon and the planets are changing second by second: we experience it as the grasses rise and become brown, birds migrate, leaves turn, the moon wanes and waxes. The seasons morph one into the next: the rains fall, storms wash over the mountain, mold blossoms under sinks, snakes slither into the henhouse, all answering in their own way and time to the ceaselessly shifting universe.

It seems to me that our Study Retreat Community, both residential and wider, is minute by minute transforming right along with everything and everyone else. In the past year, Joy, Luke, Wren, Gael, Keith, Katie came, moved in, began life here, joining Scot, Linda, Kate, Josh, Emma, Ana, Billy, and me. Each one of us brings passions, talents, gifts, wisdom that in the grace of life together get poured into a sort of dynamic stew. Out of that is emerging the next season of the being we call Rolling Ridge Study Retreat.

It's been a helter-skelter summer, with low points when some were lonely and worried, sick and exhausted. But mid-August is here, with a hint of autumn. Joy said yesterday that these days have an anticipatory energy, of coming events, activities, visitors, friends. Next weekend the second permaculture weekend workshop is happening, led by Luke and Josh and a friend from Shepherdstown. The garden continues its harvest; we are eyeing our woodpiles, and in a few weeks, we will be joined by Rolling Ridge's wider family for the annual work day, always a joyful, connecting, and productive time. On the visible horizon is a soulcraft style retreat with our Board member Jim Hall and Cheryl Hellner and the "Breathing Earth" retreat with David Abram, which is one of our first forays into encouraging a broadening constituency to discover the gift of Rolling Ridge. It's hopeful and a bit dizzying, like the swirling bright and dark pattern of our summer, as we try to hold onto our balance and center. But here's what I know: lives of attention and intention are always visited by grace. We are flung every morning into a wild dance, but the rhythm of the drumbeat anchors us. Tonight that beat is the delicate, undulating song of the frogs and the higher descant hum of the crickets, the whisper of the night wind, and the stars of a moonless night.