After days under a sultry blanket, the woods and the air all around this morning swirled with wafts of coolness, and Billy and I decided that the day called for a walk. As we walked up the path called Peachey Trace, trailed by our cat Olive, patches of light and shadow in the trees made a crisp, motley pattern in the clear, dry air. For the first time in weeks I wore a cotton sweater.
I was on the lookout for a red leaf. Three years ago Beth Norcross, founder of the Center for Spirituality in Nature, led a retreat here at the end of July. She noted that the black gum tree begins turning before all the others, throwing out small, crimson teasers of autumn’s possibility one by one, even in August. I found four.
I love those days when one season trickles into the next. It’s an in between time, when fragments of the coming world appear and tantalize in this one: a chill breeze, a red leaf in August. John O’Donohue called it the interim and alluded to its pregnant and uneasy quality:
You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out.
The way forward is still concealed from you.
The old is not old enough to have died away
The new is still too young to be born.
It certainly seems that way. The other day I took two visitors on a tour around Rolling Ridge and our sister retreat, Still Point. As we drove and walked around this serene place with its luminous trees and babbling brooks, its people so earnestly caring for one another and the land, we talked of the kind of summer it’s been: violence, discord, brutal rhetoric, anger. There seems to be a great and frightening unraveling everywhere. Yet, I know, all over the world stories of inter-relatedness, of connection, of re-claimed wisdom and deep-grained determination are lived out each and every day. We stood on the Still Point deck gazing over the lush, tree-filled landscape where the majestic Shenandoah flowed unseen far below and mused, “How can we live in this time of the interim?”
Mary Oliver wrote in her beloved poem, “Wild Geese”:
“Whoever you are…the world offers itself to your imagination…”
So, I think, we are not bereft. There is the possibility of seeing into other realms, of hearing the breezes at dawn tell their secrets. We only have to walk wholeheartedly into the dim morning forest with our imaginations like carefully polished lanterns, wicks trimmed and fiercely glowing, illuminating the way.
I’m thinking back to the First Night, the first hours, of this tumultuous year. We were gathered near midnight in the Meditation Shelter, which was lit by a myriad of candles under a sky of stars. We read poems and told stories to one another: images and dreams danced among us. We closed with these words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, who knows well the power of story and imagination, and how to traverse the perilous interim:
My friends, do not lose heart...For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement…To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these—to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity…
Billy and I made our way, turning onto Wedding Walk and then into Hunters Field and eventually past the Memorial Grove and over Deer Spring Creek. We shortened our walk since Olive was still tagging along and we didn’t want to lead her far afield. The day warmed and settled into August again. I returned to the tasks of the day, answering mail, tidying, picking blackberries. Four scarlet leaves lay shining on the dun-colored cloth of the dining room table
Two retreats this autumn at Rolling Ridge and Still Point will explore the realm of story and imagination, seeking to answer the question, “How can we live in this time of the interim?”. Please join us for either, or for both:
Courting the Realm of Dream and Deep Imagination
September 16-18, 2016
Rolling Ridge Study Retreat
Thriving on the Threshold
October 21-23, 2016
Still Point Mountain Retreat