I'm bringing you this afternoon a little story about what happened in the Rolling Ridge garden on a rainy evening in April.  Rolling Ridge is a haven for wilderness and wild things, a place for Partner Groups to renew themselves in faith and friendship, a cradle for ministry and retreat and study, a laboratory for permaculture. For me, though, its essence has always been the call to live in community, which I believe is the one thing being asked of humanity on every level from the personal to the cosmic in this time. The call to community has a tenacious and essential pull, like gravity, yet, honestly, we do well to look before we leap, for there is real risk in launching forth.  Here is a warning from Adrienne Rich, a poem called “Prospective Immigrants Please Note”:

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely.
But much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself makes no promises.
It is only a door.

Toward the end of April, after a community supper, most of us were in the garden; Billy and I were weeding, pulling thistles from the beds; others were spreading cardboard and mulch on the paths and uncultivated areas. Conversation and comments wafted around between the digging, dumping, spreading, and yanking weeds.  The overcast sky turned a luminous gentle gray as the afternoon lengthened, and a few raindrops teased our heads and hands like tiny blessings on our garden idyll.

Each moment is a well, a history, a lifetime, and a suddenly and irrevocably constructed door frame.  One curt comment, an admonition delivered unthinking, rising from some long-ago unremembered moment, is received directly into the scabbed and sore place of another's story, and the idyll dissolves into a rough landscape of sharp stones and gullies.  Then comes the tender and awkward and truly courageous process of discovery, of crossing the threshold to travel the aching contours of another's journey and the crusted-over fissures in our own.  We talked on into the evening in the garden, leaning on forks and shovels, as the rain increased, soaking our caps and hair and pooling in little puddles around our feet.

Life at Rolling Ridge has many layers. There is the gift of living on the land, the embrace of the breathing forest; the hard and sweet work of caring for the place: the garden, the wilderness, the dwellings; the challenge of carrying livelihood, family, and ministry.  There is the hospitality, the weaving of retreats, the dogged toil of maintenance.

And then there is the holy mess of community, which yields the possibility of standing in the garden in the rain seeing a friend of many years as if for the first time; a story never heard before, perhaps; and your own journey reflected back and revealed like a small, bright epiphany, the blessed risk of remembering your name.