Light Morning’s roots reach back to the Virginia Beach of the early 1970s. The teachings of Edgar Cayce, the so-called “sleeping prophet,” had been preserved there. This caused Virginia Beach to become a mecca for some of the restless souls who were on the road in those days.
In the summer of 1973, eight people – having been independently drawn to Virginia Beach for this reason – coalesced around the inner guidance of a woman who had developed gifts similar to those of Edgar Cayce. Live close to the Earth, these “readings” urged, in small communities of cooperation. Practice dream-work, meditation, and prayer. Become willing participants in the unfolding drama of these tumultuous yet opportune times.
The guidance we received was woven into our first book, Season of Changes: Ways of Response. Late that fall, people who had known each other for less than a year pooled their life savings and bought an abandoned farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The following spring, prodded by a prophetic sense of urgency and lured by the sweet alchemy of a shared vision, we moved to the mountains.
Free State Creek
The Appalachians are one of the oldest mountain ranges on Turtle Island, a name the indigenous peoples gave to the North American continent. Stretching 1,500 miles from Alabama to Canada, they were thrust up toward the end of the Paleozoic Era, displacing an inland sea, and have spent the past 200 million years being slowly softened and eroded. In Virginia, the Appalachians are called the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Light Morning is nestled into several of their south-sloping ridges, surrounded on three sides by a deep gorge. At the bottom of this gorge runs a stream that the old-timers call Free State Creek. Free State Creek flows into Goose Creek and then into the South Fork of the Roanoke River, which meanders eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. Rain falling one ridge over, however, ends up in the Little River, which joins the New, the Ohio, and finally the Mississippi, on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Because the Blue Ridge Mountains are so old, and were spared the glaciers of the last Ice Age, we are blessed with a rich diversity of plants and animals – black bears, chipmunks and white-tail deer; tulip poplars, locust, oaks, and maples; skinks, copperheads, and snapping turtles; ravens, kingfishers, wild turkeys, and bluebirds; and trillium, raspberries, and ginseng, to mention just a few.
One of the primary binding spells for Light Morning has been family meals. These daily gatherings not only allow us to enjoy the simple vegetarian fare that we prepare for one another, but also provide the essential luxury of shared time. We tell dreams over breakfast, exchange work stories at noon, and often use the supper hour to air grievances, solve problems, and catch up on each others thoughts, feelings, and insights.
Keeping a common table is important for less obvious reasons as well. Eating together means working together, another strong binding spell. Because we share food, we don’t need separate gardens. And since we like our food fresh and organic – in other words, home grown – the garden is large.
Then there are the orchards, grape vines, and berry bushes to tend; the produce to be preserved as the days grow short and the nights turn cool; the shelters to be built and cared for; the firewood to be gathered for cooking and warmth. These are further ways in which common table generates common labor, with its own set of challenges and rewards.
Friends and Neighbors
In the early years, there was a torrent of visitors; five hundred one summer. Most had learned of Light Morning through Season of Changes, or by word of mouth. They were often driven by hard times – this was the era of Vietnam and Watergate, of fuel lines and food shortages – and by the same restless searching which had impelled us to Virginia Beach and to the readings.
Some of these visitors stayed on. Others bought parcels of land down the road, giving shape to a neighborhood, which gradually became an extended family of friends and kindred spirits. We helped each other build houses and occasionally watched them burn. We assisted at the births of each other’s children, sometimes grieving for their deaths. As we celebrated birthdays, weddings, and the slow passage of the seasons, the friendships grew deep and strong.
Meanwhile, the county as a whole was experiencing a similar influx. It used to be that we knew all the other newcomers in this agrarian, single-stoplight county. Now hundreds more have moved in; and they’re still coming.
Once, in a dream, this multitude has assembled in a large auditorium, trying to articulate what common denominator desire had brought us all here. Hours of tedious debate ensue. Finally, in despair, I walk outside. Standing in the fresh air, and with no premeditation, I ask the first person I see, “Have you talked with your god lately?”
I don’t care what his concept of god is or what they’re discussing. I simply want to know if there is some sort of dialogue going on.
“Yes,” he replies, after a moment. “The day before yesterday.”
Taking this response as a favorable omen, I return to the auditorium.
If we are to participate consciously and creatively in these challenging times, there must be inner dialogue. Everything that facilitates outer dialogue – listening, discernment, assertiveness, problem-solving – can be applied inwardly. Reaching for consensus as a group thus becomes a parable for seeking it within.
Inner consensus strives to reconcile the competing needs of body, mind, heart, and soul. Yet reconciliation happens only as we are able to reclaim the shadows – bright, as well as dark – that we have displaced onto others. For we project all our subliminal hopes and fears, all our murky gender tensions and unresolved parental issues, onto those around us, as though onto the wide, bright screens of a multiplex cinema. Riveted to our seats, captivated by the entrancing images, we rarely remember their source – the small projector room at the back of the theater.
This path of reconciliation, then, becomes one of reclaiming our projections. We won’t follow such an arduous path without an evocative image of where it might lead. We need, in other words, a compelling metaphor; a visceral lure. This is the central theme of our second book, Wax Statues, Cotton Candy and the Second Coming. Growing out of our dreams, meditations, and daily life, Wax Statues explores the possibility of a new creature emerging from the matrix of who and what we now believe ourselves to be.
Many people have had glimpses of this new creature. Sometimes it arrives on the wings of a dream. We awaken in the morning – or maybe in the middle of the night – trembling with the intensity, feeling the dream to be far more real than “real life.”
Less often, the revelation is a waking one, striking us like an earthquake. Abrupt, apocalyptic, stress-induced – it jolts us out of our complacent sense of identity. All that we once took to be solid gives way beneath our feet. Suddenly we find ourselves flying, floating, or falling.
We give names to these fleeting moments of grace – the Christmas Experience, the Fire Experience, the Bubble Experience, Hand-Raiser. Paradoxically, they are both archetypal and highly personal; longed for and feared. Light Morning has served as a cocoon for these lucid intervals; a silken web of expectancy, encouragement, and support. Within its protective confines, the unspeakable dance of dissolution and renewal takes place.
On this early Sunday morning in late May, the birds are singing. The garden is celebrating a recent rain. The cherries and blueberries are swelling; by the end of June we’ll be eating fresh fruit. A neighbor’s house is being re-roofed. A dozen or so folks are coming for our traditional Sunday morning pancakes. A woman writes from New Orleans, wanting to visit.
On a south-facing hillside stands Rivendell, our “new” community shelter. We’ve been building it for a number of years now. Its design can be taken as a dream; as an out-picturing of our past and our probable future. Here is one brief rendering of that dream:
Laying strong foundations. Steel rods embedded in poured concrete. Core values and beliefs. Underlying assumptions. Knowing what we want. No turning back now!
Having food be a focal point. Harvest kitchen, canning porch, root cellar, pantry. Common table. Bread-labor. Home grown food as a parable. Indigenous agriculture as an emerging mythology.
Using beauty as prayer. Shrubs and flowers. Fruit trees in bloom. Windows framing the graceful curve of a distant hill. A growing appreciation for the role of beauty, the practice of gratitude, the power of praise.
Hosting neighborhood gatherings. Pot luck dinners and music nights. A living room finally big enough to push back the couches and dance. We get so busy, sometimes, that we forget how much we need and enjoy each others company.
Self-Remembering. A large library and a meditation room. Places of quietness and contemplation. Food for mind and soul.
Welcoming visitors and interns. Several guest rooms on the second floor. The visitor flow has fluctuated over the years, symptomatic of deeper stirrings in our collective psyche. Our correspondence and premonitions suggest that the tide is once again rising, and that the community will soon be welcoming more wayfarers.
Growing Into the Dream
Rivendell, like the shared vision that gave it birth, is a couple of sizes too big for us. We find ourselves having to grow into both the building and the dream. The growth called for is partly inward, involving more gumption and focus; and partly outward, necessitating more people, a larger crew.
It was always intended that Light Morning’s size remain small. We have seldom sought new members. Our numbers, in some mysterious way, seem to be self-regulating. Yet with more being asked for in these times, we expect that among those who arrive as visitors and interns, a few will feel called to serve – as staff serves a center; as crew serves a sailing vessel; as the nucleus serves a cell.
In the meantime, we give ourselves as fully as we may to the needs of the moment, striving to call forth that extra measure of energy, awareness, and devotion. We have, already, so much to be thankful for. As Meister Eckhart, a 14th century mystic, once said, “If one had but a single prayer to offer God, and if that prayer was ‘Thank you,’ it would suffice.”