Letters From Light Morning: 2 — Early Spring 1975

February 1975

Cook stove
Cook stove

Since picking up my pen, the wind has begun one of its roarings. A strange day, with its own story. An ice storm several days ago left every tree, pine needle, and blade of grass frozen, as though of glass. Fragile glass mountains. Lovely, yet also the sense of tension, the trees bent down under the weight, the strain on the brittle limbs, rigid and vulnerable. But there was no wind to threaten them.

Then earlier today the sun shone for about 20 minutes, just enough to release the branches, to give them back their essential flexibility. And now this raging wind, and those thousands of trees, bending and twisting. I can feel their wild and joyful freedom.

* * *

More sun today, and quite welcome. It seems that a physical adjustment to cold is much easier than the corresponding mental adjustment to sunlessness. But so far we’ve had only two of those long (6 or 7 day) stretches–one in early December and one just ending. Otherwise, winter has been a joy to me. I find it more beautiful here now. So open, with long views of mountains and valleys. And the pace is perfect. There are, as always, innumerable projects. But they are more patient than the summer ones. Nothing’s going to ruin if it has to wait another day.

* * *

[In response to someone who had been touched by Season of Changes.] There appears to be an ever-growing fellowship among persons like yourselves within whom this information finds confirmation, and who are responding as constructively and creatively as possible, given the many obstacles involved. Change comes hard to us all, and such a turnabout in lifestyle and in basic assumptions that seems to be called for is as difficult as it is essential. But as you and we and many are realizing, it is indeed time to turn.

* * *

Your resolve to make your move as quickly as circumstances allow is heartening. The rewards are so great. It’s something like leaving the Shire [a reference to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings], the same sort of reluctance and even fear, and, too, the actual difficulties to be met. Yet also the joy of aliveness and the challenge of the task. There is help everywhere, and that builds faith, and faith is conducive to learning to love, which is giving, and that helps somebody else, and so on.

* * *

I sometimes wonder if the particulars of where to settle and what to do are relatively unimportant as long as one holds an openness to change; a willingness to be lead by that perfection which has brought us this far. My faith in that process is growing daily.

* * *

I wish you could see what happens to the mountains when there’s a good snowfall. For several days after, there is a surprising variety of animal tracks every which way. This morning, two very clear pairs of tracks going up toward Temple Hill. A rabbit, followed by a bobcat. (I presume the chronology.) And by the time I got to it, a third set of tracks alongside. But they turned back after a bit toward yoga knoll and led to a Robert already well into the exercises.

Yesterday’s walk to the mailbox brought discovery of some strange ones, especially coming in the back way thru the woods, where it’s a fairy-land of laden boughs and rhododendrons and the sounds of the still unfrozen stream.

Bobcat tracks
Bobcat tracks

There is peace here. Peace and order and beauty. I no longer think I could live any other way. Hopefully we will soon be able to share the depths of this experience with more people, for it is something that one’s mind cannot stretch enough to imagine.

* * *

It’s not yet time to begin gardening. We’re several weeks behind even Roanoke, because of our altitude. And Roanoke is several weeks behind Virginia Beach. So we wait. A seed-bed to start, but the tilling and planting comes more into April. A neighbor plows and discs for us and we have a rototiller to finish it off.

Meanwhile, our days are filled with things like wood-chopping, cleaning up old piles of this and that, removing poison ivy, trail-making in the woods, landscaping the root cellar, clearing lumber off Temple Hill, distributing Season of Changes, a growing correspondence generated by the book, designing individual shelters and the expansion of our community shelter, planning tenting spots for visitors.

Robert’s writing another book (Wax Statues, Cotton Candy, and the Second Coming), Marlene’s putting one together on drying fruits and vegetables, the garden needs a rabbit fence, roofs leak, tools need sharpening, brush needs raking, a raspberry patch needs clearing, fruit trees need pruning, clothes to wash, meals to cook.

That’s not to mention our own centering gestures (yoga, meditation, study) which take up all morning ’til lunch, and our sharing together (talking, reading aloud, making music, visiting neighbors and nearby communities) to which we give our evenings. In other words, the days are full.

* * *

The next people who want to join us here will have a very difficult time of it, as things now stand. None of the four of us fully realize what these two years of working side by side have done for us and to us as a group. We have different predilections and ways of thinking and of doing things; yet we are also tight-knit in many respects. We hold much in common, many basic unspoken assumptions and habits of relating to one another, just like in a marriage. This has been necessary for the building here, the holding to a common purpose.

But it seems time for us to learn more flexibility, more givingness, a further degree of lovingness, a gentle accepting of differing ways–while in no way compromising our purpose here. We had neither the skill nor the secure faith in our vision to be able to do this before, but I think we can do it now. In fact, according to the brief glimpses given me, we must do it. I find it the most difficult and exhilarating thing I’ve ever tried.

* * *

It’s warming up; should make for a good hair-washing day. That always lifts my spirits beyond reason. Perhaps it’s a breath of fresh air for my brain.

* * *

The past ten days have made my notes on preparing for cold seem irrelevant. New grass is sprouting, daffodils and tiger lilies are making their beginnings, many of last year’s favorite birds have just returned, the bobcats are mating (eerie cries in the night), and a general balminess. Not yet, though, that smell of fresh, moist earth that permeates a young spring day. And today’s wind confirms my own caution based on the memory of a year ago. It can get very cold. Come well prepared.

March 1975

Garden Way cart
Garden Way cart

Finally this letter begins. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the dynamics of the process, what it is that a letter waits for, sometimes so long, and then suddenly an urgency. Now! Often it takes me by surprise and I’m suddenly filled with a sense of communion with someone whom my thoughts haven’t held in weeks. Sometimes I write; sometimes I let the wave pass by. I always wonder.

The weather has been wet and cold. I didn’t want to send that to you. It’s still gloomy out there, but yesterday’s sun dried out my soggy insides. Friday night’s gathering started it. I came home feeling like one of those transformers up on a pole–6,000 volts coming in and only a 200 volt line in which to express myself. A whole bunch of clear-eyed alive people.

* * *

It’s good to be a community again. The six weeks alone gave us a new perspective on marriage and its expansion, as though marriage is, among other things, practice for community. And beyond community sits global harmony. But that’s bigger than my range at present.

* * *

There are the difficulties, of course, as one accepts the responsibility of learning to love one another in community, but these are to be met in any environment; community only intensifies things and thus perhaps quickens the pace a bit.

* * *

Robert and I have been busy designing a “house.” There’s a reluctance on both our parts to think about moving into a solid structure, but it’s becoming clear that something further is needed. Two major reasons, one being physical comfort and flexibility on the bitter, sunless days; the other being the need for an example of a small, simple, inexpensive, comfortable structure. The tents, as I think you might agree, are a bit hard to relate to.

So our house is in drawings. Plans so far are for something about 9 x l2, with lots of openable windows east and south, dug into the earth a few feet for warmth and coolness, made of rock and poles and pine slabs. A tiny stove in one corner for days when the sun’s not out. A patio and grass lawn and flowers and plenty of space for sleeping out under the stars.

* * *

Gardening will begin soon. Fruit trees are arriving from nurseries, blueberry bushes and rosa rugosa to get bedded down. Ronald just started a watercress patch in one of the streams. But not today. Today makes spring seem still far off. Robert’s up in our tent, writing; Marlene’s down in theirs typing a Paul Solomon reading; Ronald’s been trudging around in the snow on one of his mysterious missions. We will all gather again at supper time and talk about the warm days coming.

* * *

Congratulations! Your find [of a wood cook stove] sounds beautiful. As I sit near our warm stove this cold snowy day (about 5 inches so far), toasting wet toes, I can assure you that you will not regret your investment. There is nothing quite so wonderful, seen from this perspective.

Last night we went over to a nearby commune for a session with some folks who came up from Raleigh, N.C., to see and learn about alternative lifestyles. They’re a college class, actually, prof and all, though some aren’t students in the normal academic sense, and very fine people. One of their keen interests is alternative sources of energy. So with the usual sense of humor, an ice storm put the lights out for the night.

* * *

Marlene just came back from the mailbox where she and Willie made a snowman for the mailman who never showed up. Roads too bad. Manana, perhaps.

Robert’s up in our tent, thinking; Ronald’s down in his, reading. A peaceful day. All projects buried and canceled. The cardinals are frolicking in the wheat we threw out. Fighting, actually, contrary to their image. But mostly they sing, when they’re not forgetting.

* * *

Sometimes I find myself becoming impatient when the way is not clear; yet things always seem to unfold according to a masterful perfection.

* * *

[In response to a letter from another community.] What of yourselves, and your inspiration and experiences thus far? Perhaps we could trade some of the inspiration (even at the level of book bartering) and maybe even our experiences, or at least tales of how things are going. That would be my wish, anyway, were I not inclined to believe that you folks find your time growing ever more precious. As do we, I suppose.

Yet it would seem that within the network that is growing–the many and varied communities–there would be much to gain from such a mutual sharing. Perhaps some economical system will develop. Meanwhile, we would welcome any news from you about your community and its growing edges, and also any questions you may have about ours.

* * *

Just the barest beginnings of spring. Craggy old trees turning young. New shoots of other things, up for the first time. But the birds seem to be familiar with the place, and glad to be back.

* * *

Some warm days and the garden is cleared for turning. A new season. The open season. The plentiful, the busy, the expressive season. We have cherished winter’s peace, yet the magic of last Sunday–three groups of guests, all with different energies, blending them in warm fellowship–brings promise and gladness into our hearts.

* * *

A dip back into the low twenties after a luxurious hot spell, during which the “season” here must have officially opened. We had nine for lunch on Sunday, not counting us. Various groups coming and going the last few days. Everyone brings a different energy, so the blending (the soup de jour) is always different, excitingly. We enjoyed Eddie and Maureen and Michael’s company, and I think they left with more of an understanding of what’s happening up here; one cannot really pick it up through letters or words.

It’s a funny thing. I’m just beginning to realize that it is not even something that we can show to people who come here. It is given, as though from some other level, and we are just part of the scenery. Nature is a main character, conspiring through weather, through her subtle signs and tokens, through even subtler influences that we can feel but can’t name. She woos and sabotages. We can only stand back and watch.

Sunday was just such a day. There is a couple we have known for quite some time, who live nearby with their two children. Over the past year they have come up quite a bit and we’ve exchanged ideas and directions. A friendship has grown. Until recently, they’d been searching for land, looking to do a homestead, meaning self-sufficiency alone, not in community. (There’s an enormous difference.) But they have moved away from a need for independence, and even for self-sufficiency. “Christ-sufficiency” is their term for what they want. In Season of Changes it’s referred to as Self-sufficiency. The idea’s the same.

We have much in common with these people, so we have often wondered whether they might eventually be drawn toward living with us. Our ideals are similar, including diet. (They are Arnold Ehret folks, but did not handle it the same as we did, so have been able to go on. They eat no cooked foods.) They are aware of the implications of simplicity and they know, through experience, of some of the trials of community.

We’ve talked about the ins and outs (ups and downs?) of their coming here, wondering about the outcome should they choose to try it. That’s where the 3 or 6 month waiting period takes the tension out of the idea of expanding. Everybody knows that if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Not a decision, per se.

The big question that we and they have is whether our “spiritual paths” are enough alike to be compatible. They are more orthodox in their interpretation of Christianity. Not fundamentalists; yet more so than we are. They have a background similar to us (lots of Cayce, etc.), but their language is a bit different from ours. (Of course I say “ours” blithely, for even among us, we have quite different interpretations.)

So none of us know, but we four look forward to trying it out to see how much difference it makes. At the moment their hearts lean toward this community and its purpose. They want to wait for inner confirmation before any decisions. It’s hard from their end; there’s no security in a move like this. It may be where they are meant to be, and yet again it may not.

Anyway, that’s where Sunday comes in. The weather was perfect, the atmosphere was magical. Light Morning’s purpose was in evidence as we moved between varying groups of visitors, all coming for different reasons, to take home with them different seeds. The blending, the flow, the fellowship, the peace of the mountains. All who were here were touched.

It’s hard to be rational at a time like that, if you’re considering living here. Then to top it off, the couple’s two children happened on the “laboratory” and spent the day fixing it up, bubbling with delight, sweeping and rearranging the furniture. A sore test for alternative courses of action. That’s what I mean by “sabotage.”

* * *

Such a blustery and wet night! The cook stove smokes at every gust, looking much like wizard’s work. It is also a gentle suggestion for me to head up the hill and to bed.