On a beautiful fall weekend in early October, we hosted a group of college students from Appalachian State University. This is the fifth year that Harvard Ayers, their professor, has brought his “Human Ecology of the Southern Appalachians” class to Light Morning. On Sunday morning, before pancakes, we had a closing circle, which included the following sharings.
Robert Somewhere in The Little Prince, there’s a wonderful line. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” I didn’t have an opportunity to talk with many of you in person this weekend. But your energy shines. Your enthusiasm for what you hold dear is not only inspiring; it’s contagious.
That’s why we like to see students from Harvard’s classes come here each fall. We put out a lot of energy to make this place home-like for you, in large part because we get so much out of it ourselves. We’re honored to have you all here.
Kent I do tree work for a living. I hire different people to help me and I see different levels of caring. Some people really care about doing a good job, trying to get it right; other people so-so; and some not at all. I was very aware, while working with many of you this weekend, how much you cared about getting it right, wanting to do a good job. That means a lot to me.
And I know that your attitude carries over into other aspects of your life. You might not even be aware of it. You might take it for granted. But not everybody is that way. It’s heart is what it is; putting your heart into your work. It’s caring about your work. I was deeply impressed with everybody I worked with this weekend. Thank you all!
Richard I find myself coming to Light Morning every October for this event. I, too, enjoy the energy. It makes me wish I were a student again. Specifically, a student in Harvard’s class! I didn’t do field trips like this when I was in school. So thank you, Harvard. Keeping coming back.
Student I want to thank you all for your energy, for preparing all this wonderful food, for sharing your home with us, and for sharing your ideals. Being here meant a lot to me.
Jonathan I want to appreciate Joyce. It gets back to that quote that was mentioned a moment ago: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Maybe you’ve noticed how clean and comfortable the spaces are here, and all the work that went into setting up the beds. That’s some of Joyce’s invisible work. Joyce is also the architect for this building, and does much of the landscaping and just generally making the environment beautiful.
I know that all of us appreciate having a crowd like this here at Light Morning, because we get to see what it is we’re striving for. A roomful of people really makes this big building come alive. So I want to thank Joyce for creating this space, and all of you for helping to fill it.
Student Thank you for the calmness and the inner peace that I’ve experienced through this weekend. It’s really a blessing that I was able to come here and feel a little bit of what you all feel every day of the year.
Harvard I want to say (from my own personal point of view and from the point of view of A.S.U.) how much we appreciate the Light Morning community. There are all too few places where you can really come and have this kind of experience. This is not a commercial venture. These people throw their hearts and their lives open to us and make themselves available and offer us some hope and some examples and some models.
I also want to thank all you students for what you’ve done this weekend, and for what the students from the past years have done. These weekends have become a tradition now. It’s a very symbiotic experience while we’re here. I like to see that happen.
Being here makes me feel good. It gives me real hope that there are lots of things for our future and for our world that are going to be better than what we mostly see around us in these times. Without something like the experience of this weekend, this course would be bleak. It would be real; but it would be bleak.
Jonathan I appreciate the environmental activism that you practice in your class and in your personal lives and that you share with us when you come here. Your stories about the Arctic Wildlife Refuge last night were very moving. It’s something that we don’t get as involved in here at Light Morning. And yet chip mills, and acid rain, and mountaintop removal are deeply impacting this area.
Both the inner work and the outer work are important in our attempts to help heal this planet. I hope that, in the future, if your environmental activism gets a little too intense at times, you’ll consider returning to Light Morning and re-connecting with this peaceful environment and with the inner depths that help make the outer work sustainable.
Robert That leads directly into how Light Morning might continue to be a resource for you over the years. We’ve been here for a long time now, and we’re not planning on going anywhere. So down the road, when you’re out of school (or maybe still in school), and perhaps you’re actively engaged in learning to cherish the Earth, and you come to a crossroads in your life, or maybe a point of burnout, and you need someplace quiet to seek inner guidance, or you just need to be in the company of people who support you and honor what you’re doing, remember this place.
During the warmer months of the year we are definitely open to having people use Light Morning as a place for renewal, or as somewhere to hang out with friends for a while. We have guest rooms and tent sites. Don’t be shy about letting us know you’d like to use one of them. We’d love to see you again and catch up on some stories.
There’s another way in which Light Morning might be a resource for some of you. We’ve been talking with Harvard about setting up an A.S.U. students reunion weekend sometime just after school gets out next May. The idea is to send invitations out to everyone who has taken this “Human Ecology of the Southern Appalachians” course over the past five years.
Harvard has been an important professor to many of these students, and almost all of them have, like you, spent a weekend here as part of this course. So it would be a rich opportunity for as many students as possible to get together for several days, to work and eat and play together, and to share how their lives are unfolding, what they’ve been doing and learning, and what’s currently stirring their hearts.
Finally, we’re exploring the possibility of one or two students doing an internship here at Light Morning. It’s almost impossible to get any deep impressions of this place from Friday evening through Sunday morning. As we wrote to Harvard recently,
An internship would be an opportunity for one or two of your students to engage in an extended exploration of the multi-dimensional culture that’s been gestating here at Light Morning for the past 25-30 years. It would be an anthropological opportunity to study an emerging culture by considering its core values, which in our case would be:
* Living close to the Earth
* In a new kind of family
* With transformational intent
We believe, in other words, that developing a more sustainable lifestyle is essential for the well-being of this planet and its inhabitants; that developing a sustainable lifestyle is dependent upon evolving sustainable communities; and that a community only becomes sustainable to the degree that it is infused with an indigenous, numinous, shared, and sustainable vision.
We expect that the student(s) would want to participate in the richness of our daily life on as many of these levels as possible: by sharing meals, work, and dreams; by talking with community members about their backgrounds, experiences, hopes, and fears; and by discerning the creative tension between the values that we hold and our ongoing attempts to stretch into a deeper manifestation of those values. We also expect that we would learn quite a bit from the student(s).
Harvard is very responsive to helping any interested students set up such an internship here, for academic credit, probably during the summer months. If you would like to explore this possibility further, talk with him about it.
So these are a few of the ways in which Light Morning might continue to be a resource for you over the coming months and years. Tuck the options away, like seeds, somewhere in your awareness. Then, if you feel one of the seeds nudging at you a bit, trust your heart and follow the impulse. It’s been wonderful sharing our home with you this weekend. We hope to see some of you back here again in the future.
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Those who want to learn more about Appalachian Voices, “a nonprofit, grassroots organization committed to protecting and restoring the fragile and threatened native ecosystems of the Appalachian Mountains from Alabama to Maine,” can do so by visiting http://www.appvoices.org.