The Lofty Chronicles: 4

This continues an ongoing series of posts about a young girl growing up
and pursuing child-led learning at Light Morning. The series begins here.

Gifts and Abilities

A Small Space (Friday, 12 July 1991) It’s close to suppertime and we’re nearing the end of a long day. As we pick up the community shelter’s living room, Lauren’s in a rambunctious mood. Joyce finally says, “This is too small a space for hopscotch or for jump-rope…”

“Or for sermons!” Lauren adds, deftly finishing Joyce’s sentence for her.

We all laugh. Even Joyce has the grace to grin.

Continue reading The Lofty Chronicles: 4

The Lofty Chronicles: 3

This continues an ongoing series of posts about a young girl growing up
and pursuing child-led learning at Light Morning. The series begins here.

Lofty Brown

Lauren at the treadle sewing machine

Lauren’s Stories (Monday, 1 April 1991) It occurs to me to list the books we’ve been reading aloud in the evenings before bedtime over the past several years. Joyce and I have enjoyed this ritual for most of our married life, but the following books are the ones we’ve shared with Lauren since she first started paying attention to the stories when she was three. Now she’s about to turn seven.

Humans have an innate need for stories. Radio and television meet much of this need currently. But since Joyce and I have never had a TV, we resorted to the intermediate technology of books. Prior to literacy was the long and arguably richer oral tradition of storytelling.

Continue reading The Lofty Chronicles: 3

The Lofty Chronicles: 2

This continues an ongoing series of posts about a young girl growing up
and pursuing child-led learning at Light Morning. The series begins here.

Just For the Joy of It

The Light Morning family. Harvest time 1990.

What If I Were the Only Adult? (Saturday, 10 November 1990) Sometimes I get haunting glimpses of what it must be like to walk through the Light Morning lifestyle in Lauren’s shoes. It’s clearly a magical place to grow up, but Lauren is the only child here. What if I were the lone adult living with five or six children? What if it were their interests, needs,and priorities that mostly dictated what I could or couldn’t do, and when I could occasionally go to visit other adults?

It’s a humbling empathy that permits a parental oppressor, however well-intentioned, to perceive the world-view of the oppressed.

Continue reading The Lofty Chronicles: 2

The Lofty Chronicles: 1

Saying Goodbye to Early Childhood

The Lofty Chronicles grew out of a daily journal that I kept for several years during the early 1990’s. Many of its entries were about our daughter, Lauren. She turned six in 1990 and soon asked us to call her Lofty. Since she was the first grandchild on either side of the family, her geographically distant grandparents, aunts, and uncles were especially eager to hear what she was up to. So I volunteered to send them selected passages from my journal each season. I also sensed that a grownup Lauren may one day become curious about her roots.

The reason for posting those long ago journal entries here on Light Morning’s website is that peeking through the day-to-day concerns, wonders, and routines of parenting is a startlingly intimate view of the three core values of this community: living close to the Earth, in a new kind of family, and sharing a transformational journey. These foundational values have already been explored here. In The Lofty Chronicles, however, they come to life in a viscerally specific way.

We see adults trying to live simply, work closer to home, and become more self-sufficient. We watch a mostly self-chosen family of friends and traveling companions work and eat and play together, hurt each other, solve thorny problems, and slowly learn to truly care for one another. We catch surprising glimpses of what it means to “become again as a little child.” And we see that a path of transformation can be both long and arduous. There’s nothing quite like parenting for showing us our shadows and humbling our pretensions. It’s fully as good a teacher as marriage and community.

Now it’s time to let the stories speak for themselves. The Lofty Chronicles will be an ongoing series of posts, making way now and then for posts on other themes. After first setting the stage with a few journal entries from Lauren’s younger years, we’ll take up the story proper in May of 1989, shortly after her fifth birthday.

Continue reading The Lofty Chronicles: 1

Choosing To Age in Community: 3

This is the final portion of a story that begins here.

Christmas at Light Morning, 1992
Tom with Ron & Marlene and Lauren, Robert, Joyce

Prologue

Tom Hungerford was born in Winslow, Arizona in 1916, shortly after Arizona became the 48th state. He died at Light Morning at the dawn of the new millennium. Quite soon Tom will become one of the unremembered multitudes — a wave receding down a beach; a raindrop touching the surface of a lake; an autumn leaf falling from a family tree.

Yet in the brief interval between when Tom took his first breath and his last breath lies a span of some 30,000 days, each of them a tapestry woven of stories. Thus did J.R.R. Tolkien speak of a tree of tales in a forest of days.

In this concluding portion of Choosing To Age In Community we’ll see that Tom was deeply influenced by two books, The Razor’s Edge and The Comforter; that he loved a little cabin in the woods called Snowberry; and that a chance viewing of a movie freed Tom from a trauma he’d been carrying since World War II. Since he was always a traveling man, we’ll close with the story of how Tom ended his days at Snowberry, and finally traveled on to who knows where.

Continue reading Choosing To Age in Community: 3

Choosing To Age in Community: 2

Thomas W. Hungerford

Born in Winslow, Arizona on April 29th, 1916
Died at Light Morning on May 25th, 2000

This is the second part of a story about Tom’s unusual life.
The final portion of the story will be posted in two weeks,
following next Wednesday’s post — Seasonal Images: Winter 2020.

Robert and Tom watching a gravel truck in 1995, as Rivendell,
Light Morning’s new community shelter, was being built.

Choosing Light Morning

Robert–What did you do after your mother died, Tom? You were in your late 60s by then and you were trying to find an environment that was philosophically compatible with what your values were.

TomIt didn’t have to be compatible. I was just looking for somebody who was working on themselves in a different sort of way. The only thing I could go back to myself was what I had found at the time of my divorce — the Edgar Cayce material and Joel Goldsmith’s Infinite Way. So I started looking in that direction.

Continue reading Choosing To Age in Community: 2

Choosing To Age in Community: 1

Thomas W. Hungerford

Born in Winslow, Arizona on April 29th, 1916
Died at Light Morning on May 25th, 2000

Tom at Light Morning in 1986

Prologue

In the spring of 1976, a large white van pulled up to an old 8×10 granary shed which served as Light Morning’s community shelter. We were working outside, building a small woodshed out of salvaged materials. Dry firewood was a necessity. We used it for both heating and cooking.

Eight or nine people climbed out of the van, looked around, and introduced themselves. Almost all of them were our age, in their 20s and 30s. One of them, however, was 60. We wondered what had attracted someone our parents’ age to visit a remote rural commune in the Blue Ridge mountains of southwest Virginia.

That’s how we first met Tom Hungerford. During Tom’s many subsequent visits, and more fully after he moved here, we drew out portions of his remarkable story. Finally, on the eve of Tom’s 79th birthday in 1985, he and I sat down with a tape recorder and he reminisced about the circuitous path that led him to choose Light Morning as a place to both live and age.

Continue reading Choosing To Age in Community: 1

Letting Nature Take Its Course: 3

This is the last of three posts which chronicle Marlene’s
final journey home. Part One, which introduces this series, is here.

Marlene drying veggies at Light Morning circa 1974

May 30th, 2018

May is a manic month in a homesteading lifestyle. Several of the past few evenings have seen me either hoeing or mowing by moonlight. Mama black bear passed through the orchard recently to taste a few small apples. Standing up on her hind legs to pull down one of the branches, she looked like a large man, with very good posture, in a bear costume.

Marlene is once more back in her bed and Ron is wrestling with myalgia. For the past month, Marlene has preferred to be on the floor. Ron didn’t want to keep the side rails of the hospital bed raised because it caused her to feel imprisoned, so Marlene became adept at lowering herself off the bed and onto the floor. Once down, she could scoot around from place to place using her hands and knees.

It was hard for Ron to minister to her needs, of course, while she was on the floor. But he was willing to do whatever it took to help Marlene regain some semblance of mobility. Her use of morphine also decreased significantly while she was out and about. For one stretch of ten days she didn’t need any at all.

Continue reading Letting Nature Take Its Course: 3

Letting Nature Take Its Course: 2

This is the second of three posts which chronicle Marlene’s
final journey home. Part One, which introduces this series, is here.

April 9th, 2018

I checked in with Ron and Marlene yesterday evening. Much to my amazement, Marlene was her feisty, smiley old self. She was lying on her stomach instead of her back. As soon as I walked in, she asked me about Ron’s taxes. She’s done his taxes for years and, knowing that tax time is close, she was concerned. I told her that all the financial info she had stashed in Ron’s red folder had been delivered to a tax person in Roanoke.

She grabbed my hand and gave it a tight squeeze. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Then she talked about the cards and letters she’d been receiving. She couldn’t understand why so many people were suddenly writing to her. I saw an unopened envelope lying on the bed.“Do you want to see who sent this one?” I asked. “Sure.”

It was a long letter from Jess, whose family lived at Light Morning many years ago. Marlene has remained close to them, so I read the letter aloud. Marlene listened attentively to the news about each of the family members and each of the family’s cats.

Later, Marlene said she wanted to have a chiropractor in Blacksburg fix her back. Ron paused for a moment before answering. Then he gently reminded her about the childhood injury to her back, the progressive osteoarthritis in her spine, and the cancer.

“No one can fix those things for you,” he continued. “You’re just going to have to learn to live with it.”

There was a brief silence as Marlene tried to take this in.

“Well, I’ve had seventy-seven years,” she said.

“Seventy-seven beautiful years,” Ron replied.

Marlene gave him a delighted smile. Then she reached up to where Ron was standing beside the bed, grabbed the sides of his face with her hands, and pulled him down to give him a kiss. A second and third kiss quickly followed.

Continue reading Letting Nature Take Its Course: 2

Letting Nature Take Its Course: 1

Marlene cutting tomatoes for canning

This photo shows Marlene, one of Light Morning’s four co-founders, prepping tomatoes for canning on the porch of the old community shelter. She taught me how to work; I learned by watching her. Marlene’s hands moved at the same consistently fast yet careful pace, whether she was typing, cutting tomatoes, or bow-sawing firewood.

Marlene also deepened my understanding of what Light Morning half-humorously refers to as U.P.S. — Unresolved Parental Stuff. In a previous series of posts (here), she shares a harrowing tale of how primal childhood woundings leave scar tissue, which in turn causes us to re-create our unresolved trauma with other people and in other settings. How much of our trauma can be healed and how much will remain unresolved is an open question.

Finally, Marlene taught me about death and dying. The teaching was up close and personal, as Marlene chose to die at home, here at Light Morning. The following story (in three parts) charts her journey from receiving a diagnosis of terminal illness to taking her last breath. It’s based on a series of email updates I sent to Marlene’s far away family and her many friends. It’s also a story about the shadow dance between the acceptance and denial of death.

Continue reading Letting Nature Take Its Course: 1