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
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.
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 with a shared 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.
This is the first in a series of occasional posts that will explore how the roots of Light Morning go back to the psychic readings we received in Virginia Beach in the early 1970s.
There were three kinds of readings. Personal readings were for individuals seeking to understand some of the challenges they were facing in their daily lives. Research readings addressed the many questions that arose while we were writing Season of Changes/Ways of Response. The work readings were for the small group of us who were directly involved in soliciting and receiving the guidance.
This series of posts will focus on several of the ALM Work Readings. They showed us where we were going, they clarified our purposes and ideals, and they helped us deal with the complexities of living and working together as a group. The following reading explains why the name Associations of the Light Morning had been offered to us during our first session.
Joyce and I are walking down a North Carolina beach at dawn. It’s mid-September. The twilit sky is pale blue-gray, with shadings of mauve and orange. We pause, moved by the muted colors and the soft background murmur of surf.
Then, without warning, we are overtaken from behind by a flight of brown pelicans, eight or nine of them, gliding low overhead in perfect formation. Their watchful eyes are serene, their elegantly angular bodies motionless, as they suddenly come into our field of vision.
The beauty of the moment strikes us with an intensity edging on anguish. Joyce feels her fuses being blown, as though only a small dose of such high-voltage beauty can be safely taken in before some self-protective mechanism goes into shut-down mode.
This is the third of three posts containing brief passages from letters that Joyce wrote to those becoming interested in Light Morning soon after we moved to the land. The first bouquet of vignettes (and a fuller introduction) can be found here.
Our neighbor, Dan, was over yesterday to plow. There was a last-minute scurrying around to move sawdust piles, transplant favored weeds, rope off the rhubarb, harvest a little doomed catnip for some addicted cat friends, etc. We will soon be tearing down an old house partway to the mailbox. The owner will get half the lumber, we’ll get the rest — flooring for our new kitchen, and maybe a wall or two. The woodshed is begun. Gone is the peace of winter. In its place is the sense of a lively awakening, a new beginning. The seasons complement one another; a gentle succession of moods.
This is the second of three posts containing brief passages from letters that Joyce wrote to those becoming interested in Light Morning soon after we moved to the land. The first bouquet of vignettes (and a fuller introduction) can be found here.
Since picking up my pen here in our small tent, 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 made of glass. Fragile glass mountains. Lovely, yet also a sense of tension: the trees bent down under the weight, the strain on 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. Now this raging wind, and those thousands of trees bending and twisting. I can feel their wild, joyful freedom.
In the spring of 1974, four of us moved to an abandoned farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains to co-found a small visionary community called Light Morning. Letters soon started to arrive from people wanting to know what it was like to live in a place like this. Some wanted to visit. Others wanted to cast off their settled lives and move in.
Joyce became our correspondent. Below (and in the following two posts) are brief passages from the letters she wrote to those asking about Light Morning. Her verbal sketches convey the many changes that we were going through during our first year on the land — transitioning from nuclear family to the complexities of consensus and cooperation; from the comfort and conveniences of modern living to wintering in tents, drawing water by hand, and chopping wood for heat; and from the excitement of the initial vision to the slow realization that a long-term commitment would be needed to manifest that vision.
From ice storms, bobcats, and smoking wood stoves to whip-poor-wills and the return of spring, these vignettes (along with Joyce’s pen and ink drawings) offer glimpses into the pioneering way of life we had to adopt in order to adapt to our new circumstances.
Shortly before the turn of the millennium, Light Morning experienced an unprecedented population explosion. For twenty-five years we had been a relatively small intentional community. Then, seemingly overnight, our family of six adults and a teenager morphed into a bustling warren of sixteen adults and six children. The transition was chaotic and overwhelming, exhilarating and exhausting.
Almost as soon as it had formed, however, the bubble started to deflate. A few of the recent arrivals packed up and moved on. Others wondered what their next steps were going to be. Still others were trying to discern how their personal values aligned with those of Light Morning.
All of us were deep into the stretch zone. The newcomers were adapting to a place where every meal, most of the work, and much of the money was shared. The old-timers found themselves suddenly outnumbered by those who didn’t understand – and sometimes didn’t want to understand – how or why Light Morning had become what it was. The crucible of community gifted everyone with psychic bruises and blown fuses.
The intensity tested our resilience. It also forced us to wrestle with several essential questions: Why are people drawn to Light Morning? How much do they know, beforehand, about its founding vision and core values? How do visitors become committed members of the community? What systems and values are we willing to change? What remains non-negotiable?
The questions kept gnawing at us. So when four of us left for a 10-day Vipassana meditation course in January of 2000, we took the questions with us. Jonathan, Joyce, and I were fully committed to Light Morning. Kent was a former member of the community and a fellow Vipassana meditator. Little did we realize how insightful and harrowing this midwinter pilgrimage from southwest Virginia to western Massachusetts would turn out to be.