I awoke with this dream on November 28th, the morning after a momentous neighborhood celebration of Thanksgiving in 1997. The celebration took place in Rivendell, Light Morning’s new and still-under-construction community shelter. Nearly twenty-four years later, “Crying For the Beauty of the Earth” remains one of the strangest and strongest of my strong medicine dreams. While it seemed to come out of the blue, it was presaged by a song by Bob Dylan called “Not Dark Yet.” The dream was a descent into unimaginable darkness, and the following eleven days were darker still.
A 47-year-old summer tradition at Light Morning: Canning tomatoes on a wood cook-stove. Over 100 quarts so far this year. Links to photos from earlier seasons are here. (Click on any image to enter slideshow mode.)
How do we learn to live with those who might do us harm? What if some of our neighbors are dangerous? Why wouldn’t we simply move away; or cause them to move away; or try to do them in? How do we balance caution with compassion?
Very occasionally an all-too-human friend or neighbor has become sufficiently unhinged to be dangerous. More often, however, it’s been one of the other-than-human creatures with whom we share this land who has tested our willingness to be neighborly. When the path that Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow are following leads into a dark wood — in the film version of Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz — their fears run away with them.
“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” they exclaim. “Lions and tigers and bears!”
We’ve never seen, outside of our dreams, any tigers at Light Morning. By slightly paraphrasing Dorothy’s fearful refrain, though, we can easily relate to it: “Lions and serpents and bears, oh my! Lions and serpents and bears!” Stories about our encounters with mountain lions and black bears may be shared later. This story is about learning to live with venomous serpents.
This week’s post continues a tradition of looking at the season gone by through the lens of my iPhone 8 camera. (The Spring 2020 seasonal images are here.) The photos are from the two-mile walks that Joyce and I take along the gravel road that leads to and from Light Morning; or from the garden that Ron and Joyce and I tend; or from elsewhere on the land. Now and then the images will be clues to those who lived here before we first fell in love with the land in 1973.
Most of the following photos are from the morning walks that Joyce and I take along the gravel road that leads to Light Morning. Now and then I’ll pause to use my cell phone camera to honor strange neighbors, easily overlooked beauty, and scattered remnants of the families who farmed this land long before we arrived on the scene.
These are the final three letters I wrote when participating in a bioregional seminar in the late 1980s. The first two letters, with a fuller introduction, can be found here.
Letter 3: February 1989
I stayed up late last night, trying unsuccessfully to find a theme for this month’s letter. As I finally went to bed, I asked my dreams for help. But this morning I was unable to recall even a single dream. Joyce, however, who was consciously unaware that I had been puzzling over this letter, awoke with a surprisingly relevant dream. It almost seems as though the dream I needed had come through her.
In the dream world Joyce is attending a workshop on environmental issues. Many of the other participants are castigating the government and/or the big corporations for their unresponsiveness to the critical problems facing the planet. Joyce is moved to say that we have no right to demand significant changes from anyone “out there” if we are unwilling to make comparable changes in our own lives.
“The changes we must turn to first are personal changes,” she says passionately. “And they have to be radical.”
It’s a warm summer evening at Light Morning. I have just settled down to read the newly-arrived Summer 1986 issue of Katuah, the Bioregional Journal of the Southern Appalachians. It’s a homespun publication run by a volunteer crew of artists and activists, poets and homesteaders. Gary Snyder has called it the best bioregional publication in the U.S. Growing out of the mountains of western North Carolina, Katuah Journal comes out quarterly. This is Issue 12. One of the early issues had laid out its guiding theme.
“Here in the southern-most heartland of the Appalachian mountains, the oldest range on our continent (Turtle Island), a small but growing group has begun to take on a sense of responsibility for the implications of that geographical and cultural heritage. This sense of responsibility centers on the concept of living within the natural scale and balance of universal systems and laws. We begin by invoking the Cherokee name Katuah as the old/new name for this area of the mountains and for its journal as well.”