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.

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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

Befriending Dangerous Neighbors

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.

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A Bioregional Seminar: 2

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

Cabin in the woods

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.”

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Early Letters: 3

Dan discing our garden

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.

April 1975

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.

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Early Letters: 2

The wood cook stove

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.

February 1975

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.

* * *

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Early Letters: 1

The old community shelter

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.

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Living Close to the Earth

[When Light Morning was an active community, those wanting to visit or intern here sometimes asked about our core values. In response, we posted three articles to an earlier version of this website: Living Close to the Earth; A New Kind of Family; and A Transformational Journey.]

How do we learn to live close to the Earth? Paying attention to the needs of our body and stretching toward higher octaves of health is a good place to start. Living close to nature and working close to home is another approach. This necessitates making a slow transition from a cash-intensive to a more labor-intensive economy.

While improving our physical health and meeting our outward needs more directly are helpful, being close to someone also implies emotional intimacy. According to the dictionary, an intimate relationship is “a warm friendship developing through long association.” Might it be possible to nurture such a friendship with the planet we call home?

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