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Hopscotching Through Time

In the small village where I grew up, we often played hopscotch. One of us would draw the familiar pattern on the street with chalk, then we would each choose a marker – usually a penny, a small stick, or a flat stone – and the game would begin.

The first player tossed their marker into the first square, then hopped to the end of the court, skipping the square holding their marker. Turning around, they hopped back to the square just before the one holding their penny or small stone, picked it up, and hopped back to the beginning. Then they took aim at the second square. Their turn continued as long as their marker landed completely inside the square they were aiming for, and they didn’t touch any of the lines while hopping.

We would play hopscotch for hours on end.

Memories of this childhood game reawakened as I was pondering how to choreograph the weekly posts that will appear here. Some will be drawn from the earlier incarnation of lightmorning.org. Others will be stories not yet told. All the posts will relate to resilience, the core theme of this website, but they won’t be posted in any chronological order. Instead, we’ll be hopscotching back and forth through time.

Associations of the Light Morning

Prologue

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.

Continue reading Associations of the Light Morning

Who’s Douglas?: 4

This is the final post of a four-part series of posts. Part 1 can be found here.

An Escalating Sense of Urgency

Douglas with large ears, a pipe, and a smile

The ocean waves keep crashing in. They surge up the beach, only to be drawn back down again by gravity. Each set of waves climbs slightly farther or less far up the beach, depending on whether the tide is flowing or ebbing. How high any particular wave will reach is unpredictable. But the trend of the tide is unmistakable.

* * *

In March of 1980, Douglas celebrated his fiftieth birthday. Not long after reaching this milestone, one of his sustaining beliefs — that he was riding an incoming tide and that the story which had led him here was unfolding as it should — took three significant hits. Following these jarring dislocations, Douglas started to wonder whether the tide might have already turned against him and was now beginning to ebb.

Continue reading Who’s Douglas?: 4

Who’s Douglas?: 3

This is the third of a four-part series of posts. Part 1 can be found here.

Seeding Wax Statues

Douglas and I are sitting together on Temple Hill. It’s a warm Indian summer afternoon in 1977. Douglas is 47; I’m 32. Doug and Stan have just moved up from Norfolk and are living in a small camper at Transdyne, the land they bought two years ago. It’s within easy walking distance of ALM (Associations of the Light Morning), where Doug and I are now talking.

Far above us, a raven traces a lazy circle in the sky. Douglas again wants to hear why our guidance in Virginia Beach said that the Essenes were to serve as a model for the community. He’s alluding to a few lines from Season of Changes. It’s the passage that first sent him searching for ALM and for me. By now I know the words by heart.

Continue reading Who’s Douglas?: 3

Who’s Douglas?:2

This is the second of a four-part series of posts. In the prologue to Part 1 (which can be found here), Douglas is described as being “a mentor and interrogator; a reliable source of both irritations and insights; an occasional enemy; and a best friend. He could be effortlessly charming one moment and fiercely adversarial the next. But above all else, Douglas was fully committed to exploring the interplay between his own unique and pricey calling and the founding vision of Light Morning.”

Douglas as the proprietor of The Bookworm

The Bookworm and the Symposium

“I am evidently not intended to die and leave this world,” Douglas said in the biographical cassette tapes that he recorded for us, “because I’ve been unsuccessful in these attempts. As we can see, there are quite a few people who would not be unhappy with my absence. But there is some force that appears to be more adamant than I in keeping me here, for reasons that are still not known to myself, and are totally unknown to others.”

After an attempted suicide in a Washington, D.C. hotel room, “I was unemployed for some time and very rarely left our apartment. I raised orchids, read books about Edgar Cayce, and saw few people. But in a way, this story is a story of destiny; a story unfolding according to the designs of destiny. And this happens to each of us, if we will but look at it. This is not to say that I was aware of looking at it, for only recently have I started to pay attention to what comes before me, instead of fighting what comes before me.”

What was about to come before Douglas was an unexpected twist of destiny: Douglas was about to become a shopkeeper.

Continue reading Who’s Douglas?:2

Who’s Douglas?: 1

Remembering Douglas Dean Todd
Born March 3rd, 1930
Died on Good Friday, 2000

Douglas at Transdyne, 1981

Prologue

One morning over breakfast, in the autumn of 1999, I mentioned to the other members of the Light Morning community that I would be going to Roanoke to see Douglas that day. Following his stroke, Doug had been staying at Salem Health and Rehabilitation, just across the street from the V.A. hospital. Then someone sitting around the breakfast table said, “Who’s Douglas?”

Cecile had become part of the community only recently, and her question stopped a spoonful of applesauce midway between my bowl and my mouth. It seemed inconceivable that someone living at Light Morning could not know who Douglas was. For me, it was a watershed type of experience.

Douglas had played different roles for different ones of us during the 25 years when he and Stanley lived just down the road: mentor and interrogator; a reliable source of both irritations and insights; an occasional enemy; and a best friend. He could be effortlessly charming one moment and fiercely adversarial the next. But above all else, Douglas was fully committed to exploring the interplay between his own unique and pricey calling and the founding vision of Light Morning.

Continue reading Who’s Douglas?: 1

An Interlude of Images

Spring 2020

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.

(You may be able to click on any image to enter slideshow mode.)

Continue reading An Interlude of Images

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.”

Continue reading A Bioregional Seminar: 2

A Bioregional Seminar: 1

Introduction

Katuah Journal

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.”

Continue reading A Bioregional Seminar: 1

The Gift of Beauty

Pelican in flight

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.

Continue reading The Gift of Beauty

The Founders’ Dilemma

This article first appeared in the Winter 1994 issue of “Communities Magazine.” The core question that Joyce explores here continues to be relevant twenty-five years later. Light Morning found one answer to this question. Other communities and organizations are finding other answers, or have not yet wrestled with the question.

The Elizabethan home Frank Stephens built in Arden.
Often called The New Homestead, its other name

comes from what he carved into the door beam:
“Tomorrow is a New Day.”

Many of our communities are just now reaching that sobering age when we start to question our immortality. The founders are aging, as are many long-time members. Meanwhile, there’s a surge of interest in the communities movement among younger people who see this lifestyle as a partial solution to the multiple crises facing our world. At the place where these two phenomena meet lies a crucial challenge: how to blend the old and the new.

This is the founders’ dilemma. It’s the creative tension between affirming the original intent of a community, while at the same time being deeply responsive to the need for growth, flexibility, fresh air. New people arrive with strong and good dreams of their own. How can their visions be woven into the original tapestry without obliterating it?

Continue reading The Founders’ Dilemma