Stone Chimney near Niles Cabin, Rolling Ridge Foundation Lands.  Photography by Katie Jones Pomeroy

February had days and days of balmy breezes. Insects hummed. The tree frogs made the pooling creek water boil.  Then in March a bitter storm cracked tree branches and froze the forsythia blossoms.  The days lurched from sunny warmth to sullen cold, and the wilting daffodils nodded amid crumbling brown leaves: an erratic, unsettling season.

Things are turbulent on every level. We know this.

In the midst of this metaphorical and acutely felt tempest, two overlapping circles of friends met at Rolling Ridge.  The residential community gathered for a “heart” time to learn about and consider the layers of habit and self-delusion with which we each cover ourselves and our deepest longings, and which become barriers to real relationship and community.  And Circle Community (one of Rolling Ridge’s Partner Groups) met simply to be together for our designated weekend at the Retreat House.  Some in Circle have been in community with one another in one form or another for 40 years.  Our weekend retreat included shared meals, common work, hikes and rambles in the woods, and most importantly, ample time for listening and sharing.

After lunch a handful of us walked the narrow, stony trail affectionately named Grand Boulevard and crossed Krishna Brook, stepping carefully on the moss covered rocks that barely offered footing across the tumbling stream.  We wandered past the tall and lonely sentinel of the old stone chimney, guarding the stories of home and hearth that once lived there, and entered the piney woods. Here the ground is soft and the air sweet, filled with the unseen but sensed presences of deer and squirrels, juncos, woodpeckers, and a host of others who live there among the graceful boughs which meet overhead like a vaulted cathedral.  Emerging from that fragrant, shadowed hush we reached the narrow bank of the Niles Cabin Pond. For a moment we stopped and listened, caught by the lilting melody of the spring peepers.  It was an exuberant mating song called forth, it seemed, by the sheer joy of being alive in spring, in this glistening pond, in these sweet woods laced through with rocky creeks and tender stories, and filled with irrepressible life.

This, then, is the extravagant landscape of the world, given, given with pizzazz, given in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. –Annie Dillard

While spring lurches and rolls, and the world churns, something else is going on in quiet places, in small circles, and in nature. Perhaps in these challenging times more than ever before, people are bravely venturing down through shadowy inward layers to the heart of the matter; they are coming together to weave and re-weave resilient bonds of true relationship that will hold against the storms of extremism and disorder. Meanwhile, and always, the Earth with all its holy pizzazz, is offered continually for our contemplation and wonder.  I believe it is this braiding of the intrepid, inward work of the human spirit and the awe-inspiring vitality of the encircling landscape that settles and saves us in the end.

Michael Meade says, “When everything seems about to fall apart, something deep in the soul of humanity awakens…in the midst of radical changes in nature and the rattling of cultural institutions moments of healing and wholeness wait to be found…amidst extraordinary times the soul expects to find extraordinary experiences.”

And it does.  Amen.