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Two years ago, we tiptoed into the slow unzipping of our hearts as we began to consider leaving home, packing up and heading West to Colorado. Over these past years, something deep has been happening in and through Uli and me – something curiously enigmatic. This is not retirement. This is a down payment, a deposit in Earth’s riches – for some future growth – for our own individual soul’s sake and for the sake of the greater Earth community and our work as a couple of global elders together. And particularly, for the sake of this place, a call for the next generation of care-takers to come and tend this land and re-imagine the deep circle of hospitality that is Stonehaven.
Stonehaven Commons is for sale.
We have never invested so much in a place as we have done here, nor have we received so much. This is the beginning of a rich elder season as we let go and re-plant ourselves, as did our Quaker ancestors, as an investment in the future. It feels like Stonehaven is to us and to our children and grandchildren like one of those ‘altars’ that the ancient patriarchs – those peripatetic visionaries of the scriptures – built and left behind as a marker for the generations to come. Something strong rises in us and wants to be known –
This is the place where God visited us.
The place where angels showed up.
This is the place where we wrestled with unknown forces.
Where we re-opened old wells that had been stopped.
Visions flow from this place, and this is also where we waited in longing and hope for their fulfillment.
This is where we believed and prayed for new tomorrows,
A place where we built ‘an ark’, of sorts – a shelter from the storm, a beautiful paradise where everyone was welcome, where miracles of wine and food and resources of money arrived in unexpected, unprecedented ways.
This is where we celebrated and loved and grew in wisdom, where the voice of the land speaks loudly.
This is where we buried our dead and where we rejoiced in the birth of dear grandchildren.
Every morning in spring here you can hear the chorus of birds sweetening the air and when the shrill peeping of toads makes you laugh you are inspired to join the great orchestra of life. Each in our own way playing our own instrument. Together.
We died many kinds of deaths here and we have been re-born into greater Earth community here.
Today is a day to remember all of this, so that we can go forward boldly into a greater flow of Love into tomorrow.
This is a parting ritual of love for our old home that will live forever in our hearts.
Feb 4, 2019
I find it complicated to answer completely. It is easier to simply say: “Two of our children and their families live there.” It’s always easier to not open the well of soulful longing and grief that threatens to spill over and drown an unsuspecting listener. Maybe if I pull some buckets of words from my depths, my response will serve as a personal resting place for me today and hopefully offer a nurturing flow from my soul to yours. After all, as humans to stay aware, we must keep learning to say goodbye and hello to each one of love’s siren calls.
We have lived for 26 years here in Main Line Philadelphia; a remarkable accomplishment for our peripatetic Canadian family who previously had moved every six years and extensively travelled in global mission communities. I am reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s admonition to parents that we must teach our children to have both roots and wings. Our family heritage as a couple taught us to fly high, far, and fast! For five decades we kept flying, but Stonehaven has parented us into growing Earth roots.
We unequivocally adore this place. Although hardly ready to kick the proverbial bucket, Uli and I have both imagined dying in front of our picture window, watching the bird-feeder by the stream and admiring the stone walls I lovingly re-built while I wrote my novel, ‘The Retreat’. Our hearts are planted way down deep in this garden and in almost three centuries of dust under the wide-plank black walnut floors that probably were hewn from this land. We watch now as a young sapling we planted reaches up forty feet to hug old grandmother white maple who was here long before us. Sweat once again runs down our faces when we weed the volunteer salvias that grow between the paving stones on the path we built using these relics from the old toll bridge road that led to the first Radnor repair shop in early 1700’s.
I could write for ever: about the ancient hand-dug well with its perfectly lined field-stones, the numerous standing stones dragged from the creek bed that we hoisted as sentinels, flower gardens built on special days that commemorate Kosovo, 9/11, Easter Saturday, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A burnt-out Death pole planted upside down when we let go of ever being able to own this place. The now exquisite water-garden that took six months of arduous work by our whole family. All of these and much more are daily blooming with joy and nostalgia in our well-watered souls. So, how could we also plant the ‘For Sale’ sign yesterday, just after being able to afford the most magnificent sweetly smelling cedar shake roof – from British Colombia, of all places – our last home in Canada?
David Whyte in ‘Finisterre’ says that there is “no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass, except to call an end to the way you had come.” Our soul journey as a couple deepened immeasurably here in this land but we have arrived at the end of the road. Like being on the final pilgrimage on the Camino, we face the sea, and leave behind the very thing that has brought us this far. That material thing which is irreplaceable, that which we depended on and labored intensively for, that which sustained us day to day; for the pilgrim it is her shoes, for me it is this garden oasis, this property and all her connected circles of life.
In offering my creative self to nurture and caretake this Earth community of people and other than human beings, I recovered my essential wholeness, which like the mammoth paving field stones lay mostly buried for the first five decades of my life. Only the tops protruded through the dirt, a tripping trap for the unwary. The uncovering that moved me inside out and turned me upside down, the questions that displaced layers of rich emotional topsoil, all have opened a well of even deeper longing that no physical gardening or Circle facilitating could ever fill. This is the clarion call of wild soul.
I am clear that my days of being a worker bee are over – physically, emotionally and spiritually. My soulful being longs for something else – I know not what exactly – but I know I must eschew this present comfort for another season of life. There is yet an untamed wildness in me that seeks expression; the fierce global elder who seeks to be known in the way that a clap of thunder follows lightning, the way woodpecker beats her drum on a decaying tree, the way wild feline roars at night. It is a longing known in some measure from birth, that expects to co-create with Mystery in some evolving communal weaving.
As we seek our new home in the quixotic place called Boulder, I am also painfully aware that there is something about ‘aging in place’ in a known community that feels enormously appealing as a human. A part of me wishes she were like Wendell Berry who has remained rooted in his ancestral fields and forests. Who really wants to move again across the country? Who wouldn’t want to grow older and die in the place where the ancestors of the land have taught you? But somehow our global DNA as a family still yearns for flight, so we stretch our wings once more and lean into the wind, trusting for lift-off to the Western mountains.
And curiously once again, we survive each day with the tenterhooks of Stonehaven holding us in place, that 1700 fulling mill history where hides and weavings, like our lives, are stretched and hung, waiting to be seasoned by time. Today we wait for the right buyer to call. The phone is ominously silent and an urge to panic arises from my gut. I have been wondering these past days about my obsessional need to work so hard as I clean out cobwebs from the attic and keep hauling rocks around while sanding off paint spots. Uli and I are both keen on wrapping up and finishing well, but our intensive work also alleviates the anxiety of not-knowing.
The fears that hide in the night taunt us from their well-scrubbed corners. Shadows follow us. Accidents, bad decisions, and broken relationships cannot be cleaned up. We are like our historic home – full of imperfections that hold true character, beautiful in the Light. No cleansing dose of paint or polish takes away the ragged potholes of time. Woven together and accepted “as is” in a safe and welcoming community – now that’s true beauty! We hope someone finds Stonehaven beautiful in that special way.
Yes, there is no perfect way to say goodbye, no hermetic endings to messy humanity; everything is composted back through nature’s creative destruction, renewal comes through fire and wind and water. This too shall pass and become new. It will be clear when and how to leave, to judiciously and joyfully end this chapter of our lives. We will eventually be free to fly away but this Earth has taught us that Spirit’s gravity will hold us on course from the inner center of our hearts.
As I write, I relate more closely to that Germanic soul pioneer Rilke:
“I live my life in widening circles that drift out over the things,
and still I do not know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a continuing great song?
It is good to speak of these things, to write again. I haven’t had the inclination to write much with all the miles traveled and all the physical work. Maybe it is time to create a garden of words, clusters of color and keep noticing who shows up. I remember the simple lines that have taught me often:
“Not perfect, but good enough.”
“Stop! Look! Listen!”
The same mantras speak. Nothing has really changed.
July 26, 2018
that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.
I call forth tears.
I am the yearning for good.
Hildegard von Bingen – circa 1140
My grief overflows at sunrise this morning. I find comfort today knowing that I am waiting in the same place as this remarkable woman, and being held by our same earth mother.
It has been a week of unimaginable chaos in this country after the inauguration of Donald Trump. It seems that anything I write will not even touch the acute heartbreak of our land. This is not “building,” this is willful destruction, a volcanic eruption, a tearing down of the foundational norms of human decency. By the time the book I am presently writing is published, history will have unfolded in ways beyond imagining. All we need is grace for today. This Sunday morning I light a candle from a deeper place, below the tears of outrage and sorrow lies a profound yearning for good. Without any shadow of doubt the Holy arises from there.
She has arrived in my garden as Great Blue Heron. She stands fishing in the water-garden – I witness her from my desk. Usually herons come silently; then flying off with a mighty stokes like an ancient pterodactyl. This juvenile is determined and curiously, she is clearly unafraid of me. I’ve been meditating on the round bench on the other side of the pond watching her fish. Completely mesmerizing. I have named her Hildegard because she has come as a visitation to teach me about the ‘greening’ of our lives. She arrived on the day when I am shattered about the decisions being made that threaten our global greening. She is a sent one – an angel shimmering in blue-grey feathers and dagger-like bill. We must hear her story.
The complicating thing is that our winter pond is now shrouded by a net, so after spearing a goldfish she must pry it up through a hole she is forced to make in the net. It’s double work – she must be hungry. Alas for the net, alas for the goldfish. She didn’t give a thank you for a few frozen shrimp I proffered. Part of me wants to shoo her away – “enough already my friend – don’t be greedy.” Another part of me knows she has more to say.
A shadow floats across us both and we both look up at the red-tailed hawk gyrating in slow circles above us. Now she flapping and poking her head into the leaves attempting to scare fish out into the open. I wonder what my role is today – is there really enough food to go around for all of us? Goldfish multiply fast but not with a resident hungry predator. The higher an animal is on the food chain the more thoughtful attention we as humans need to provide – so I’m opting to let her fish her heart out. Her dance is magnificent to behold. Maybe being a loving witness is the best I can be. No fixing this conundrum.
I know how environmentally disrupting nets and fences can be for a smooth-running ecosystem. I can’t even fathom what might occur if we built a wall across our southern border. Somehow all of us humans must learn the complicated art of compromise, learn to share a little bit more of our loaves and fishes, maybe work more than usual. Whatever -after all it’s only our lunch – and not our life.
Yesterday she held her place in the circle from our roof, as I write this moment she flew in again! Thank you Hildegard for your presence. The past, the present and thus hope for the future. Spirit arrives in flesh to remind us God is waiting here… with us. Immanuel alive in so many incarnate ways.
The pond is hard frozen like our president’s politics- I wonder how we all find our way together?