Lindsay McLaughlin lives at Rolling Ridge Study Retreat, an intergenerational community living on and with 1400 acres of forest and streams on a small mountain foothill of the Blue Ridge in West Virginia. She offers and coordinates retreats there — when social distancing allows — and is beloved by many for her soulful writing, especially about our kinship with nature. In the following piece, she brings new depth to the democratic value of the common good by showing how even in the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic we can cultivate virtues of appreciation, caring, and empathy through different kinds of activities — including walks.
On the Schoolhouse Trail I passed an old tree with a craggy opening near the forest floor, an intriguing portal to the Underworld. Meanwhile, the serviceberries are out, their delicate creamy blossoms like fallen stars in the woods. Serviceberries are so named because they bloom at the time when the ground softens after the winter freeze thus readying the earth for burials and making services of parting and remembrance possible. Gray fog is wrapping itself around the high, still bare branches, shrouding the tree tops. So much is about fog and loss and descent. Collectively we have fallen out of a world we thought — even worried — was immutable. Mystery cloaks what comes next, what the eyes of the future see.