Opening to a New Year

Rachel, January 1, 2022

After spending most of this rainy day indoors, I was grateful to take a stroll outside under a patch of clear sky this evening. As I made my way across the yard, I was stopped in my tracks at the sight of the walnut tree. The entirety of its giant branches, usually a stoic grey this time of year, gleamed green and dripping with awakened lichen. Continuing on into the woods, I marveled at the rain-swollen moss tucked into the crevices of trunks, tiny white mushrooms dangling like flower buds at the edge of branchlets.

I’ve walked through these woods almost daily over the six months I have lived here, sometimes in the middle of a rain shower, at sunrise and at dusk. I’ve never seen the trees in quite this light before, seen them so visibly bursting with life, harbored not only in the perch of their branches or burrowed in the humus of their leaves, but even knit into the topography of their bark.

I remember reading, in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Gathering Mosses, of the incredible ability of moss, liverwort, and lichen — and the microscopic life that they, in turn, harbor — to go completely dormant, suspending cell function sometimes for years at a time, and then revive as soon as water returns. It is a humble, patient life, inching forward in the precious moments that growth is possible.

Sometimes, this process feels all too close to home. Magnolia’s transformation into an off-grid home and community project has been over seven years in the making, with many long pauses along the way. I have felt inexplicably drawn to this place and vision for at least half that time, long before I ever set foot here. Since then, work on the house and land has continued moving forward in sporadic bursts, when the right combination of time, space, skills, materials, and weather come together.

Its hard not to feel discouraged sometimes, in the periods of waiting, when progress feels impossibly slow and nearly invisible — until suddenly, it surges forward again, brilliantly apparent.

Over the past year, the house was wrapped in strawbales; the majority of construction of the “solar shed” to power our home was completed; several rooms were painted and tiled; garden beds for flowers, herbs, mushrooms and veggies were shaped and tended; brush was cleared from overgrown areas of the yard and rusted junk hauled out of the woods. The Collective was legally established, our communal household expanded to four, we hosted friends and neighbors for all kinds of events, and finally launched our website!

Into whatever the coming months have in store, I carry this little gift of beauty and hope, the alchemy of golden light just before sunset and rejuvenation just after a rain, the trust and perseverance of moss and the promise of a newborn year.

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