Giving Growth: From Commuting to Community

As part of our “Community of Generosity” campaign, every Tuesday during the month of December, we’ll be sharing stories of people whose lives were blessed by the ministry of Rolling Ridge.  

Every day for more than twenty-five years, Tracy Wakeman would get stuck in traffic. “People can run a marathon faster than I could commute the twenty-six miles to Boston in a car,” she said. She worked in an office downtown, managing corporate insurance policies. “I’d been getting up, going to work, coming home, going to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.” When she retired a few years ago, she had a strong desire to “live where I slept,” as she puts it. She wanted to plant a garden worthy of her grandmother; to put down roots in her local community; and to go deeper with her faith.

A friend from church told Tracy about Rolling Ridge, and she was astonished to discover that there was a retreat center only a few minutes from her home. She started scrolling through our website, and immediately signed up for “Conscious Composting” and “Pray and Paddle”—group programs designed to draw out the connections between water, Earth, and spirituality.

Tracy Wakeman

The composting program couldn’t have come at a better time. The town of North Andover had given Tracy a free composting bin. “For months I had been tossing stuff in there indiscriminately—just using it as a waste receptacle,” she said. “I thought, ‘That’s got to be wrong.’” So she showed up to the first session armed with questions. “Nicole and Marie, the instructors, they answered a lot of my silly questions, like, ‘Can you compost marshmallows?’ They had to look that one up, but it turns out the answer is yes!” A few sessions later, Tracey brought in samples of her old and new, improved compost, to show the group how different they were. “The learning process was really amazing.”

It wasn’t just the soil that was changing. The "Contemplative Paddling" Pray and Paddle retreat brought on deeper, spiritual changes too. “I just loved it,” she said. “It’s so quiet. Even though you’re with a bunch of people, you’re alone. You’re physically active, but your mind is calm.” The readings and meditations on Lake Cochichewick spoke to her soul. “None of the people at Rolling Ridge are in-your-face. The lectio divina they did with us was really beautiful. It puts you in the right frame of mind, it calms the soul, and it sets you up to appreciate silence…”

Conscious Composting Co-Leaders:
Nico Boutiette (left) and Marie Rudzinsky (right)


She points to her new practices—gardening and composting, paddling and meditation—as habits that are helping her feel rooted. Gardening in particular has become a metaphor for her own spiritual growth. “I can take care of my little plot of land. I can’t solve the world’s issues. But I can solve me.” She’s now looking into buying her own kayak, and she’s already planning next year’s garden. “I’m shredding my paper bags and putting down mushroom mulch.” And of course, she’s adding in lots of her home-grown compost mix. She notices she puts out a lot less garbage to the curb, and spends a lot more time among green and growing things.

Tracy’s story—a movement from commuting to community—embodies what Rolling Ridge is all about. We believe that the Ridge is one of those rare places in the world: a place where lives are transformed as people find safe and sacred space to grow with God, others, and nature.

Tracy Wakeman on Lake Cochichewick during a Pray and Paddle retreat.

This December, we’re looking back and looking ahead, as part of our “Community of Generosity” giving campaign. We’re grateful for the many people—people like Tracy—who are part of the growing work of Rolling Ridge. What’s more, we’re grateful for people like you, who pray for our ministries, participate in our programs, and support our mission with your generous gifts. Together, we can embody the spirit of Rolling Ridge, so that all people can find their safe and sacred place, right here at the Ridge.

We invite you to consider making a year-end financial contribution to strengthen the ministry of Rolling Ridge. You can give online using the button below, or by mail by writing to us at 660 Great Pond Rd, North Andover, MA 01845.

May you continue to grow in hope, love, joy, and peace this Advent and Christmas season.

Dr. Lawrence Jay
Executive Director