Summer seems
so quiet.
The breeze has calmed,
catching the wind chime only
now and then
instead of constantly.
Birds chirp
rather than sing.
There is quite a lot of silent
motion: butterflies, wasps, dragonflies flit.
Now a hen lets out a string
of cackles,
there is a hush
before the breeze stirs
and chimes ring
a guinea
Cicadeas’ sizzle
starts. A rooster
out back
But even the sounds—
the chirps,
the squawks,
the chimes,
the cicadeas—
seem quiet.


Evening is quieter
still. Air hangs
Motionless, silent cranes
An orb spinner is so still
I bash into its web reaching
for a tomato.
In the night,
fireflies glow greenish yellow
all around the yard,
in trees. Stars keep company
in silence.
Where is that
mockingbird and why has he stopped
singing all night?



Our July-August Newsletter
Summer (Sorta) at Turtle Rock Farm


This week,
I heard and learned
Sara Thomsen’s song for the children.
And this is a week
when the world needs
to hear,
take to heart,
this song.


When you sleep, may love keep you safe and warm.
When you wake, I will take you in my arms.
Love you deep as the ocean and high
As the twinkling stars up in the sky.

Oh, chick-chickadee, bumble-bum-bee
Bum bitty bum, listen to the drum
It’s the rhythm of the heart, we all have a part
Playin’ the heartbeat drum.

When you cry, I will sing you lullabies
Tickle toes and wipe your eyes
Drift on over into sweet dreams
The dark night is full of moonbeams.

All around the world, every boy and girl
Bum bitty bum, listen to the drum
Little lights all a-flame, no two the same
Playin’ the heartbeat drum.

Soon the sun will come and bring the day
And my dimpled darlin’ we will play
Open the window, welcome in
All the myst’ry whisp’ring in the wind

A tiger in a tree, fishes in the sea
Bum bitty bum, listen to the drum
Every shape and color, each different than the other
Playin’ the heartbeat drum

We are many and we are one
Playin’ the heartbeat drum

Sara Thomsen, “The Heartbeat Drum”
on her CD, “Somewhere to Begin”


At dinner a week ago,
during the Sisters of Earth conference,
there was a buzz around the table,
welling excitement in the air:
“Have you heard Sara Thomsen before?”
Many had; I hadn’t.
We are in for a wonderful evening,
they pronounced.

Sara actually arrived for our concert
in Leavenworth, KS, from Oklahoma!
From Okemah; from the Woodie Guthrie festival,
where her song, “Precious Water” had won
third place in the songwriting contest.
From Duluth, Minnesota, Sara has been
writing and singing for years. She is truly
a folk singer/songwriter: singing boldly,
and beautifully, of the social issues,
and the wonders, of our time.

I have been playing her music all week because,
in her music I experience exactly
what she describes in the liner notes for her latest album,
“A Song is Somewhere to Begin:”

The singing is not about the song
The song is a vehicle, instrument, passageway
To propel us, move us, shake us,
beckon and break us
open, to wander where our hearts want to lead
Present, Open, Aware, Engaged, Caring
Able to witness the wondrous and horrific world
Around, within, and about us.


Sara is engaged—bringing song to protests, to teaching
and healing. With the community choir she guides,
Echoes of Peace, she traveled to Iraq,
to Halabja, one of the villages where people died
from chemical weapons.
That song is on her latest album. (The Iraqi voice in the recording
is that of the poet reciting his poem. Sara recorded him on her cell phone
during the visit.)
Other songs on the new album include “Precious Water,”
commissioned by a community in Minnesota
protesting a mining project near the Boundary Waters Wilderness
and “Between the Clotheslines,” written
for an environmental awareness event. (It points to the fact that
sixty million Americans are banned from hanging their laundry out to dry.)
I also love the title track from the latest album “Somewhere to Begin”
and the children’s calypso lullaby: “The Heartbeat Drum.”
You can find her story and her music on her website: www.sarathomsen.com

Here are recordings and videos of a collection of her songs.
“Halabja” and “Address” is a beautiful song Sara wrote from the words
of the poet who lived in the the Iraqi village the day
the wind brought deadly chemicals.
The images of the villagers are very strong.
“A Woman’s Place” celebrates women globally.
“By Breath” speaks to the connectedness of the great web of life on the planet.


Ann’s garden in the high tunnel
has so far escaped grasshopper
A few grasshoppers have found the plants—
big yellow ones fling themselves
from leaves—but
the invasion has not reached a critical
So we are enjoying tomatoes, chard, basil,
cucumbers, eggplant, peppers…

We know from friends who are the most successful
organic gardeners
we know
that grasshoppers are not only destroying the plants
but are also eating the row covers
covering the plants to protect them
from grasshoppers.

This is the third year of our grasshopper
devastation. This is a cool, wet summer; and
we thought they thrived in a dry and hot
Turns out, as weather changes,
due to climate change
due to global warming,
the grasshoppers are an indicator species
for scientists. And turns out,
grasshoppers develop better in
warmer temperatures. And,
there are grasshoppers
who like cool-weather climates. And,
because weather is changing,
grasshoppers are re-distributing. They’re
on the move—and longer summers,
give them that opportunity. We might have
cool-weather grasshoppers
this year!

So…It’s not simply the giant devastating events—
fires, floods, extreme storms—
that point to the impact of changes in climate;
these masses of chomping, flingy
insects do too.
One benefit of grasshoppers
in the prairie ecosystem:
more food for birds.
So, while humans have to figure out
how to grow food in changing conditions—
why aren’t we in the U.S. cooking those grasshoppers?!—
people in other cultures love them—
the prairie birds are happy.
Yay! More birds!


The so-called “polar vortex”—
Arctic air dipped way south;
the same phenomenon that brought
much cold and wet to the U.S. last winter—
is back,
now, in July.
And now, as then, for us, there is unusually mild
weather, while the coasts
get the extreme weather: cold and wet in the winter,
hot or wet this summer.
Here, it was 57 degrees at dawn
mid-July. And we’re still getting
intermittent showers. And the lingering hot
has not come yet. Unheard of, to my memory.
So, while astonishingly wonderful,
it’s strange.

And there are strange things about.
No wheat crop,
so fields full of short, weed-infested wheat
is being baled.
No sunflowers—well, none to speak of,
and they are short too.
No ragweed!
Lots—even more than usual—
of Johnson grass,
now being baled as well.
Hay, there is.


And drought,
there still is, even with the rain.
The soil is very dry.
Pond waters are evaporating, again,
even in the cool summer.
There is an algae bloom in our Big Pond
and the fish we brought in as fingerlings
a year ago,
to replenish life in the pond
after it was dry for five months,
are now dying.


Even on the coolest mornings,
songbirds bathe in the bird bath.
And shadows of Turkey Vultures
flying over the house
finally draw me out. There are
five of the beautiful fliers,
for more than an hour,
which is a bit disconcerting—
until I notice two
down in the hayfield,
where, I’m certain, mice
are hiding
under the windrows of Johnson grass,
to be baled.
Because I know
mice are legion this year: Ann trapped 50
in the high tunnel during winter months.
They are thick in the pastures,
scurrying when we mow. One farmer
told me he saw something strange
on the roadside and looked more closely:
a pile of mice
covered something spilled along the road.



we are not to be taken in
by cool air,
rain. Revel in it,
yes; pay attention
to all that’s happening
in your bioregion,
yes, indeedy.

SOE logo.png

Sisters of Earth was founded in 1994 by several Catholic Sisters from the US and Canada who were engaged in exploring the new cosmology and implications for this emerging worldview. Sisters of Earth is an informal network of women who share a deep concern for the ecological and spiritual crises of our times and who wish to support one another in work toward healing the human spirit and restoring Earth’s life support systems. We are teachers, gardeners, artists, writers, administrators, workshop and retreat presenters, mothers, contemplatives and activists in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and beyond. This network of sharing and support is open to all women whose life and work would identify them as Sisters of Earth.

Last weekend Sisters of Earth
got together, as we do every two years,
to support each other in each others’ work
to bring understanding
through engaging with people
as we come to know our interdependence
with and the evolution of
our life together with and in the cosmos.
We gathered at the lush green northeast Kansas campus
of the University of St. Mary, in Leavenworth,
where the Sisters of Charity have, over the years,
planted 1000 trees.
A weather-worn, giant Magnolia tree
was showing its first, fragrant pink blossoms.
Blooming Hibiscus and lilies were gorgeous.
Inside, at our tables, we brought artifacts
from our part of the planet,
sculpted new artifacts from clay
and daily misted a butterfly chrysalis.

Centerpieces at our table: a Turtle Rock Farm turtle rock (with a clay butterfly atop);
salt crystals from the Great Salt Plains, a trilobite (with a clay hat;)
leaf, pinecone, clay mouse…a Painted Lady chrysalis

Joan Brown with chrysalis

Some of the many knowledgable
and deeply committed Sisters of Earth
Pat Siemen reported on the first
World Ethics Tribunal on the Rights of Nature,
held in Quito, Ecuador last January.
Caroljean Willie presented
on Spirituality and Sustainability at the UN;
Lucy Slinger, on Ecological Advocacy;
Kathy Wright, on an Energy Vision Project.
In other workshops we explored
many aspects of emergence, the conference theme.
And from a concert Saturday night
with singer-songwriter Sara Thomsen,
we emerged more whole.


With presenter Deana Johnson (second from left,)
Caroljean Willie (second from right) and Jennifer Morgan (right)

10551631_1453762004879153_4591639601014631890_oJennifer Morgan, co-founder of Deep Time Journey Network, and Paula Gonzalez,
a giant in the environmental and sustainability movement


Sunday morning,
as we shared an agape meal
and prepared to go outdoors
for our final liturgy,
the second Painted Lady Butterfly
from one of the chrysalises on our tables.
After a final blessing of all,
we left them there
in the shade of a tree
growing strong enough
to make their first flight.


Filled again,
inspired again,
connected more deeply
in The Great Work
inspired by Thomas Berry and others,
we too
once again.


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