sustainability


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What better plan
for the day
than a visit
with a dear, long-time
friend now living far away.
Much talk,
a flock of Robins at the feeders;
lunch,
Eastern Bluebirds at the water bowl;
lingering at the table,
exchanging insights from latest-read books,
a Road Runner!
exploring along the alpaca pen fence.
Too soon,
afternoon shadows deepen;
one more time,
a visit to cherish.

Red-Tailed Hawks
sweep above the tan prairie
these days,
perch on fence posts
and lower branches of trees,
ready—so many of them—
I hope,
to bring the dense population of field-into-house mice
back into balance.

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This one is perched in the hedge trees
along the alpaca pen,
where chickens and guineas peck
their way through the day—
which is why,
a few days ago,
we barned them
for the winter.

Saturday morning,
coming out the back door
I see four sleek white-tailed deer
in the pasture west of the house.
We watch each other
long,
until I take one step
and they dash away,
white tails bobbing.
In the round-top barn then,
a Barn Owl
sits on a ledge. I gasp at the beauty
of its heart-shaped, white face.
Those small, black, sharp eyes
meet mine
and we behold each other
long,
until I open the car door.

Saturday noon,
with retreat guests
in the kitchen to prepare lunch,
we eye a bowl of persimmons
Ann has gathered.
Remembering Native American tradition,
we slice into the center
of a Persimmon seed
to check out winter’s forecast.
It is, clearly, a fork,
which means a mild winter.

Saturday evening,
around 8 p.m.
a rumble and boom
under the shaking house.
Another Oklahoma earthquake.
(Oklahoma has had more earthquakes
in 2014 than California—attributed
to increased high-pressure fracking
and waste liquid injection at oil well sites.)

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DSCN6138Eastern Bluebird

Sunday morning,
this winter’s first snowfall. Two inches,
I think. I watch the birds
all day. So happy to see four Eastern Bluebirds
long
at the water. Two pair of Cardinals and gobs of Sparrows
vie for dinner with many Red-Winged Blackbirds
gobbling up the seed.
Wee Chickadee can’t compete with the big birds;
will have to replace a broken feeder
for the itty-bitty ones.

 

DSCN6138Eastern Bluebird During First Snow of Winter 2014
16 November 2014
at Turtle Rock Farm

How we move through the world depends on whether we view everything we meet as self-contained or as containing all life…With no sense of how things are connected, I may move things along without ever being touched by life.

But if I can hold that stone with enough presence and attention to realize its journey over centuries, how it wasn’t always solid, how its minerals coalesced, how it felt the thud and press of every horse, car and road placed above it, I might feel a deeper connection to the Earth that might broaden my perspective beyond the confines of my individual life.

Listening beyond our own silhouette, each thing we encounter is alive—be it a stone, a dragonfly, a symphony or a peach. And each thing in its aliveness encodes and mirrors the whole of life in its own way. When we can listen, each particle of being, no matter how small, invites our presence and attention, so we might hear and feel the Universe through it.

When relating to what we encounter, we become more possible ourselves; able to grow from what other things see and feel…Time has made me accept that I can’t possibly know or absorb the Oneness of things all by myself. In this way, listening becomes a partnership by which we listen and converse with everything. And this conversation with everything…becomes the partnership by which we keep everything joined.

—Mark Nepo
Seven Thousand Ways to Listen. Staying Close to What is Sacred

I won’t complain
about the sudden cold
because
look who’s back! My winter
companions—at least,
many of them. Have yet
to see Goldfinches,
or Meadowlarks (at the feeders,) but, yes:
Red-Bellied Woodpecker,
three Eastern Bluebirds,
three Chickadees,
at least one Cardinal couple,
little Juncos,
Field, Harris and White-Crowned Sparrows.
Already,
the Red-Winged Blackbirds
(and a single, shining Grackle)
are coming
to the birdseed feeders,
and the water.
New this year,
those sweetly singing
Yellow-Rumped Warblers.

DSCN6070Chickadee

DSCN6075Eastern Bluebirds

DSCN6080Male Red-Winged Blackbird

DSCN6085Harris Sparrow

DSCN6095Female Red-Winged Blackbird

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DSCN6112White-Crowned  Sparrow

DSCN6115Female Cardinal

DSCN6117Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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I had a portrait session
with them this morning,
though they didn’t know it.
I hope they don’t mind me
celebrating
their beauty,
their good company,
their innate ability
to bring cheer
to winter’s bare days.

 

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To help us grasp and understand
the experience of transformation
in our own lives,
we called upon Painted Lady Butterflies,
still in chrysalises. 22 golden shells were placed
on tables during the convocation
of NADHM (National Association
of Deaconness, Home Missioner
and Home Missionaries.)
We met at Lake Junaluska, N.C. The thought was
that we would watch the butterflies emerge
as we were looking toward our own
continued transformations. I had seen this
process at another conference, last summer;
then, two of the butterflies emerged before
the conference ended. It was a wonder to watch.

We met over Halloween weekend,
a cooler time; in fact there was snow
on the second day.
We put each chrysalis in a small plastic box,
gave them a cardboard wall to climb,
and each day misted them. They need
a humid environment.
We witnessed change,
as the golden chrysalises lost their color
and we could see more clearly
the scrunched orange and black wings inside.
None emerged before the convocation end.
But in the days that followed,
they did. The first surprised me: I found it
standing on the carpet where I was staying.
Just as I discovered the first two butterflies, a friend
had stopped by for a late-afternoon walk.
Excitedly, we took them out together
and released them into a pile of sun-warmed leaves.
By the time we returned from our walk,
it was dusk,
the temperature had dropped
and the new butterflies had not flown away.
We brought them back in
and I released them the following day when it was warmer.
I watched more closely after that
and each day waited for the temperature outside
to reach 60-65 degrees, the temperature
that gives them the best chance for wings to dry
so they can make their first flight.
Each day, there were new butterflies
and by the end of the week,
all had been released.

The butterfly metamorphosis
was a metaphor
for us humans—and, this was, clearly,
an anthropocentric act. I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again.
But I am grateful to have experienced
the thrill of seeing these tightly-bound lives
emerge from their golden shells,
as beautiful creatures.
(The blood-like liquid on the paper towels
is not actually blood, but a substance that helps them
release from the cocoon.)
Metamorphosis, a wonder,
happens.

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Away for two weeks
in the blue ridged land of mountains
and trees,
I return to the blue sky land of grass.
There in North Carolina, walking beneath
tall
trees, on natural steps made by their roots,
I gasp and pause to gaze
at those branches where sunlight breaks through
the overstory and sets afire—orange, gold, red,
peach—leaves hanging
or twirling gently in the golden light.

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Home’s Hackberries
are still fully dressed
in green.
But that will change,
soon…
The forecast—our first hard freeze, tonight,
due to an Arctic blast
that will hover for a week—sets the agenda
for the day. There is winterizing to do:
drain the solar shower,
store the solar panel;
prepare the hermitage for winter’s
first guest;
find the heated water bowls
and place them for the animals.
As I go about these tasks,
I savor the 75-degree day
and prepare myself—
for the change in temperature
will set the rhythm of our lives.

Later, sitting with a friend
on the porch,
at that two-light moment—
twilight,
the time when the two lights,
sun and moon, merge
or, this day, exchange—
we face north,
toward the change to come.
Chickadees and Sparrows
supper quietly on birdseed set out for them
under the Hackberry. With gladness,
we speak of the beauty
of this warm evening
and marvel
at the prospect of a frigid morning; that life
could change so abruptly. It’s not that we don’t
believe it,
we’re just marveling. Though darkness
has come, we linger here on the porch,
in the light pouring on us through the dining room window.
Not five minutes after we speak of the warm night,
the radical change to come,
we smell cool,
and feel
the slightest stirring of cool air. Could this be it,
we wonder; that, just as we are speaking of transition,
here it is?! A wind chime suddenly sings
and we look at each other,
smiling, without uttering a word: we are here, and aware,
the very moment the wind shifts. Now
comes a cool breeze that continues
to build. In moments, we are chilled
and hustle indoors.
The temperature has dropped 10 degrees
in a matter of moments.

28 degrees
by morning light.
There’s nothing
like being home.

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