December 2009


For years
Canada Geese wintered
on the big pond here
at Turtle Rock Farm.
Our parents loved having them here.
Every landing
and every taking off
was a thrill
and they made a happy, loud commotion
pretty much all the time.
Some farmers complained
about the amount of winter wheat
they consumed.
But Dad loved the geese.

And then we realized
that many geese
have an ill effect on the pond.
That much goose manure
matters.
The depth of the pond
is diminished,
for one thing.

And so,
the last couple of years,
we’ve chased them away
with loud noises –
a giant bell
and our own shouts and arm-waving.
A couple of families live here year-round,
and we are grateful.
But the masses winter
farther east,
a few miles,
at the large lake near a (coal-powered) electrical plant.

It is with joy then,
and a mix of regret, longing and resignation,
that we hurry outside to watch
when hundreds of Canada Geese fly over,
ribbon-like across the sky,
honking riotously,
seemingly not even looking down
at our pond,
now frozen,
and flying on,
eastward.

More snow.
A pretty snowfall
this time
and not so much as to cause us humans
trouble.
Last week’s blizzard
was serious –
nine people died in Oklahoma.

It’s whiter,
but also warmer
and the dogs are frolicking,
the cats meandering across the snow,
Cardinals, sparrows and even a bright Meadowlark feeding
and pacas grazing on dry grass.
It seems the animals
fare better than we do
even though they look so cold –
birds sitting on the snow,
their feathers ruffled by the wind –
and so fragile.
We have houses
and fireplaces
and air conditioners
and cars
and cell phones.
The animals live in nature
no matter what comes.

Some of our favorite retreat experiences
have been in the winter.
A few days of solitude and winter-wrapped walks
on a cold and quiet beach;
time spent in reflection at a retreat center
with spiritual direction sessions
or at a cabin in the mountains
tending the fire in the fireplace
and reigniting the one
in our heart.
These winter retreats
have been times of renewal and direction,
when we look at where we’ve been,
where we want to go
and renew our spiritual practices
for the journey.
We are offering such a retreat
at Turtle Rock Farm
from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
January 9.
Guests are also welcome to stay overnight
the 8th or 9th.
We’ll structure your retreat to fit your needs.
Possibilities include walking in and observing nature,
meditation, journaling, making art,
writing poetry, listening to poetry,
spiritual reading and reflection,
spiritual direction.
It is a time for respite and renewal.
To register,
go to www.turtlerockfarmretreat
and click on Workshops and Retreats
and go to Unplug, Unwind and Recharge Retreat.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Morning Sun on Icy Pond

May we experience today
God’s Christmas Love
so profoundly –
in the sharp cold of another dawn,
in the silence now of a storm-driven snowy landscape,
in the solitude and company of God’s sparkling creation,
in the lively warmth of human commotion,
in the reverent moment that acknowledges the hope
of all as the beauty of life  –
that we can live
that love and peace
every day
during the next
circle around the sun.

Family has gathered.
Fire in the fireplace,
songs of Christmas in the living room.
Boisterous Ping Pong tournament
and Louis Armstrong in the back room.
Catching up with each other,
telling the stories,
good-natured jostling and teasing.
Already – at midnight last night when all had arrived –
the first session of Trivial Pursuit,
and the usual charges of procedural impropriety.

A storm is raging.
Strong winds,
first sleet and now snow.
Despite our warmth and fellowship,
the winter storm
is hard on the animals.
Alpaca have settled into the barn.
Chickens have cozied up in their pen.
Cats and dogs are nestled into piles of leaves
in barn and garage.
Birds, their feathers blowing in the wind,
crowd to peck the seed on the patio.
Cattle circle around
to protect each other.
By evening,
and certainly Christmas morning,
we will need to check water and break ice.
Christmas care.



Last year,
when our sons came home for the winter holy-days,
we spent a day thinning trees in the pecan grove
that our dad planted a few years ago.
It may seem a strange thing to do
at a time when we’re celebrating the hope of new life,
to go to a pecan grove
and cut down trees.
It is definitely heartbreaking for us.
Many trees were planted at the time the pecan grove
was established,
because we knew that many wouldn’t make it.
And that was the case.
But we also knew
that many would make it
and that they would be too close to each other
for any to become strong trees.
We knew that after a few years,
some good straight trees
would have to be cut down –
they shouldn’t be closer than 50 feet to each other –
so that some could grow to their full potential.
We have come to the thinning point.
It’s an excruciating process,
analyzing the trees’ proximity to each other
and figuring out which need to go
and which should stay.

We did that again this week –
Ann and her sons Brok and Ben,
Cousin Sid
and myself.
It was the first day of Winter,
a glorious day –
60 degrees by afternoon –
when by 3 p.m. the Golden Hour
had already arrived
and we were already spent,
having coped with cranky chainsaws,
applied horrid stump killer,
and dragged beautiful trees to piles along Red Rock Creek.

Back home,
there was a Christmas message from old friends
in which they reflected on the death of beloved relatives
and the hope around a first great-grandchild to be born
in the spring.
Couldn’t help but think about the trees that died this week
and the deaths of our loved ones this year
(Dad among them)
and a good job done
on a beautiful winter day
and new life on its way:
the first glorious greening in the spring,
a fleshy golden pecan
come autumn.
And I think its must be true:
life is a circle
of gracious giving
and gracious receiving.

Bo

Last summer,
this lad was dropped at our farm.
Friendly and high-spirited,
he was a bit rambunctious
for some of the other animals
(and people)
on our farm,
so he went to live with a veterinarian friend
and has become
the “clinic dog.”
He gets lots of attention,
has all sorts of interesting visitors
and loves his trips to the countryside where he gets to run free.
It turns out that Bo also has a job.
From time to time,
when other animals are in crisis,
he is able to give his blood
to help them live.
We are proud of
and happy for Bo.
And grateful to Frank
for giving him a rich life.

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