February 2010

There is something deeply sacred about every presence. When we become blind to this, we violate nature and turn our beautiful world into a wasteland. We treat people as if they were disposable objects. We lament today the absence of God and the demise of the sacred. Yet it is we ourselves who have killed God. The world today is just as full of sacred presence as it was centuries ago. With the hardening of our minds we are no longer able to feel and sense the ever-present sacred the way our ancestors did. Our arrogance and greed have killed the gods. Unknown to us, the suppression of Divine Presence exacts a terrible price, because nature and person lose their inner divinity…We no longer walk the earth with wonder. We have purchased the fatal ticket. Instead of being guests of the earth, we are now crowded passengers on the runaway train of progress and productivity; the windows are darkened and we can no longer see out.

We desperately need to retrieve our capacity for reverence. Each day that is given to you is full of the shy graciousness of divine tenderness. It is a lovely practice at night to spend a little while revisiting the invisible sanctuaries of your lived day. Each day is a secret story woven around the radiant heart of wonder. We let our days fall away like empty shells and miss all the treasure.

— John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes



I haven’t written much about the cats
we live with.
There are many
and we love their companionship.
Maybe I take their presence for granted
or maybe I haven’t written about them
because their stories are sometimes
hard to tell.
Cats come and go around here.
They have to survive hungry coyotes
and other predators,
like our dogs.
And here on the farm
accidents happen.
Take Whiner, for instance.
(I must warn: this is a gruesome story.)
Last spring,
she had another litter of kittens
and put them up on a high shelf
where we kept iron discs for the plow.
One of the heavy pieces must have fallen on her right back leg,
breaking it.
She evidently knew that this was going to hinder her parenting,
perhaps her nursing.
One day our cousin came upon her
killing her kittens.
He didn’t stop her.
This is the way of nature
and he wisely, I think,
didn’t interfere.
Kittens rarely survive here,
for one reason or another.
And the adults don’t live especially long lives.
Whiner is a survivor.

Hugs and Kisses

Many of our cats are gray and white.
Ann introduced Hugs and Kisses,
two female cousins,
to the community of cats at her house
about a year ago.
They’re gray and white,
but more of a calico.
They have both had litters,
from which only one or two survived.
They are tamer,
having been raised by neighbors
who have children.

I’ve managed to tame only one of the cats
born on the farm.
Little Gray.
She loves to be petted,
refuses to be held.
She’s pregnant
and I hope her kittens survive
and like to be petted.
who was born at our house in Enid
when my son was young,
sits on my lap when I have my Saturday evening
front porch sit.

Maybe I don’t write about cats
because they are such an integral part of life here.
They are part of the landscape,
all day
meandering back and forth from barn
to pasture
to front porch
to barn,
sleeping in the sun,
gathering at the morning feed.
I’m grateful for soft moments with them,
and I like to feed them and keep clean water out for them,
but they always and forever
will do their own thing,
their way.
They help keep
away any lingering anthropocentric ideas:
life is not all about humans.

Making Notes about Creek Observations

Scrubbing the Shoreline for Bugs

Bottling the Sample

Yesterday was bug collection day
at our little corner of Doe Creek.
Kim Shaw came from Blue Thumb
and helped us scrub around the edge of the creek
and collect a sample of grass roots and mud
and, hopefully, microinvertebrtes.
We’d had an inch of rain on Sunday
and the creek was out of its banks,
so the concern is that the insects
have all been washed downstream.
But there we were,
so we took the sample anyway.
We’ll know in a couple of months
when we get together for the bug count.
Water was rushing through the beaver dam too.
I imagine they have some repair work to do.
Gushing water is an unusual sound here.

We were just at the creek last week,
to do our monthly monitoring,
collecting water samples
and doing chemical testing
to keep track of how healthy the stream is.
And today,
it had changed a great deal.
Amazing all that goes on
when you aren’t looking.

Winter Birds

We had snow one evening this week –
then two hours of horizontal snowfall.
A good dusting of white
that was gone by mid-day the next day.
The winter birds are still here –
thousands of blackbirds,
Canada and Snow Geese,
a Woopecker,
Red Tail Hawks,
my Mockingbird.
Some live here year-round,
but we see them a lot more in the winter,
seeking sustenance
at the feeding grounds we provide.

Some friends in other places in Oklahoma –
farther East, and South –
have already seen Robins.
None sighted here yet.
the winter birds
seem to be singing
springtime songs.
In the winter,
their song is
more of an abrupt, chit-chitting.
Their springtime songs
are long and lyrical,
and everyone seems to join the chorus.
For several days now,
even in the last,
late-afternoon snow,
I heard them singing spring.

And there’s one more sign:
For the first time this winter,
I can hang my laundry outside.
Last winter, only once
did I have to hang laundry indoors.
All winter this year,
I’ve had to hang it indoors,
in the warmest spot, the second floor.
Today, it’s sunny and dry
and not as cold.

Last weekend,
on Prairie Home Companion,
Garrison Keillor jumped on the chance
to declare that spring had arrived (in Minnesota!!)
because they had their first warm day –
the thermometer rose to 30 degrees.
I don’t think we can do that yet.
I was born in an harrowing Oklahoma March blizzard
and last year we had a hard freeze in April.
More snow is predicted in the next few days.
I like the winter we’re having at the moment:
glistening frost,
cold, but not uncomfortably cold, air.
It’s thrilling to step out in it.
And this week,
a new thrill:
the sounds of spring.

Mr. Darcy

I admit,
sometimes when Mr. Darcy
it feels personal.
This morning,
I was bringing the alfalfa.
The two Alpaca share a flake of alfalfa hay every other day
and Mr. Darcy has been happier
and not so spitty
since Ann brought the bales.
as I carried the hay,
Darcy was nibbling at it
through the fence
even before I got the gate open –
and spitting at me in the process.
I laughed.
And I felt nothing –
not even a tinge of insult.
I didn’t take it personally,
for the first time.
I was amazed at that –
and delighted.
But why?
Why did I not take it personally
this time?

For an instant,
I realized it isn’t about me.
It’s about an Alpaca
who I’ll never really understand,
but whose very being
I enjoy immensely,
who I delight in being with,
even if he’s not pleased.
For I know that,
from Alpaca eyes,
and now,
it’s not personal.
And all I need to be about
is enjoying him,
caring for him:
bringing fresh water
and alfalfa hay –
until the grass greens again
and he’s happy.

One Session of Youth Learning Lectio Divina
(Holy Reading) with Objects from the Natural World

150 junior and senior high students
from the Stillwater and McAlester Districts
of the United Methodist Church
on a weekend retreat at Camp Egan
in the lovely woods of northeastern Oklahoma.
No cell phone service.
Some of the youngest
are drawn to the clear stream,
strewn with rocks,
that flows through the camp,
where they redistribute the rocks.
Many sign up for the hike on Saturday afternoon.
And when they can be,
many are outdoors on “the slab”
playing basketball and volleyball.

They participate
in the teachings of the Circle of Life Meditation
in the Native American Medicine Wheel.
They take the Cosmic Walk,
experiencing the miracles
of more than one creation story.
And they learn how to reflect with the wonder
of the natural world.
Imagine a room with 50 young people,
gathered in circles;
each person silently
noticing deeply
the intricacies
and history
of various parts of nature:
birds nest made of hair
dragonfly wings
selenite crystals
small branch felled by a beaver

It’s a sacred sight
to watch young people
succumbing to silence,
absorbed in the wonder and mysteries
of the natural world,
gleaning insight and connectedness
from the experience.

Dare we not complain about their
absorption in the technological;
dare we expose them
to the more.

Youth Experiencing the Cosmic Walk’s Story of Creation

Lake Keystone and the Arkansas River
taken from the Ancient Cedar Forest

You can’t love
what you don’t know.
And you won’t care for
what you don’t love.
That’s why we invite people to Turtle Rock Farm,
to walk the prairie,
the creeks
that sustain the natural community here
and to begin to get to know one corner
of this magnificent
planet –
so that they’ll remember other places where they’ve been
connected with the natural world
and be inspired to get to know their own ecosystem
and remember they are a part of a
miraculous neighborhood
and care in deeper ways.

A few weeks ago
we went into another ecosystem
(Oklahoma, in a relatively small area,
has 13 ecosystems.)
We went to the Cross Timbers,
near Sand Springs, Oklahoma,
and entered an ancient forest.
For several hours we immersed ourselves
in life there, noticing
twisted trees,
an amazing variety of lichens,
flocks of birds.
We looked carefully and deeply
to see how this forest had survived;
how boulders, tumbled down and resting on slopes,
had kept the trees that  grew up next to them
from being burned in forest fires.
We began to get to know that part of the world.

When I drive to Tulsa,
I pass this ancient forest.
It rests along the banks of the Arkansas River and Keystone Lake,
which I cross on an expansive bridge.
It is a lovely view:
water in shades of  blues and grays;
greens and browns of trees rising on steep slopes above the water.
It’s always beautiful,
as lakes are.
But now I see it differently,
for I’ve walked in the ancient forest there
and I’ve come to know it
a little bit.
long ago,
while weekending with friends at Keystone Lake,
I walked along the rocky edge
and discovered billions of what we call Lady Bugs,
splashing up onto shore at water’s edge.
And even much longer ago than that,
I spent a Sunday afternoon with friends
sailing the lake,
getting close looks at the stone formations
that make up cliffs along some of the shoreline.
So now,
when I make that picturesque drive,
I see the place more deeply.
I see inside the picture.
I see more of the heart and soul of this particular part of the universe,
and I feel something for it.
A connection.
An appreciation.
A love.
A yearning for it to be well.

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