May 2010


My relationship with skunks
is long-running.
They used to live under my front porch
and though I gave them ample opportunity to move
they didn’t
and that chapter has a sad ending.
Yesterday, there were new encounters.
Turns out,
the outdoor solar shower
Tom Temple installed
on the west end of the round-top barn
is next to a skunk den.
We discovered this when we went around to make an adjustment to the shower
and saw a beautiful skunk –
its stripe is wide and pure white –
sniffing around the water tank.
It hastened to its den
and we performed our task
without incident.

Earlier, in the morning,
the backhoe driver had stopped
spreading the stockpile of top soil
back around the hermitage foundation
when he uncovered a Mama Skunk,
who came out of the den she’d created in the mound of soil,
tail raised and angry.
By afternoon,
she had located another den –
beneath some old posts in a row of cedar trees –
and was determinedly moving her babies.
We saw her move two.
She marched right along,
not five feet from where we were standing,
a small, hairless, black form in her mouth
without hesitation,
getting those babes safe,
thankfully,
without raising her tail –
until she got to the den and took the babe into it.
But she never sprayed.

They really are beautiful creatures.
They really don’t seem to be menacing at all.
They of course, must be carefully watched
and one must be alert to the movement of the tail.
I hope
this time
we can live side by side.

Morning Sun

We join with the earth and with each other.

To bring new life to the land
To restore the waters
To refresh the air

We join with the earth and with each other.

To renew the forests
To care for the plants
To protect the creatures

We join with the earth and with each other.

To celebrate the seas
To rejoice in the sunlight
To sing the song of the stars

We join with the earth and with each other.

To recreate the human community
To promote justice and peace
To remember our children

We join with the earth and with each other.

We join together as many and diverse expressions
of one loving mystery: for the healing of the
earth and the renewal of all life.

— United Nations Environmental Sabbath Program


Jay Branscum and crew
installing tin on the hermitage roof

We are in the final days of preparing
for the Straw Bale Workshop
June 6-12 when Mollie Curry and Steve Kemble
come from Asheville, NC
to teach us how to build walls of straw bales
and stucco them.
Yesterday,
Jay Branscum came from Guthrie with his crew
and they installed the tin on the roof.
We all sighed heavily with relief.
The building withstood a couple of violent storms
and the felt flew away
so we are glad to have the tin there –
for that reason,
and to protect the hay bales
as we begin to set them week after next.

This morning,
our neighbor, Dan Pruscha,
arrived with his backhoe
and dug the clay for the stucco.
He found it near the hermitage
and made a pile.
Tom Temple, our designer and builder,
formed two balls from it.
Hopefully, it will be just the right kind of clay
to stucco the walls,
which will be a deep, rich brown.

Yesterday too,
Tom installed a solar shower.
Using some recycled parts,
he set it up on the west end of the round-top barn.
There are plenty of showers in the houses,
but this one –
with the soft air
and a view looking west across Doe Creek,
the green pastures
and the evening sun –
is a nice gift
from Tom
for our workshop participants.

I saw a yellow bird in the pecan tree
a few days ago.
Thought it was probably just passing through.
But this morning when I awoke
instead of hearing
the distinctive songs of Mockingbird
I heard something
indistinguishable
and very, very pretty.

I think it’s a Warbler.
Listen…

One of my favorite folk singer/songwriters,
Minnesota’s Peter Mayer,
has a new CD.
I like many of the new songs on “Heaven Below,”
but, at the moment,
my favorite is a lilting Celtic tune
“The Rainbow.”
I like Peter’s voice,
his music
and his message.
Here is a portion of “The Rainbow” lyrics.
Too, click here to hear Peter singing a sample of it.
(While you’re there,
take a listen to “Blue Boat Home”
on the “Earth Town Square” CD.)
I dream I reach the end of the journey I’ve been on
And all I finally find is a smiling leprechaun.
So I ask a wee impatiently, “tell me have you seen a pot of gold?”
And he says, “have you seen the rainbow?”
Have you seen the colors gleam
And shimmer on a silent sea?
Have you see the colors shine
Brightly in another’s eyes?
Have you seen a firefly, have you seen a lark?
Have you seen the light burning in your beating heart?
Have you seen the way the morning glows?
Have you seen the red and green and gold?
Tell me, have you seen the rainbow?
Up and down the countryside
You can see me hurry by
Passing diamonds on the road
Just to find a pot of gold.


This morning,
I watched a hummingbird
feast
on Hollyhock pollen,
flitting from one deep red blossom
to another,
filling its tiny self
with quick sips of yellow powder.
I wonder at the energy and focus
that is being a Hummingbird.

I watch Mr. Darcy and Biak Bay,
the Alpaca,
grazing in the north pen.
Suddenly, Biak turns toward the barn
and Darcy starts to follow
and they both break out
into an all-out gallop.
They seem so free and happy
together.

I watch Kye the dog and Hairy the cat on the porch,
just on the other side of the glass doors
from where I work,
seemingly asleep.
But on this rainy morning,
when Kye is hyper-vigilant of thunder,
if I move from my desk
to get a cup of tea
he stands and watches
until I return to my chair,
when he lays back down.
I wonder at our connection.
Eventually,
Kye asks to come in the house
and I let him in.
Hairy now has moved from his chair on the porch
to sit against the glass doors
where Kye had been.
I wonder at their connection.

I was alone for awhile at Doe Creek yesterday,
standing silently,
perfectly still,
holding a thermometer in the shade for two minutes
to record the air temperature
before entering the creek to record the water temperature
for our monthly Blue Thumb creek monitoring.
I heard something big moving in the woods
and then there it was:
a young but large deer.
When it saw me
it halted its run
and for an instant we each stood frozen
looking into each others’ eyes.
It was beautiful:
every mark in that brown, black and white face
beautifully distinct;
eyes clear and bright.
It fled
as quickly as it had appeared.
Though I saw it for only a moment,
there was an hyper-alertness,
a power,
an aliveness
that has stayed with me.
Such beautiful aliveness
there
in the woods
staring at me
has caused me to wonder
if I have that too,
if we all do.

Saturday dawned windy.
And we were making our first Labyrinth Retreat
on the hilltop meadow
where we had mowed a Chartres Labyrinth design
into the prairie grass.
We spent the morning
learning about the history and symbolism
of the labyrinth.
We also spent time
contemplating and journaling
about why we’d come
and where we are in our lives
and what we hope for in making this walk
inward.
We enjoyed lunch together
and then made the hike over the pond dam
and up the hill.

We each walked the outer circumference of the labyrinth
stating silently our intention for the walk:
“I am a pilgrim seeking….”
And then Clayton,
who had mowed the labyrinth,
was the first to enter.

I have been in a few labyrinths.
They are all different in various ways.
This one fits the size of its site,
so it is big – 88 feet in diameter.
And it is situated in the wide-open prairie
with a 360-degree view
where the wind was blowing,
birds were singing,
wildflowers blooming.
On her intention walk around the edge before entering,
Jae spotted in the grass a bird’s nest
filled with five eggs.

It was a joy to walk this labyrinth
this first time
with this group,
alone
and yet together
making the turns
that bring you alongside each other for awhile
and then set you on your path alone for awhile.


It was a joy to come to the center
and one by one,
enter,
rest,
reflect,
listen.
The center circle is large
and there was room for everyone
to sit awhile.
Before we left,
we made piles of rocks to show we’d been there
and left ribbons with prayers on them in a center pole.

We all agreed
that we walked out
“lighter”
than going in.
And, somehow,
while walking the labyrinth,
I only enjoyed
the wind
that came sweeping across the plains.

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