August 2010

Here’s our September Newsletter!


The work that is done at The Land Institute
near Salina, Kansas,
is extraordinary.
With the prairie as his teacher,
founder Wes Jackson
is not only teaching the rest of us
how to live sustainably on Earth
but developing new agricultural systems.
For one thing,
he’s developing

Wes Jackson

Every September
The Land Institute
hosts a prairie festival
with outstanding lectures
by the country’s best scholars and practitioners.
This year,
to celebrate its 35th year,
Jackson has invited his old friend
Wendell Berry
to keynote the weekend.


August Moon

This story of the past provides our most secure basis of hope that the earth will so guide us through the peril of the present that we may provide a fitting context for the next phase of the emergent mystery of earthly existence. That the guidance is available we cannot doubt. the difficulty is in the order of magnitude of change that is required of us. We have become so acclimated to an industrial world that we can hardly imagine any other context of survival, even when we recognize that the industrial bubble is dissolving and will soon leave us in the chill of a plundered landscape.

None of our former revelatory experiences, none of our renewal or rebirth rituals, none of our apocalyptic descriptions are quite adequate for this moment. Their mythic power remains in a context far removed from the power that is abroad in our world. But even as we glance over the grimy world before us, the sun shines radiantly over the earth, the aspen leaves shimmer in the evening breeze, the coo of the mourning dove and the swelling chorus of the insects fill the land, while down in the hollows the mist deepens the fragrance of the honeysuckle. Soon the late summer moon will give a light sheen to the landscape. Something of a dream experience. Perhaps on occasion we participate in the original dream of the earth. Perhaps there are times when this primordial design becomes visible…The dream of the earth. Where else can we go for the guidance needed for the task that is before us.

— Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth

Spider web in pecan grove

I had forgotten
that autumn is coming
I had for so long focused
on doing what is necessary
to live in the heat:
planning the day
so that the hottest work
is done in the coolest part of the day,
keeping animals and plants watered,
drinking enough water ourselves,
checking animals during the day
closing shades in the morning
opening windows in the evening.
We were focused
on the heat
and had forgotten
about autumn altogether.

Then something happened.
The temperature didn’t begin to cool down;
the temperature dropped from in the 100’s
to in the 50’s at night.
The humidity evaporated
The light changed
and already,
in August,
we have a taste of autumn.
Hot days will come again
but the long stretch of furnacey days is over.

On the porch
it’s cool
even in the morning sunshine.
It’s absolutely still.
The light has a tinge of gold
and seems clearer.
Not only is there autumn light
there is the fresh, cool smell of autumn.
I hear crickets
only a distressed-sounding cicadea now and then
when last week there was a loud chorus.
I hear dove cooing
cattle bleating
a hen squawking
and barnswallows chattering.
The wet grass sparkles
and spider webs glisten.
The hummingbirds zip around
chasing each other
then take turns sipping at the feeders.

Everything has changed.
There is blessed relief.
I had completely forgotten.
And I have never appreciated
cool clear sunny mornings more.

As my favorite hour of the day
evening’s golden hour,
I notice Earth has silently rolled over enough
that the full, bright moon
August’s Green Corn Moon
is already halfway up the eastern sky.
I had come out
to look west,
propelled now by habit
this time of day,
where Earth had blocked the view of the sun
and the clouds spreading to the north
were bright pink
with tinges of gold.
And while I was soaking in the colors
it seemed that moon
had snuck her way up;
a playful move
as if she was waiting to see
when I would notice.
I smiled to her.
And glanced back to the west –
purple and pink now,
Venus shining –
now back to the east –
moon on her path,
Jupiter rising just below.

O God,
help me stand here
in this place
between east and west
spreading colors
bright lights
silent movement
unfathomable vastness
excruciating beauty
even if my heart bursts.

Friend and volunteer, Tanner Bryan,
helps apply the weevil lure and trap
to young pecan tree

Because she wants to grow her pecans
and because weevils will be on the move
up the pecan trees
now that the rains are coming,
Ann’s been in the pecan grove
a great deal lately
making it difficult
for the weevils
to get to the nuts.
She bands the trunk of the trees
with tape,
sticky side out
and then applies a coating
of insect barrier.
It’s made of gum resin,
natural wax and castor oil.
It lures the bugs
with its odor
then they get stuck in the sticky stuff
and never make it up the tree to the pecans.

Being organic
is a deep mindset.
When we first started learning
from organic farmers and gardeners
we noticed a distinguishing difference.
With the organic viewpoint,
it’s not a matter of choosing an organic option;
the only option is organic.
If you don’t have an organic solution,
you keep trying
until you do.

We are excited
about this sticky trap;
hopeful that the weevils will not make it to the nuts.
We are grateful
for those dedicated to finding solutions
that keep the pecan grove –
where mowing controls weeds,
branches with bag worms are cut away
and alpaca manure feeds the trees –
We want to be among those
who notice Earth’s natural processes
and work with them
to provide food
do as little harm as possible.

Our community seems to be expanding.
After three years
focusing on the natural world
and our plant, insect and animal neighborhood,
it seems the human part of our community
is coming forth.
Not only are the number of retreat guests
and workshop participants growing,
but old friends
are making connection.
My dear friend Deb
(her blog is At Home on the Farm,
about farm life thirty or forty miles west of here)
came for the day one day last week.
She went with us down to Doe Creek
to gather the samples for our monthly creek monitoring
and then we talked
as only soul-friends can.
One of my son’s oldest friends,
a senior at Oklahoma State University,
came for the day
and helped Ann in the pecan grove
then spent some time in the kayak on the pond
before his semester begins.
He and Will met in kindergarten
and I have watched both of them
grow into the wonders they are.
Our most surprising recent visit
is from a high school classmate and friend of my own
who now lives in California.
We hadn’t seen each other in 25 years
when she and her husband called
and said they were in Oklahoma
and wanted to come stay the night.
It was a sacred connection
as it turned out:
a much-needed gift
at exactly the right moment.

Among the many gifts
during the time we all shared together
is the certain realization
that this is the time,
a new era,
of community.
Local community –
insects and animals
plants and waters and soils
sun and moon and stars and sky –
and far-flung human community made closer
by technology
and  by hearts and souls
that are most certainly connected.
Sitting alongside a pond,
in the shade,
with a cool breeze blowing,
watching hummingbirds feed
listening to cicadea buzzing
and bullfrog croaking
sharing our experiences
our fears and challenges
our dreams and learnings
gives one a glimpse of hope:
maybe we will
learn to live together
as community.

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