When I was in seminary
Elizabeth Box-Price,
who taught the new cosmology,
instilled in us
that Earth could heal us.
She did this
by giving us amazing things to read and digest
but primarily she did this
by taking us
out,
out onto the Tall Grass Prairie
where we laid on the land and looked up at the sky
and where we entered the prairie in pre-dawn darkness
and watched the light dawn
across the lush green prairie
where indeed
the buffalo
with their brand new calves
roamed peacefully
within 20 feet of us
awed people.

I have seen it happen
again and again
and again;
that when we have the courage
to step away from our busy lives
(yes, even away from the OU-Texas football game
which takes heroic amounts of courage for some)
and when we put ourselves out on the land
Earth heals us.

This is the reason we offer
retreats and visits to Turtle Rock Farm.
But it wasn’t particularly the intent
last Saturday afternoon.
The Prairie Dinner and Concert
was a fund-raiser
for Green Connections
which supports the mission here.

Guests,
including Elizabeth,
who, as a Green Connections board member,
is still helping teach and guide us,
started arriving in mid-afternoon
and spent the next couple of hours
touring the farm:
getting kissed by alpaca,
holding a silky rabbit,
experiencing the aliveness and earthy beauty
of a strawbale and mud house;
meandering up a country road
and hiking to the top of a hill
to walk the prairie labyrinth
before gathering alongside
Doe Creek
for a glass of Oklahoma’s Woods and Waters Winery‘s Shiraz
and a supper of fresh, locally-grown,
naturally-raised food
prepared by master chefs Kamala Gamble, Bill Hart and Barb Mock
of Kam’s Kookery.
We lingered at the long table
enlivened by Maximilian Daisies and Broomweed and Prairie Grasses
and the conversation and presence
of people who care about Earth.
We lingered
under the cottonwood trees,
their leaves twirling and rustling;
we lingered as Earth turned up
and the orange ball of sun disappeared.
We didn’t want to leave
but there came a moment,
a cooler moment,
when we picked ourselves up
and walked down the road
to an awaiting bonfire
outside the round-top barn.
Kyle Dillingham,
a son of the prairie,
tuned his fiddle
and then
another kind of enchantment ensued.
I’ve listened to Kyle play since he was about 11.
In fact, I played the double bass in his band.
I was there when he played at the Grand Ole’ Opry
and when he stole the show from Roy Clark
at a concert at Oklahoma City University.
I wept at the beauty of his music
during his senior recital at OCU.
He has played at a church I pastored
and for my father in his hospital room
as he recovered from open heart surgery.
But Saturday night
Kyle played a concert that will live in my heart
forever.
For one thing,
he played a few songs on our Dad’s old fiddle,
including Red River Valley
which Ann remembers Dad playing.
He played fiddle music and classical music and gypsy music
and western swing and even Thai operatic music.
He played with such passion
and compassion
that one friend
who admitted he didn’t want to attend the evening’s festivities
because of the OU-Texas ballgame,
said afterward
that it was one of the most important evenings
of his life.

As Kyle began his last song,
Jay Ungar’s “Ashoken Farewell”
(remember Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary?)
he began walking out the barn,
and said, “Let’s go to the fire.”
We followed him out
to that exquisitely sweet and haunting music
and stood around the fire
and listened
and looked up and took in a black sky
lit by jillions of stars
and a long, wide swathe of Milky Way
and we were transported.
Without a break in the music,
Kyle played a reprise of Red River Valley
(“just remember the Red River Valley
and the cowboy who loved you so true”)
and when he stopped
we stood in the warm glow
of fire and sky;
and our hearts,
connected to Earth
and to each other
and to all that music and the sky bind together,
had been healed.