November 2010


It was a perfect day.
Our friends Doug and Nelda,
who are part of the community
that has been mudding the hermitage since June,
brought visiting brothers and their father
this Thanksgiving weekend.
Doug taught his brothers how to trowel the mud
and they set about earth plastering the east wall.
Four sets of city parents
arrived with their children
to meet chickens, guineas, rabbits, alpacas
and help with the mudding.
The parents’ intent laid the foundation
for a perfect day;
the weather
– cool, sunny, uncommonly still –
helped.
In a circle,
we introduced ourselves, all,
in a convivial, light-hearted way,
then met the Alpaca boys,
the rabbits,
the chickens and guineas.
There was one egg to collect
and we invited one of the older children
to gather it.
She held it with reverence and awe
and asked which of the animals had made it;
asked why it was brown instead of white.
Her questions warmed our heart
and we answered with reverence and awe
as she carried the speckled brown orb in both hands.


The children had been promised
they could make mud
and put it on the walls of the hermitage
and they set to these tasks
with enthusiasm
and care.
The work of their eager, young hands
will forever emanate goodwill and hope
from that wall.

We celebrated the day,
life,
community,
creation
in the yard of the farmhouse
in afternoon’s long shadows
with hot soup,
Little Red Hen’s quiche
and the orchard’s apple cake and pear bread.
It was a perfect day.

 

Calico kitten

Cali

She was my favorite of the litter.
Most adventurous.
The only calico.
I could never get close enough to her
to try to touch her,
let alone tame her.
But she is always there.
When I walk out the door
she appears instantly from somewhere nearby.
She walks ahead of me,
glancing back to see if I’m still walking behind her.
Sometimes,
when we stop,
I can touch her back for an instant
before she runs ahead.
When I’m in the rabbit pen,
she waits for me outside.
When I’m scooping alpaca beans,
she stands behind a post,
watching.
She is on the front porch much of the time
and peers through the dining room doors
into the house.
She sits under the nearby Mimosa tree
as I get in my car.

I’m glad for her good company.
Some cats I’ve known
wanted to be scratched
or snuggled on a lap.
Cali doesn’t seem to want anything
(save breakfast, probably.)
She seems only to want
to be with.

Bella and La Flem at the burrows

Jolie in the big pen (Little Red Hen, on the wall)

 

It was unintentional;
one thing led to another;
our understanding
is evolving.

At first,
for months,
we had a rabbit in a hutch,
then two rabbits in two hutches.
Then we began letting the rabbits out
each day,
in separate pens.
When the third rabbit arrived
she had a hutch inside
a big pen in the barn;
which Ann built with straw bales.
So we began letting all the rabbits out together
during the day
in the big pen.
At first, there was lots of heavy thumping of feet,
fighting,
flying fur.
And they began to burrow,
digging tunnels.
For awhile there were comical escapades
catching them in the evening
and putting them back in their individual hutches.
For awhile we tried to block
access to burrows,
concerned they would escape.
Then Ann literally took down the walls,
laid planks of wood
and rebuilt the walls on top.
We now leave their hutch doors open
for them to go in and eat and drink
when they choose.
We feel mostly confident
that they won’t burrow out from under
the walls of their big village square.
We don’t catch them anymore.
Jolie eats greens from our hands
and La Flem and Bella
are thinking about it.
They don’t thump at
or fight with each other anymore.
In fact,
La Flem allows Bella
to lean over her
and groom her back.

We keep their water jars filled,
the food boxes filled
and bring fresh vegetables and greens.
And then we sit,
on a bale
in the big pen
and we watch
as they dig a fresh spot
in the softened soil
to rest their tummies on.
We watch
them interact,
nose-to-nose.
We watch
them go in and out
of their burrows.
We watch
their noses twitch
and their ears turn.
We have
come a long way
from wanting to make them our pets,
from wanting to touch and stroke,
to not only respecting their choices
but, as well, becoming their students.

 

Evening at Ruby Beach, Washington State

In thanksgiving for life
on this intricate,
sublime,
complex,
gorgeous
planet
in which we are learning
to live together
as one
wondrous
living organism
created for Love.

Billings School Children
with their Roly Pig Composters

 

 

The winter landscape
is taking shape.
The leaves are just about all
on the ground,
where cats chase and pounce them
as the wind sets them asail.
The tiny red berries
on the Hackberries
are thick this year
and yet to be discovered
by Red-Winged Blackbirds.
This morning, the sound of the southern wind
blowing through the trees
is more pronounced
than birdsong.
It’s a balmy 65 degrees;
the front stone walk is damp with dew.
But the wind is going to shift
sometime today.
We await temperatures
dropping into the 20’s
tonight.
I make a few preparations
for the changes toward winter:
take down the hammocks,
unhook the water hoses,
replenish the birdseed supply.
But, more importantly,
I soak up
the way things are
this morning.
Seed-filled trees;
leafless trees.
Tawny grasses,
getting a rest now.
Warm, dampish wind
soon to chill.
In the midst of the coming change,
there is a sense of settled accomplishment
and welcome.

 

Paul and Julie sifting clay

Beth, Ann, Debra, Karen, mudding the dining area wall

Mudding the walls
of a straw bale dwelling
is a long ordeal.
There is absolutely no way
to hurry it.
It forces one to slow down,
and because it’s hard work,
it can only be done in relatively short periods.
It requires a long, steady
commitment.
And friends.

Last weekend,
they came,
Deb, Karen, Beth, Paul, Julie.
Together,
sifting sand,
sifting clay,
making mud plaster,
troweling it to the wall,
we finished the dining room area.

The hard work,
the community effort,
is creating somethings beautiful.
The sore muscles
will soon be forgotten.
The warmth of friends
and walls that live
will not.

She rose pale
but full
in the azure sky
before the sun went out of view.
As we stood watching
a dozen geese flew above it,
as if on cue.
Then after dinner
came a dear friend’s question:
“Can you show me the way to the labyrinth?”
We walked across the yard,
through the gate
in the darkish night,
the moon covered partially in clouds.
But as we walked along the pond dam,
the moonlight brightened the water
and our path.
We walked across the prairie,
up the hill
and to the top
where the circle lay silently before us.
The moon’s light
lit the path
and in that bright night
we made our way
around and about
and through this ancient labyrinth.
At the center,
we lay in the moonlight,
clouds gone,
the bright white orb
glowing down
on us
and on this land,
now quiet
except for the occasional howl of coyotes
and once in awhile
the popping of an oil pump
carried softer through the night air.
As the clouds disappeared
the air grew chilly
so we left a rock on the cairn,
wound our way through the labyrinth and out
and along the mown path through the prairie,
across the pond dam
and up to the house.
No booming messages from God.
No quandries resolved.
No jolt of insight.
Just –
just
a labyrinth walk
in the moonlight.

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