August 2011


Workshop Participants Building Hives

At least 50 percent of our food
has to be pollinated.
And, with monocultures
and heavy use of pesticides,
(and, in Oklahoma this year,
extreme weather conditions)
the number of pollinators are drastically diminishing.
Keeping bees
in your orchard or backyard
is a delightful way
to help.
At this workshop,
Ann, our beekeeper,
shares her passion for beekeeping.
She describes the fascinating lives of bees,
and gives an introduction to beekeeping
that will allow participants to make their start.
You’ll build a hive,
inspect the bee hives at Turtle Rock Farm,
and learn about the care
and importance
of these amazing creatures.
Participants from past workshops
report how they enjoy
living with bees.

It’s Saturday, September 10
from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To register, go to
www.turtlerockfarmretreat.com.

(Wait until you taste the honey
from Turtle Rock Farm bees!
It’s the best.)

Workshop Participants Checking Hives

Little Red, checking out new chicken residents
the day they moved into her barn

We never dreamed
we’d become dear friends
with a chicken.
But we did.
Little Red was definitely
a friend.
Early-on
she was a trouble-maker,
pecking at another hen
to make her sit on the roost.
In fact,
we had to separate her
from the other hens
in the garden chicken pen.
That’s how she came to live
in the barn
and the alpaca pen.
And that’s when we came
to love her.
She was such a character.
She continued to rule the roost,
but there was enough room
for her and the new hens
and eventually she gave up
picking on the others.
She followed us around,
put her beak into whatever
we were working on in the barn,
let us and visitors
hold her,
and eventually came running
toward us across the pasture
when she saw us.
She talked to us with her clucks;
she was sweet and funny company.

Little Red, happily in the arms of a young visitor

She gave us an egg a day
all through the winter
and spring,
but as the heat wore on,
she stopped laying.
Last week,
she had trouble breathing
and Ann brought her into the cool house
and put her in a cage.
She continued to have trouble breathing
and was suffering so
that, in the afternoon,
Ann took her out of the cage
and held her
until Little Red
took her last breath.

We are grateful
for our time
with this amazing creature,
our dear friend
Little Red.
We miss her,
will not forget her;
she will always be a part
of Turtle Rock Farm.
We have learned from her—
and wonder:
Will that wild rooster
currently harassing all the female feathered ones
eventually be our friend
too?

 

Walking Meditation

We who live at retreat centers
and facilitate retreats
also must make retreats.
This year,
mine was a five-day experience
in mindfulness
led by Thich Nhat Hanh
at the YMCA camp
outside of Estes Park, Colorado.
There were about 900 of us—
individuals, couples, families,
including about 100 children
and teenagers.
We kept silence from 9 p.m.
until after lunch.
We sat in silent meditation at 5:30 a.m.,
listening to the sound of the bell,
the chants of 60 monks and nuns
from Plum Village in southern France,
as the sun appeared.
At breakfast, and at all meals,
we ate mindfully,
chewing each bite thoughfully,
aware of the taste of the food,
aware of where the food came from
and why we need it,
aware of the people around us,
until it was eaten and swallowed.
Then we picked up the fork
to place the next bite in our mouth.
All around the camp,
we walked mindfully,
placing each foot on the earth,
aware of arriving with each step.
There was a massive slowing down,
a coming home,
peace.


After breakfast,
we listened to teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh,
or “Thay,” as he is called.
Thay began each talk
by addressing the children
gathered in front.
Then the children
were taken to play
until 11 a.m.,
when they joined us
for walking meditation.
They walked in front with Thay,
holding hands.
Imagine 900 people
walking very slowly
together
in silence.
Imagine the sound
of the slow crunching
of gravel
as we each found a walking rhythm,
mindfully placing one foot after another,
bringing peace with every step.

Thay

Each morning,
when we reached a pine grove,
Thay and the children sat in silence
as the rest of us arrived
and sat down with them,
listening to the wind in the pines,
watching Thay and the children
silently,
sweetly
enjoy each other.

In the dining room,
in the meditation hall,
bell masters
would strike a very large singing bowl
with a very large wooden mallet.
At that soulful sound,
all 900 would
stop
chewing,
thinking,
and breathe—
two in and out breaths
for each sounding of the bell.

Mindfulness
of each moment
of our life
is, as Thay has explained for years and years,
miraculous.
It brings us home to who we are
rather than who we think we ought to be.
It brings us to an understanding
of our oneness with all beings.
It brings us to an awareness
of our being in the kingdom of God.

Mindfulness of the moment
is extraordinarily challenging
in our culture
at this time.
As I sit on the front porch
back at the farm,
writing this,
the sun is appearing in the east,
a golden pink ball
tipping blue clouds above with yellow.
A hummingbird whirs and squeaks
as it flies to the feeder.
An armadillo makes its way
across the yard.
The rooster cockle-doos repeatedly.
Dove coo.
Alpaca graze,
silently.
And yet,
the peace of this moment
evades me,
as I am aware of all
that needs to be finished
before I have to be in the city
for a mid-morning meeting.
I’ve come down
from the pine grove in the Rockies
to the grasslands of the Oklahoma prairie
to practice
mindfulness,
to walk mindfully
on the Earth.

 

We are in the midst of vast destruction, but it is simultaneously a moment of profound creativity. We are involved with building a new era of Earth’s life. Our human role is to deepen our consciousness in resonance with the dynamics of the fourteen-billion-year creative event in which we find ourselves. Our challenge now is to construct livable cities and to cultivate healthy foods in ways congruent with Earth’s patterns. Our role is to provide the hands and hearts that will enable the universe’s energies to come forth in a new order of well-being. Our destiny is to bring forth a planetary civilization that is both culturally diverse and locally vibrant, a multiform civilization that will enable life and humanity to flourish.

— Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Journey of the Universe

It has been a challenging summer for the bees.
With the heat and lack of rain, few plants have flowered.
For a while the garden had blooms,
but as we stopped watering the plants died.
So our five hives of bees have been kept alive eating
25 pounds of sugar mixed with water each week.

Recently we received a couple of half-inch rains,
followed by a quarter-inch rain—
not enough to put water in the dried-up ponds,
but enough to get the weeds blooming.
As long as the plants have pollen and nectar
the bees don’t care how we classify them.
They are busy doing what they
were meant to do: pollinate and store
food for the winter.

Full Moon Behind Clouds

 

Our puzzlement regarding our destiny is especially poignant since everything else in the universe seems to have a role. The primeval fireball had the work of bringing forth stable matter. The stars had the work of creating the elements. The same is true on Earth. Each species has its unique role to play for the larger community. The phytoplankton in the oceans fill the air with oxygen and thus enable every animal to breathe. That is their great work, to fill each lung with nourishing breath.

But do we humans have such a role? With respect to the universe itself—is there a reason for our existence? Is there a great work required of us?

…Perhaps our destiny has something to do with this desire to journey and to experience the depths of things. Perhaps that is why we are here—to drink so deeply of the powers of the universe we become the human form of the universe. Becoming not just nation-state people, but universe people. Becoming a form of human being that is as natural to the universe as the stars or the oceans; knowing how we belong and where we belong so that we enhance the flourishing of the Earth community.

Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker,  Journey of the Universe

Monarchs on the trees on Zig Zag Lane
during a previous autumn

It’s a sign of autumn
when we begin to see Monarch Butterflies.
They travel through here—
sometimes en masse—
on their way from their summer home
in Canada
to their winter home
on a mountain in Mexico.
It’s always an awe-inspiring time,
to see them—
not only because they are beautiful
but because they don’t live very long.
So the generation that starts out in Canada
isn’t the generation that arrives in Mexico.
It takes five generations to make the annual
round-trip.

I saw the first orange and black flutter
a few days ago at home
and then yesterday,
traveling west,
I saw one
after
another.
Meteorologists are predicting
continued heat and drought
for Oklahoma well into October.
I wonder:
What do the butterflies know?

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