November 2011

The Little Green, Solar, LED Lights


Ann was on a family vacation
and met another family,
Claude and Maury Dorais,
who founded a not-for-profit corporation
that designs and produces
inexpensive, solar powered LED lights
for distribution in developing countries
so that children can see to read and study
without the health issues caused by kerosene.
(An evening spent studying next to a kerosene lamp
is equivalent to being exposed
to the smoke of two packs of cigarettes.)
Working with other non-profits and relief agencies,
Unite to Light has distributed the $10 solar LED lights
(they use one long-lasting battery)
in 17 countries on four continents.

It’s been a tradition in our family
for several years now
to donate to not-for-profits
rather than pile up the Christmas gifts for each other.
Heifer International is one of our favorites.
It’s a deeply sustainable program
that helps people grow their own animals.
This year,
we’re also donating to Unite to Light.


Guineas, looking out

A couple of weeks ago
I started bringing cracked corn
to Rooster in the morning
so he’d think I was a corn dispenser
and not another, giant, rooster;
so that he’d stop attacking me.
We usually do fine when I’m feeding him the corn.
But when I’m doing chores in the barn
and he’s finished his corn
and is walking around in the barn too,
he comes after me.
A few days ago,
he even left is corn,
which I’d scattered for him outside,
and charged me.
I backed off
but he continued his pursuit;
chased me until
I snuck around the corner of the barn.
I think he gave up the charge
when the alpaca, Biak—
that would be a very giant, furry, rooster—
appeared around the corner.
Yesterday, he came after me again,
doing this flighty thing
three times in a row.
This is one smart rooster:
He knows I’m not a corn dispenser.
He does, evidently, still feel threatened.
So, I continue with the corn
and am ever mindful of his whereabouts,
keeping my distance when I can,
showering him with compassion
when he takes after me:
He doesn’t understand;
he may never understand.
But this morning,
he left me alone.

we’ve had more adventures with the guineas,
who escaped out of their side of the barn
a couple of days ago
when the wind blew the tarp loose.
That meant the chickens couldn’t go outdoors
(we’re still trying to prevent the guineas from going outside
until they’re old enough to fly away from predators;
which they might be; but it’s risky; we’re still thinking
So the chickens and guineas hung out together
in the barn for a couple of days.
Ann discovered 11 blue eggs in the guinea pen.
Evidently one of the Aericauna hens
has been sneaking over there
(I’d seen her there once, eating out of the guineas’ bowl)
to lay her eggs.
This morning,
the guineas were all back in their pen.
I secured the tarp
and let the chickens outside
into the sunshine.
The guineas stood in the sunshine
at their big gate,
looking out.
I’m thinking they’re ready
to go out. But would they be safe?
It’s not easy to think
like a fowl.

Sunday evening,
the last hours
of what the people in the U.S.
celebrate as a time of thanks-giving.
The yellow sun disappeared
as Earth rolled passed
and now the sky
is orange along the horizon,
then yellow
and rising into a couple of shades of blue.
Alpaca are munching
at their new hay bale,
a giant round of prairie hay for the winter.
The Guineas, in the barn,
squawk to each other,
then start again with their dissonant racket.
A Coyote north of the barn
then howls.
I hear Canada Geese coming
from the East,
honking all the way.
Light dims
and the colors in the sky intensify
and now I see the waning moon,
a feather,
shining overhead at two o’clock
in the southwestern sky,
turning bluer by the moment.
And there is Venus, a little lower,
I step out to look East
to see Jupiter,
shining above the horizon.
A last blast from the Guineas,
drowned out then
by a series of large flocks of Canada Geese,
gone to settle on the reservoir south of the barns.

I have built a small fire
in the fire pit
on the north porch.
Not even a breeze,
the air moves from north to south,
it shifts
and not only can I see the smoke change course,
but I can feel the cold night air.
The wind chime softly sings a note or two.
The fire flames
are the same color
as the orange on the horizon.
The old Hackberry’s thick arms
are black against the indigo sky.
I smell the sweetness of Pinon smoke.
I hear the occasional song of the wind chime.
I watch an owl fly silently across my view.

After a long while, I separate the coals
and step out into darkness.
I welcome the cold, sharp air.
The sky is alive with layers and layers and layers
of star light.
I take in the vastness,
the inconceivable beauty
as best I can
and let myself


Dried Seed Pods on the Prairie

Do not
Want to step so quickly
Over a beautiful line on God’s palm
As I move through the earth’s

I do not want to touch any object in this world
Without my eyes testifying to the truth
That everything is
My Beloved.

Something has happened
To my understanding of existence
That now makes my heart always full of wonder
And kindness.

I do not
Want to step so quickly
Over this sacred place on God’s body
That is right beneath your
Own foot

As I
Dance with
Precious life

— Hafiz, in The Gift


Sometime in the ’70’s
I came upon Truman Capote’s
stories, The Thanksgiving Visitor
and A Christmas Memory.
When my son was a boy
I read these to him on Thanksgiving Day
and sometime during the Christmas Season
(the days after Christmas Day, by the way.)
Now I’m absolutely certain
that I understood more from the content of these stories
than he did.
He wasn’t old enough
to understand the heroine’s approach
for dealing with a bully.
Yet, I hope, that just being read to,
in the warmth of the family circle,
and hearing the eloquent words
that evoked the darkness and light
of Capote’s childhood,
enriched Will’s life.

I read aloud again
The Thanksgiving Visitor.
A friend kindly listened.
And I enjoyed the story

The story is set in Alabama, in the home of distant relatives where Capote stayed some while he was a child, during the Thanksgiving of 1934.

The most delicate task was preparing the napkins and tablecloths that would decorate the dining room. The linen had belonged to my friend’s mother, who had received it as a wedding gift; though it had been used only once or twice a year, say two hundred times in the past eighty years, nevertheless it was eighty years old, and mended patches and freckled discolorations were apparent. Probably it had not been a fine material to begin with, but Miss Sook treated it as though it had been woven by golden hands on heavenly looms: “My mother said, ‘The day may come when all we can offer is well water and cold cornbread, but at least we’ll be able to serve it on a table set with proper linen.'”

At night, after the day’s dashing about and when the rest of the house was dark, one feeble lamp burned late while my friend, propped in bed with napkins massed on her lap, repaired blemishes and tears with thread and needle, her forehead crumpled, her eyes cruelly squeezed, yet illuminated by the fatigued rapture of a pilgrim approaching an altar at journey’s end.

Looking forward to Christmas
and the out-loud reading
of A Christmas Memory.

A Pheasant and a Meadowlark

A frosty morning;
a frosty, foggy morning.
Sun comes
and soon the sparkling white
will vanish.
Last week
as I arrived home
I spotted four Pheasant
in the backyard.
They scurried away
when they saw me.
This morning the shy male
and several Meadowlarks
are scratching and pecking the ground
under the pecan tree,
next to the sheet-mulching,
the top layer of which
is a thick bed of wheat straw.
He is beautiful:
the white ring around his neck,
the long pointed tail feathers;
a shining bronze breast.
The Meadowlarks,
with their yellow bellies,
and their sweet, lyrical, soprano voices
are a delight to see in the yard.
I keep out of their sight,
while I watch.
Thirty years ago
flocks of Meadowlarks would come in the yard
where I fed them grain in the winter.
But I haven’t been able to entice them
the last three winters.
I’ve never seen Pheasants this close
to the house
until now.

Eighteen months from now,
when the sheet-mulching has done its magic;
when the Bermuda is gone
and the worms have come
and the soil is fertile,
and it’s time to plant,
I’m going to ring the garden
with the plants that Quail, Pheasant
and Meadowlarks like best.

Walking the Prairie Labyrinth Last Saturday

On Saturday,
two came
to share a day doing meditation.
The wind was howling
out of the south.
But it was warm
and these women from the city,
when they came in from a walking meditation,
described the air blasting them
as cleansing.
In the afternoon
we hiked to the labyrinth
on top of the hill
and I didn’t even notice
the wind.
The women described their experience
in the giant prairie labyrinth
as deeply moving,
freeing, there under the giant sky
amidst the elegant grasses.

On Sunday afternoon
I looked up to see something large
and black and furry
sauntering across the front yard.
Two large calves.
I called a neighbor
and she opened a gate into their pasture across the road
and the calves walked right in.
Not sure they belong there,
but they are now behind a fence.
She noticed the large patch of straw
on my back yard.
I told her I’m reconditioning the soil,
killing the Bermuda grass;
that a year from now I’ll plant it
to a nitrogen-fixing cover crop
and the following spring,
plant a garden there.
She called me “patient”
and mentioned Round-Up.
We talked of children,
our children who spent their early years
as playmates,
and the joy of a cloudy, leisurely Sunday afternoon.

On Monday,
I drove to the city
to meet with the Oklahoma United Methodist Environmental Coalition.
We were fewer in number than usual —
one of us, home with a new baby;
another, healing in the hospital.
But the passion for the work
of caring with Earth
was fervent as ever,
these people who have long
been considered “the crazy ones,”
willing to sheet-mulch
instead of use chemicals;
petition the Corporation Commission
for the closing of a coal fly-ash operation
called “Making Money Having Fun.”
(It is closed now.)

This morning,
I read of the necessity
in spiritual formation
to do the work of the will
in refraining from indulging our coarser desires
(for me: certain tv shows, too many lattes, those critical thoughts;
instead: reading, or watching PBS, drinking water, bearing my dislikes)
so that the finer energies may emerge.
And so this Thanksgiving Week,
I give thanks for those moments when the finer energies emerge:
time spent with others on the windy prairie—
the grass around us, the sky embracing us;
unexpected, gifted moments with a long-time neighbor—
so different,
yet connected;
gathering with “crazy” colleagues—
who hold a vision of the planet
healthy and loved
and are willing to do what it takes
to get there.

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