November 2012




Many moons ago,
a friend asked
those gathered at table
what we thought it would be like
to wake up every morning
to a beautiful view;
to live someplace
and see something magnificent
all day every day.
Would we get used to its
beauty and stop seeing it
as so beautiful?
It was a compelling thought
and for all of us entertaining that question
there was a tinge of sadness—
that we would never get to answer that question
from our own experience.

I’ve visited some magnificent places;
Kauai, Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast,
comes immediately to mind.
I don’t see how any of us
could not be astounded by its beauty
even if seen every day;
in fact, seems it would take a lifetime
to take in such dynamic magnificence.
But then I think of
where I am:
the soft beauty,
and the harsh beauty sometimes,
of the plains
where we live—
with a view of the sky
that is always
full and magnificent.
Yet we can get so focused
on indoor,
or outdoor,
that we miss the sky’s silent beauty.
Like the waves crashing on ancient stones
all day long on the Na Pali,
the sky’s elusive beauty
changes every moment,
only without a sound.
It’s been this way forever
and we know it will continue
to change every moment
of every day.
We have to decide
to go look
at the beauty
of this moment.


Basic spiritual practice
is meditation:
dedicated time each day
to sit
and sink in
to who we are.
Every spiritual tradition
teaches meditation.
There are many, many
We offer a day retreat
to introduce meditation practice,
help people find the variation
that currently works best for them,
and support each other
in our practice.
Whether beginners
or veteran meditators,
we all benefit from each other’s
experiences with meditation.
This year,
one of our meditation retreats
is during Advent—
Saturday, December 8,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Register here.

I am not meditating, praying, chanting, or working on myself to make myself better. I am not doing this work so that I will be as good as the next person or because I have an idea or some ideal I developed or heard about and decided was a good thing to go after. It is not a matter of going after anything. It is just a matter of settling down with myself.

It means learning how to recognize our agitated activity, our noise, and how not to go along with it. Instead we learn to simply settle, relax, and be. And I don’t mean that when you relax and be, you just sit and meditate. Meditation is something we practice, but ultimately, engaging inner practice and living life are not two things. Being real, learning to be real, is our practice in every moment; it becomes the living of our real life.

— A. H. Almaas
The Unfolding Now. Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence

When first light dawned
the first time
I visited the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve,
I thought I would never need
to visit Ireland—
the prairie was so green, lush,
That was in early May
several years ago.
This week,
in a very dry November,
the prairie palette
is tawny, beige, tan, gray, gold.
But the moment we drove
up to that place where I had watched
morning dawn,
we all bounded from the car
wanting to take in
the loveliness stretching out before us.
Even in the dormant days,
the Tall Grass Prairie
is beautiful:
grasses bent in the breeze,
gentle swells on the horizon,
majestic buffalo silently
making their way.
My son and his friend,
visiting from Los Angeles,
were the ones who suggested we visit
the Tall Grass Prairie.
We spent a golden afternoon
thrilled by watching bison up close,
casting our eyes,
and souls,
across the great expanse of land.
If this generation
of young people
finds the prairie
all is not lost.

                                                                        Photo by Will Copeland

Ann is escorted to the prairie by her sons,
Brok and Ben

Friends and family gather on the prairie top

                                                                        Photo by Will Copeland

The Mud Dobbers play sweet music

Gail sings “A New Chapter”

Uncle George and the groom (and Maizey)

Photo by Will Copeland

A circle of family and friends
at the marriage

                                                                        Photo by Will Copeland

Denny performs the ceremony

And there is dancing!

It was a very special day
at Turtle Rock Farm.
Ann and Frank Denney
were married.
Family and friends gathered.
We walked together
to the top of the prairie,
where Ann and Frank
and our friend Denny Hook
stood in the center
of the prairie labyrinth.
Our friends in the Mud Dobbers
played sweet music
on guitar, fiddle, madolin,
accordion and flute.
Our sister Gail sang
Earth Mama’s “A New Chapter.”
Denny performed a Native American ceremony,
using a hoop
Ann and Frank had made—
using symbols of their life together:
wrapped in alpaca yarn
from Biak and Darcy;
chicken and guinea feathers,
pecans, seeds, honeycomb.
After a week of strong winds
and cool temperatures,
the day was sunny and warm
and amazingly still—
except for a moment in the ceremony
when the wind blew all around us,
and then stilled again.
We danced
and feasted
and the family played
Trivial Pursuit
into the night.
We welcome you, Frank
to the farm,
to the family.


Late afternoon
the day after Thanksgiving.
There is quiet now
between visitors.
The family naps.
It is a moment
to pause,

After 70-plus degree days,
the wind is sharp.
I feel it in the rooms
I take to the chair
next to the fig tree
in the bedroom,
inviting the sun
to warm a chill.
The green leaves are so beautiful
in the sunshine,
I decide to try to capture
the greens and yellows
in a photograph.
My cell phone is handiest.
I take the shot.
The cell phone camera lens
turns sun beams
into red flower petals.

I fetch the camera
and take a second shot.
It captures only
what I can see.

Who knew
it was time—
or even possible—
to see the world

I sit on the porch
on the 21st day of November,
enfolded in warm, soft air.
I have morning coffee,
on the porch.
Two days ago,
I shared lunch with friends,
on the porch.
It feels
and sounds
like spring.
there was morning fog.
Plants that struggled
through summer,
now are taking off—
transplanted Vinca,
and today,
I notice brand new Hollyhock leaves.
There is as much birdsong
as in the spring.
Many of the singers
are wintering birds,
including some birds that don’t normally winter
Winter’s familiar company:
Goldfinches, Woodpeckers,
House Wrens, the blackbird cousins,
Mockingbird, Bluejay, Sparrows, Juncos.
A flock of Cedar Waxwings
has been here all week.



Cedar Waxwings and Robin

My soul luxuriates
in the softness
of sweet bird music,
furry, winter-coated cats;
my heart aches
at the beauty on the gentle air.
But my spirit
is anxious:
though winter’s trees
drop the last dried leaves,
offer their berries,
and stand strong,
ready for the harshness
of a prairie winter,
spring’s birds
are here,
in a very dry November,
more or less ignoring the birdseed,
drinking long
and often
at the watering bowls.
Deep in the dried grass,
little plants
are greening.
I honor
the anxiety provoked
by the incongruities.
Weary of the dryness,
still, I pay attention
to the gray and beige landscape
that tells me
not to forget.
It is not spring.
And it is not normal
to have weeks
of porch-sitting weather
in November.
Or Robins.



Chicks grow fast.
The ten we put in the indoor pen
under heat lamps
a month ago
are now too big for the pen.

We moved them
to the outdoor pen
at the barn,
with the heat lamp.
They also have access
to an indoor roost.

In another month or two,
we’ll give them access
to the rest of the new community—
the guineas, a rooster
and three almost-adult hens.
Chicken massacres behind us now,
the barn and the new roost
seem more secure
and we look forward to watching them grow,
lay eggs, come March,
and step out into the pasture—
and points beyond—
come spring.


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