May 2013


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Long ago,
a spiritual mentor—
the dear, outrageously loving
Father Denis, too early departed—
taught me the value
of a “prayer place:”
a place to go each day
for meditation,
prayer, quiet reflection.
Ever since,
I have always had a little chest
in a corner of a room
where I go.
It is so familiar,
that simply walking up to it
or sitting in front of it,
I enter an interior space
as well—
a centering,
a calming,
a coming home.
A few years ago,
I learned from naturalist Jon Young
(whom I have never met,
but who I’ve learned from through his books and courses)
about a Sit Spot
in nature.
It’s a place to go each day,
or regularly,
to sit and be still
and observe life.
I have more than one Sit Spot,
but the one I go to daily
is the easiest to get to;
it is on the corner of my front porch,
under the big Hackberry Tree.
As I walk across the porch
to sit in the wicker chair
I come into that deep inner space
of centeredness,
of stillness.
As I settle in,
stilled,
the birds
and insects
return to their daily habits
and I watch.
Last week,
I realized that a sit spot
and a prayer place
are one-and-the-same—
except that in the Sit Spot
I have more company.
The Woodpecker couple,
the Bluejay couple,
the Eurasian-Collared Dove couples,
the lone Mockingbird,
the lone Chickadee…
are friends
I enjoy seeing.
The familiarity of their presence
is a coming home.

I was astonished
a few days ago
when a bright red male Cardinal
flew under the branches of the Hackberry,
and landed on the ground
where I scatter seeds.
Beside him,
was a small, youngster Cardinal
its wings not red yet.
I had never seen a newly-flying Cardinal,
evidently out with Pappa
exploring the neighborhood.

I prefer
the Sit Spot now,
for it is the kind of prayer place
where I experience
the Force of Goodness,
the Milieu of Love
that is our home.

 

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Our dog Joe,
after showing no interest
in feathered ones
for two years or more,
recently,
chased a chicken,
captured it,
held it under his paw
until I chased him.
He released the hen,
chased her again,
and then another
before we tied him to the fence.
I reprimanded him (verbally)
and,
after loosening himself from the tie-down,
he hid the rest of the evening.
Next morning,
I put a collar on him
and the expression on his face,
his demeanor
seemed to express the humiliation
of dishonor.

The chickens have stayed closer to the barn,
since that episode,
and I’ve watched Joe watch them,
with nary a twitch to chase.
It seems the memory of humiliation
and dishonor
is greater than the allure of excitement.

Two days ago,
Joe was sitting in his wicker chair
on the front porch.
Visiting friends were sitting on the porch too
when Joe began barking.
He was looking out to the road,
but they couldn’t see anything on the road.
Joe kept barking
and they looked again:
the chicken flock was on the edge of the road.
Still barking,
Joe rose from his chair
and walked out in front of the house.
The chickens came running back
towards the barn
and Joe stopped barking,
walked back to the porch
and settled back into the chair.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAErica, Planting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaylor and Erica, Weeding Blackberries

Erica Moore interned
at Turtle Rock Farm
last summer. She loved gardening
and brought helpful ideas—
largely from internet searches—
to our work.
An exuberant spirit,
we were delighted to see her again
when she returned for our Earth Day celebration,
with her brother Taylor,
a high school student.
That day, Erica realized
how much she missed—
and needs—time on the prairie,
so she and Taylor decided
to return monthly to volunteer,
which they did,
last weekend.
They helped us with gardening
for two days. And as much as we appreciate
that help (greatly!)
it wasn’t their greatest gift.

As we planted,
Erica talked about her job.
A recent recreation-and-community graduate
from the University of Central Oklahoma,
Erica works as a recreation director
in a residential program for those with addictions.
She convinced the institution to fund
a gardening program.
She and the residents
have made and planted a raised bed garden,
which Erica, characteristically, has plans to expand.
She told us stories of teaching the adult residents
about growing food. One day,
when a hail storm damaged tomato plants,
the residents thought tomato-growing was over.
Not for Erica,
who told them they would replant. “You don’t quit!”
she told them, not hiding her astonishment
that they would consider quitting.
Not only are there healthy new tomato plants,
the hail-damaged ones lived.
Her supervisors are thrilled:
not so much because there are tomatoes on the horizon,
but because of the metaphors about life
Erica and the gardening offer.
Some of the residents,
when they graduate and go home,
have sent seeds back to Erica
to plant at the institution.

Saturday evening,
as supper was cooking,
we took a rest from our weekend labor
and sat on the front porch.
It wasn’t long before
Erica and Taylor were playing the cloud game.
They would call out the shapes
they saw and the other would have to see it too
or it didn’t count. Of course the shapes change
quickly.
They saw the typical dragon, alligator, dog…
but they also saw imaginative things like
“a woman in a box, being cut in half.”
And they both saw it!
Several times, one would call out something they saw
and the other would say: “I was just going to say that!”
For an hour,
the clouds kept our rapt attention;
our hearts were light and free
and we laughed a lot.

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These young ones,
who google information
on their cell phones
all day long,
also know how to put the cell phones down,
entertain themselves in the clouds,
garden—
and teach their elders to garden—
and know when to come to the prairie
to soothe
and feed
their souls.

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Clouds, Saturday Afternoon
(Lower Right: Dog Laying on Its Back)

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I step into the night
to see the full moon.
Low on the horizon,
it looks big,
golden, bright,
behind thin clouds.
The air is soft and cool,
perfumed with Honeysuckle,
distracting me from the moon—
I close my eyes
and breathe deeply.
Opening them again,
I watch the moon,
the clouds,
then am distracted once more:
spring’s first
frog serenade.

A full moon,
cool breeze,
Honeysuckle-sweetened air,
the song of little frogs…

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As more facts accumulate about toxic groundwater, nuclear waste, loss of ozone, and rates of forest cutting, one becomes most naturally overwhelmed by the extent of the damage. this can induce a state of denial, leaving one paralyzed to act. But for some the opposite happens. I have seen students and others experience profound moments of awakening to global interdependence. As their minds open, they see that the environment is everything. It is not just where we live; it is the very reason we are alive.

…the natural world is a place of truth, generating ethical power by its very existence. In this book I have taken trees as a place to investigate this naturally occurring truth. It is my sense that the root of ethical response springs from revelatory experience, the sort of encounter that penetrates to the core, illuminating one’s perspective on everything. The power of this experience elicits awe, sometimes dread, sometimes unifying love. It is not something to be taken lightly. In meeting the trees I have asked for this direct encounter, wanting to be moved as deeply as possible by the trees themselves.

—Stephanie Kaza
The Attentive Heart. Conversations with Trees

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We are not accustomed
to such richness
of late.
The land is green—
luscious,
dizzying,
can’t-take-it-all-in-green.
A friend,
home for a visit,
called it “eye-boggling.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHoneysuckle Bush

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARose Bush

Yes, here, in Oklahoma—
amidst the rubble
and devastation—
the greatest salve:
heart-healing green.

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I had forgotten.
The first Honeysuckle blossoms
are open
and the faint fragrance
of honeyed sweetness
calls me closer.
I put my nose
in a blossom’s face
and breathe in
all the sweetness I can bear,
wanting to never be away
from this sublime fragrance,
a soul-stirring sweetness
I had forgotten.
And then I remembered
that original sweetness
in us
all.

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