March 2015



Spring sunshine
Red-Winged Blackbird



from its dormancy,



This morning
the hawk
rose up
out of the meadow’s browse

and swung over the lake—
it settled
on the small black dome
of a dead pine,

alert as an admiral,
its profile
distinguished with sideburns
the color of smoke,

and I said: remember
this is not something
of the red fire, this is
heaven’s fistful

of death and destruction,
and the hawk hooked
one exquisite foot
onto a last twig

to look deeper
into the yellow reeds
along the edges of the water
and I said: remember

the tree, the cave,
the white lily of resurrection,
and that’s when it simply lifted
its golden feet and floated

into the wind, belly-first,
and then it cruised along the lake—
all the time its eyes fastened
harder than love on some

unimportant rustling in the
yellow reeds—and then it
seemed to crouch high in the air, and then it
turned into a white blade, which fell.

—Mary Oliver
                      Owls and Other Fantasies

Retreatants gathered
at the Dominican Sisters of Peace
Heartland Spirituality Center
in Great Bend, Kansas, last week
for a time together
seeing with new eyes
our life on this “Blue Boat Home.”
Peter Mayer‘s song wove through
our days together
as we explored the Universe Story
and how those of us who have grown up
with the creation story
from the Biblical book of Genesis
can find spiritual meaning and purpose
in the continuing story
of this expanding creation.
These clergy and lay Kansans
in the Christian Disciples of Christ Church,
explored the springing natural world
in the evening following a day of light rain,
then spent a day in nature
at the Dominican Sisters’ Heartland Farm.




Heartland Farm
is a sacred place
because here sustainability
for all
guides their every move.
This is where we at Turtle Rock Farm
first met alpacas
and first set foot in strawbale structures.
Mr. Darcy, Biak Bay and William
eventually moved from Heartland Farm
to Turtle Rock Farm
and we eventually built
a strawbale hermitage.
The women of Heartland Farm
are our sisters in so many ways.

DSCN7028Inside the Straw Bale Art Barn at Heartland Farm


Sr. Jane introducing retreatants to Heartland Farm

DSCN7034Making the Cosmic Walk



Though the Disciples retreatants
had been visiting the monastery in Great Bend
for 15 years on their annual retreats,
they had not ever heard of or visited
Heartland Farm
until this year,
last week.
This is so telling
of where we are as a culture—
Creation spirituality
and sustainability
is, for most people, definitely
seeing through new eyes.

This time for the Disciples retreatants
was spent mostly outdoors,
learning the story of the Big Bang
alongside honoring the Genesis creation story;
re-discovering the wonder
in the natural world—
that we too
are part of the natural world;
meeting the gentle, dedicated women
of Heartland Farm.
For some of these courageous people,
the process was unsettling,
challenging, and yet
Seeing with new eyes
is like that.


When Ann checked the bee communities
yesterday, she opened the lid
on a mystery.
She found plenty of honey
for their winter food supply.
(And the candy boards
she had made for them,
just in case,
were mostly uneaten.)

There was plenty of pollen,
indicating the plants had enough water
to provide pollen.
Seven of the hives
were still full of bees.
But in three,
there were no bees,
and only a few dead ones.
She had checked in on them
about a month ago
and all seemed well. Now
they were gone.

The missing bees
will continue to be a mystery,
but trying to figure out that mystery
is all about helping them
survive these days
of weather pattern changes,
threats to habitat
and the factors causing
colony collapse.
In this case,
they couldn’t keep warm for some reason
during a cold snap…
the oldest frames had collected
too many toxins in the foundations…
perhaps during these recent
warm days,
they produced so much honey
they thought they were out of room
and moved out…

As much as Ann
and other experienced Oklahoma beekeepers
have learned,
there is always more to learn,
which is why the beekeepers get together
once a month. So far, still early in the year,
many Oklahoma colonies have disappeared.
Here at Turtle Rock Farm,
Ann will replace the oldest foundations,
dark now with toxins,
with new ones. (And she’ll welcome
volunteers to help with this big project!)

She’s considering planting
Bradford Pear trees nearby
because they would provide
early blossoms.
Already, she uses several natural means
(including laying a piece of micro fiber cloth
on the top of the hive
and using wintergreen oil in sugar water
and candy boards)
to prevent harmful insect invasions.

Like all parts of nature,
the human
and the bee
working together
can bring life to both.
Sweet, golden food
and pollination of other plants
necessary for human food
are the most obvious human benefits
of this relationship.
Too, in discovering the gentle art of beekeeping,
humans have the privilege
of getting to know
the fascinating life of bees,
and, as they come to try to think
like a bee colony so they can offer
them a healthy, safe home,
increase their own empathy.
The wee bee could actually teach humans
that we are interdependent
with all life on the planet.
The wee bee could actually teach humans
to live as if everything we do matters
to all life.
I wonder, and doubt,
that the bee will ever know
its beneficial impacts on humanity.
I hold some hope
that we can help the bee
sustain life.

It’s spring.
I’ve seen a Kildeer.
Grackles are flying through.
I watched little whitish/yellowish butterflies,
mating in flight.
Warm days
and sprouting, blossoming
erupts everywhere:
Vinca, Iris, Day Lilies, Daffodils,
Forsythia, Rose, Redbud, Pear, Apricot…
Even the old Hackberry has buds on it;
a younger one, the one that usually leafs first,

We may get another freeze.
Historically, the last freeze is April 15.
Last year’s last snow was April 14;
it was 26 degrees on April 15
and the last freeze—32 degrees—was April 18.
It could also get hot
quickly. The first triple-digit day last year—
100 degrees—
was May 4. (Thankfully, last year,
we didn’t experience
very many triple-digit days after that.)
Come what may,
are spring-savoring days.




Our next Simpler Living Retreat
is Saturday, March 28.
It may seem a drop in the bucket
these days
to consider that any one of us
living more simply
could help each other, all Earth life.
But imagine what would happen
if each of us started with one change,
and then many of us kept making the changes
that come from caring about healthy life
for all living beings on the planet.
Living Systems Theory
describes the dynamic operating in systems:
all the parts respond to each other
as all the parts do what they do
from the values they contribute
and that’s what results
in the next change in the system.
Imagine that not using paper napkins
and paper towels
and using cloth instead
(yes, I know, they must be washed—
in cold water, with biodegradable soap,
and hung up to dry and folded
without ironing) or
hanging the clothes out to dry,
could make a difference,
but it does—
in several ways.
Saves trees,
which absorb carbon dioxide
and create oxygen;
create beauty
and clouds. Drying the cloths
on the clothesline
uses less fossil fuel,
creates less carbon dioxide
and does my soul good—
and my heart, being outdoors,
watching them flap
gently in the air,
smelling the freshness of the air
on bed sheets and towels…
Every little bit matters
in very many ways,
not the least of which
is adding another smidgeon
of the value of care
into Earth’s living system.

During the retreat,
we’ll consider the causes of our consumptive lifestyles,
take a reflective time to consider shifting priorities,
take inventory about what changes we want to make
and enlist the support of others
simplifying their lives.
It’s always an uplifting day.

To register, go to the calendar page
on our website.

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