September 2015


It’s a beautiful autumn afternoon:
sunshine, cloudless sky, temperature
in the mid-70’s. The air is still.
If one were to be set down today
in the CommonWealth Urban Farms,
it would look like a spring garden:
Bright greens
growing in long patches
and pots. Broccoli plants, carrot shoots.
Oh, but look over there: tomatoes,
still ripening. Ah, yes,
this is the fall garden—the very best time
to grow vegetables in Oklahoma.

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The secret ingredient: Lia’s soil mix

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Seedlings ready for succession plantings

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The light has changed—
to that cooler, longer-shadowed
golden light
that heralds autumn. Even
on hot days now
the light is autumn’s.
This week
it won’t be hot either.
As we prepare for Green Connections’
Prairie Dinner and Concert,
we wear long sleeves
driving mower and bush hog,
making the last rounds
of the summer. We will
have to hunt for late-blooming
Maximillian Sunflowers
since the 7-footer sunflowers
blossoms are mostly spent.
Migrant birds and butterflies
are sipping from Russian Sage
and Lantana,
picking Hackberries.
It’s the autumnal week
of the Prairie Dinner and Concert.
Chef Kam has made the local foods menu,
the wine is on its way from vineyard to our farm,
tables and chairs reserved
with the City of Billings,
cloths and napkins pressed.
Kyle Dillingham stands at the ready,
fiddles nearby.
Transition OKC’s Community Catalyst Award
glistens, ready for the winner.
We are going to gather on a crisp
autumn Saturday afternoon
to enjoy and celebrate Earth,
promote sustainability,
resiliency,
community.

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Now’s the moment,
if you have yet to reserve
your place at the table:
Go to
the Green Connections website.
See you Saturday!

We are walking friends,
for one thing; once a week.
Last week
we walked—my first time—
at Martin Nature Center
in northwest Oklahoma City,
its entrance very close to the
Kirkpatrick Turnpike. You wouldn’t
know that
if you were simply set down
on the paths along prairie,
woods
and Spring Creek.

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We are spiritual friends as well, which is why
when we spotted a doe
breakfasting in the woods
we stopped and stayed
and watched
and communed.

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Though we stopped
to avoid scaring her,
other park visitors
kept walking quietly along the path,
smiling,
in recognition of the doe’s presence.
We realized she was not afraid
of humans. We followed the deer’s
attention to a spot across the path
and discovered her fawn,
also busily munching,
casually noticing humans passing.
We stayed,
still,
looking into big dark eyes,
wondering at the beauty of these creatures,
noticing what they ate,
how they seemed to be aware
of each others’ movements
until they had passed us
and moved on through the woods
towards a clearing in the prairie.

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Chef Kamala Gamble of Kam’s Kookery
has just given us some hints
about this year’s prairie dinner
local foods menu:

Appetizers;
Sun-dried tomato Crostini
Barb’s Homemade Pimento Cheese on Crostini
Anti-pasti-Seasonal Roasted Veggies

Soup:
Fall Vegetables minestrone or Pureed Southwest Vegetable Chowder

Salad:
Fall Salad with Local Spiced Pecans and Local apples or Pears with Blue Cheese

Entree:
Slow Braised Bergen Beef Brisket with Au jus
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Local Vegetables

Dessert:
Chocolate Torte with caramel

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Savoring this fresh, perfectly prepared,
colorful, healthy and scrumptious food
alongside gentle friends
on the prairie at Doe Creek
as Earth rolls up and sun shines
golden…oh my…

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And this year, along with the appetizers,
Transition OKC will announce the recipient
of its Community Catalyst Award.
It honors a person who is a catalyst
for Oklahoma City’s transition
to more local resiliency.
Looking forward to helping honor
that person!

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We heard too
that fiddler extraordinaire
Kyle Dillingham
will come to Turtle Rock Farm
fresh off a gig
at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds
before 30,000. His concert
in our round-top barn
will be much more intimate.
You won’t want to miss it.

It’s time!
Reserve your place at the table:
Green Connections website.

Maybe it’s their story:
mom plucked from the nest
mere hours before they were to emerge
from the nest of eggs, instead
emerging in an incubator, the five;
growing up in an outside pen of the barn
to protect them from the adults, then
one eaten by a snake…
For some reason, I am enamored
with this clutch of teenaged guineas.

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Guineas are herd animals anyway;
they stick together as family
or groups. We have one adult guineaa single, whose family is actually
the three chickens it was raised with.
They still run together, along with a cat,
often,
who thinks he’s part of that family too.

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Now that they’re big enough to be in the barn
with everyone else,
these four are doing what guineas do:
running together, always. Roosting together.
There is one among them who seems to be leader;
who ventures first into the melee of chickens and guineas attacking
the freshly-spread scratch on the barn floor.
One large guinea adult or another
runs the young one off and it joins
its three siblings holding back in the distance.
They scramble
off together, that clutch of four.
It will take growth and a long time
before they are free of harassment.
Eventually, they’ll have less interference
from the others. One day, they’ll find their way
out of the barn (though we hope they’re bigger
when they do; not so ripe for prowling coyotes)
and have free range of the farm. But wherever
they go,
they will go together,
as one.
In the meantime,
in the barn,
making their way
through the heirarchy
of fowldom,
they have each other.

The day was beautiful:
a cooler, sunny September morning
with no wind. MaryAnn Sonntag taught us
the history of the labyrinth,
various stories about building
and walking
this ancient spiritual phenomenon.
And then we set out,
over the pond dam
through a gauntlet of 7-foot tall
sunflowers
and, at our feet, billowing bunches
of bright yellow Broomweed,
freshly blossomed.
Across the slightly gooey shale
pond channel (it had rained a bit
overnight,) up into the prairie
passed the Turtle Rocks on the hillside
then, atop the prairie,
we paused to take in the 360-degree view
of sky and grass and trees
before making our intentions
and entering the 11-circuit labyrinth
mowed into the tall grass.
As we entered,
MaryAnn began her long, slow, circular walks
around the outside of the labyrinth, holding
us and the energy of the labyrinth,
sometimes holding a bell
that rang softly as she passed.

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Describing what happens
to each
walking the labyrinth
would be to remove something
sacred from them. It’s beyond
words anyway.

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All on this Saturday
had walked labyrinths before.
The prairie labyrinth at Turtle Rock Farm
is different. It’s big. It’s outdoors
under an endless sky,
within tall Blue Stem, tiny flowers at foot;
crickets and cicadea and birds
and sunshine
and clear, soft air.
In such a place,
slowly following the turns
to the center
and out again,
no wonder
there is
connection,
within and without.

Thank you MaryAnn!

It was my last semester
at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa
that I first made the Cosmic Walk.
It began to transform my understanding
of the planet and my part
living here.
To my horror,
I realized I’d been living in the world
with my “arrogant” eye, as Sallie McFague
writes in Super, Natural Christians.
I’d been seeing all of nature here
for human purposes. Good grief!
And that was less than 10 years ago.
I’m eternally grateful
for Elizabeth Box Price and that class
on “the new cosmology.” It changed life
for me.

So it was a privilege last Friday
to be invited to lead a spiritual formation retreat
with students at St. Paul’s School of Theology
at Oklahoma City University
around the theological and spiritual impacts
of exploring the new cosmology
through the Cosmic Walk
and discussion of the “arrogant eye”
and the “loving eye.” (McFague’s loving eye
sees nature through the lens of everything
in its own difference and detail,
having its own interests
apart
from humans’ interests.)

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What an engaged group of students,
willing to participate in the discussion,
but, most importantly,
to spend a couple of hours on the prairie
just outside Piedmont, Oklahoma,
noticing.
Noticing frogs, flies, butterflies, grasses,
plants, sky, wind…
Nothing could be more important,
in my view,
for our spiritual leaders,
our theological leaders
to know and love
the natural world.

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Thank you Dr. Amy Oden,
St. Paul’s professor of Early Christianity
and Spirituality,
for the opportunity!

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