sustainability


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Evolving at Turtle Rock Farm
Our March Newsletter

Before the snow,
the cold. Birds’ water
froze completely.
Red-Winged Blackbirds stand
on the bowl’s edge,
pecking at the ice.
They swarm
when I set out warm water.
Smaller birds,
Sparrows and Chickadees,
have to wait
until a flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds
quench their thirst.

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A day of snowfall,
snow covering everything,
yet their drinking looks
desperate.
Seems they’d get some moisture
as they peck the snow for seeds.
They swarm the bird feeders too
and spend the snowy day—black birds, Cardinals,
Meadowlarks, Red-Bellied Woodpecker,
Mockingbird, Dove, sparrows, Goldfinches,
Chickadees—eating,
drinking.

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I replace frozen water
with fresh
three times
and scatter more seed
before the sun appears,
just before the end of the day—
surprising me
and casting a bit of golden warmth
for birds sheltering
for the night.

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It will be snowing again
in the morning.
Blackbirds there, pecking ice,
compelling me out
into a cold, heavy snowfall,
a beautiful snow-filled land,
with warm water,
seed.

The birds’ urgent drinking,
frenetic eating
give me pause…
Maybe my efforts
are more than a ploy
for their good company.

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It is a skill
we can learn—
seeing,
paying attention
deeply,
to what’s going on
in our home,
the natural world.
Not so easy for us
in our frenzied, multi-tasking,
incessantly available
daily lives
to stop,
unplug,shift gears,
focus our attention
on what’s going on
all the time
in the natural world;
to see the beauty there.
Saturday, March 14,
at Turtle Rock Farm retreat center,
we offer a day away,
a retreat:
Contemplation in Nature.
We’ll spend the day outside,
(come prepared for the weather,
whatever that will be!)
practice some ways
to develop our paying attention skills,
get to know more intimately,
more deeply,
our home
and community.
It will be a wonder-filled day.
To register,
click on our website’s calendar page.

A black and white wood block print
of three owls,
inherited following a divorce,
has hung in my house for the last
many years—because
I like the look of it.
One day, a new friend,
visiting my house for the first time,
noticed that a large, carved wooden post
holding up half of what once was a lode-bearing wall,
was topped by two owl faces
and asked if I had an affinity to owls.
(It was at that moment I learned
that he had a personal connection to,
experiences with owls
and collected owl representations.)
Heavens no.
I hadn’t even seen them there
before.

I moved the wood block
of the three owls
with their six large eyes
over to the wall next
to the owl-topped post.
I like the way they look
there.

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Four owls in this photo—one atop the wooden pole

But this winter,
when Barn Owl got my attention,
I have been thoroughly
captivated. Watching
as it slept,
perfectly still,
silent
all day,
standing
in the same spot
in the barn.
And sometimes,
as I approach or leave my car
after dark,
suddenly almost touched by owl
sweeping over my head.
And hearing her (a “her” now, for me)
in the old Juniper tree
outside my bedroom window
sometimes during
the night.

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My spiritual director,
so wise,
so gently, patiently
insistent,
implored me
to take owl’s presence in my life
right now
more seriously.
Okay.
She sent along
some descriptions of owl symbolism,
which I read…
It seemed a bit of a stretch
for me. Though I resonated
with some of the symbolism,
there seemed to be something
missing.
And then,
the next day,
yesterday,
on PBS’ “Nature,”
the program: “Owl Power.
Good grief!
I turned it on,
and fell asleep.
But this morning,
fresher,
I watched it.

Job—the Hebrew Scripture’s Job—
says we must “Listen to the animals.
They will teach us.”
I have not been open
to the possibility of real owls literally
speaking something specific to me.
I love their haunting call;
but I am evidently too dense
or untrusting
to get a sense of what
they might be telling me
in their beautiful, night-time “whooo-whoo-whoo”
or their compelling stares
in those few wondrous moments of silence
we have looked at each other,
face to face
in the barn. In awe,
yet,
I get nothing.

Then today,
I learn how the animals
will teach me. I learn today
that the way owl is teaching me
is to learn the scientific facts about owl.
What a relief,
and thrilling discovery!

Owls have “superpowers”
says the narrator on “Nature.”
Seeing.
Their extra large eyes
(some owls, 70 percent of their body;
our eyes are 5 percent of our bodies)
gather available light
so that they see things 2.5 times brighter,
and they make a mental image during they day
of their home range
so that they can fly at night
without hitting anything.
Among their cousins,
the hawks, falcons, eagles,
they are the only ones that hunt at night.
Hearing.
Their heads are designed for hearing.
Extra space between their vertebrae
and a reservoir of blood at the top of their neck
allow them to turn their heads 270 degrees
without passing out,
which we would do.
Their heads then
are like a satellite dish,
channeling sound to their ears
on either side.
Flying.
They fly slowly
and silently.
With big wings, small bodies,
they fly with barely any disturbance
to the air, which makes the sound.
They fly so slowly,
sometimes it looks like
they’re going to stall.
Not only do they fly slowly,
but their flight wings
are fringed on the edges
and like velvet on top,
a softness that absorbs any sound.
Hunting.
They can hear their prey
even when they can’t see it
(like under snow, during the day.)
With their great night vision
they can fly right over their prey
without being heard
and then dive,
tilting their head to hear the exact
location of their prey,
until the last moment
when they drop their feet
and pounce with a force
12 times their body weight
(like an 8-ton truck
hitting a 170-pound human.)
Vulnerability.
Rain:
Silent wings cannot also
be rainproof.
Owl families often go without food
on rainy days,
because Dad can’t hear the prey
in the rain.
And young owls often don’t survive
their first winter,
despite Mom covering them
with her drenched body during rains.

As I watched the documentary,
my heart softened,
my soul sighed,
my gratitude swelled.
With each owl characteristic
I saw some of my own characteristics—
some I appreciate,
some I don’t (partly,
because other people don’t either!)
Seeing how owl was designed,
has adapted,
marveling at the way she is,
now,
I can appreciate
all of the wondrous design aspects
of an owl
that I see in myself.
Owl is being owl;
I can be me.
I like and respect owl.
I can like and accept
and respect me—
and then,
everyone else.

I am astonished
and glad
for this momentous discovery.
Who would have thought
this scientific learning about another being
would be the way
I listen and learn from the animals!
(Even in owl’s vulnerability to rain,
I wonder about the possibility
that there’s some mysterious protection for me
to be here on the potentially megadrought-plagued plains
when my soul pines for ocean, rain forest.)

Does she,
standing there in the barn,
whooshing suddenly over my head,
calling in the night,
know
I’m learning from her?
I don’t think so,
which is wondrous
in itself:
You see,
I am beginning
to experience for myself
more
what it means,
how it feels,
to each be parts
of one living,
interdependent
organism—
our planet home.

The 2015 gardening season
has begun. Ann planted
kale, spinach and lettuce seeds
in the raised beds in the greenhouse
and beets, lettuce, kale, swiss chard,
basil, parsley and tomato seeds
in the house, under grow lights.
Already, the almost-forgotten
challenges
of gardening
are apparent: mice are
nibbling on the tiny sprouts
in the greenhouse.
Gardeners must have hardy
souls.

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I stopped by CommonWealth Urban Farms
in Oklahoma City a few days ago.
Front-yard winter gardens were
producing greens, broccoli;
veggies growing too
in Smart Pots lined up in the driveway.

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Lia Woods was in her potting room
transplanting tiny sprouts in tiny,
home-made earthen cubes
to their roomier earthen homes
in flats. CommonWealth farm
is more-than-a-city-block-big;
thus, flats and flats and flats
of sprouts.

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We who love vegetables—
locally grown, organic vegetables—
are grateful for our gardener friends’
hardy souls.

 

Feeling wretched
with the flu
the last two days,
wanting so much
to do the pressing things
I had planned,
yet incapable
of doing them.
I am mindful
of people in Boston
who have been house-bound
for days. People who can’t work
or go to school. People who probably
can’t find their bird feeders
under the towering snow.
I am in touch with a friend
who lives in Boston.
She tells me that she has found
the hibernation
a creative time. Her words
are startling: I had forgotten
that I used to use time when I’m sick
for restoration,
for letting go
and just being. It was an involuntary
time to let my body heal,
my mind rest,
to connect with whatever it is
that breathes me.

When did I get so caught up
in all the things I do
that I can’t spend a few days
not doing them?
I almost missed my chance.
This snowy, sunny day
I will sneeze
and shiver
and ache
and sleep
and cough
and sink deeply
into nothing…
I will drink tea,
gentle myself,
watch the birds
and rabbits
for awhile.

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A week of warm February days
(really warm! In the 80’s
in some parts of Oklahoma)
and Ann has let the chickens
and guineas out of the barn
to free range.
They seem to be finding food:
grass seeds,
probably some insects
and the corn and seed I put out
for the song birds.
The fowl scratch and peck at the ground.
Two gymnastic squirrels
help themselves at the bird feeders,
chatter at the chickens and guineas
below.
Honey bees buzz around one feeder,
interested in the cracked con.
The cat that thinks it’s a chicken
watches from nearby.
Song birds stay away
until the chickens and guineas
and the cat
have moved on.
The oldest, white and brown rooster
charges across the yard,
chasing hens,
trying to round them up
into his little harem. Having spent
the last three months in the barn
with all sorts of sub-families,
they seem to have forgotten
that they belong to his flock.

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Finally,
by early afternoon,
winter shadows lengthen
in filtered sunlight
and, despite a squawking Guinea,
song birds return,
all:
Red-Winged Blackbirds,
Cardinals, Meadowlarks,
Chickadee, sparrows
the Goldfinches.
It’s 60 degrees
and climbing.

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