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!

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It rained before dawn;
cloudy, sprinkles still,
early morning. The big garden
at CommonWealth Urban Farms
is quiet and, seemingly,
greener
when I take my pail of kitchen scraps
to the compost bin in there.
The more I get to know this farm,
the people who tend it—
constantly—
the more I love the place,
the people,
the mission,
the beauty.

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It is not always easy for some
to see
the deep significance for the planet
and all Earth life
in this garden
and the many plots
of an urban farm. But stopping
on a cool (it’s 62 by mid-morning)
August day
to take in,
savor,
value deeply
the growth here
is to be moved to beg
Earth herself
to help us
find our way
to support growing food
in the city—
in every space possible.
(Yes, we can live—
well, beautifully—
without grass!)
It won’t look like what we’ve
perceived as a beautifully landscaped
neighborhood. It will be beautiful
in a different way.
There will be composting areas
which means there will be
rich, organic soil.
Rows of squash plants
may be covered now and then
with a cloth covering
to keep the cabbage worms
out. This sort of method,
as well as others, means there will not
be toxic chemicals in the soil,
air, water,
in the food.
With deep mulching
and permaculture practices,
there will be growth
without the use of so much water.
There will be fruit and nut trees
in a forest
rather than large lawns of grass
that has to be watered,
mowed,
watered,
mowed,
watered,
mowed…
The air will be cleaner.
There will be more birds
living in trees and thickets.
There will be pollinating insects,
including bees and butterflies.
There will be supportive
community
to get all the work done.
Youth and children
will learn how to grow
their own food.
There will be healthy, fresh food
right at your front and/or back door.

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For the planet’s sake;
indeed, for our sake as well,
we must learn to see differently.
We must learn to redefine beauty
and then we’ll see
infinite beauty—
the deep, quiet,
lush, verdant, nourishing beauty
of a vegetable farm
in the heart of the city.

I lean my back
into a fork in a Redbud Tree
and fit perfectly. My arrival
scares a cat, a fluffy one, who slinks
away. Within minutes
the gnats and tiny black ants,
a fly,
who must have been elsewhere
when I arrived,
find me, sniffing
around my arms which are resting nicely
on the arms of the Redwood.
Soon, two wasps fly together
through the ground cover—Vinca.
Sunlight strikes a spider web.
Cicadas make that summer sound.
A bird flies through, low,
negotiating perfectly its swift flight
among the trees. A slight breeze—
astonishingly cool this August day—
moves leaves; a dried one,
caught in a spider web, dangles
magically.
Sycamore leaves are turning, falling…
Is it the proper time,
or is the soil too dry?
Cars pass quietly,
stopping at the stop sign,
moving on. No one sees me
tucked into the tree,
deep inside the food forest,
planted here maybe 15 years ago
on a city lot to provide food
for neighbors,
flying, crawling, walking.
The air here is to be breathed
deeply.
It’s settled: This will be my City
Sit Spot—a place I will return to
regularly, spend time in,
to pay attention to,
notice, get to know
the neighbors.


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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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Our December Newsletter:
Hello 2015. At Turtle Rock Farm

Leaving The Year of Wonder
and entering
A Year of Engagement

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Away for two weeks
in the blue ridged land of mountains
and trees,
I return to the blue sky land of grass.
There in North Carolina, walking beneath
tall
trees, on natural steps made by their roots,
I gasp and pause to gaze
at those branches where sunlight breaks through
the overstory and sets afire—orange, gold, red,
peach—leaves hanging
or twirling gently in the golden light.

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Home’s Hackberries
are still fully dressed
in green.
But that will change,
soon…
The forecast—our first hard freeze, tonight,
due to an Arctic blast
that will hover for a week—sets the agenda
for the day. There is winterizing to do:
drain the solar shower,
store the solar panel;
prepare the hermitage for winter’s
first guest;
find the heated water bowls
and place them for the animals.
As I go about these tasks,
I savor the 75-degree day
and prepare myself—
for the change in temperature
will set the rhythm of our lives.

Later, sitting with a friend
on the porch,
at that two-light moment—
twilight,
the time when the two lights,
sun and moon, merge
or, this day, exchange—
we face north,
toward the change to come.
Chickadees and Sparrows
supper quietly on birdseed set out for them
under the Hackberry. With gladness,
we speak of the beauty
of this warm evening
and marvel
at the prospect of a frigid morning; that life
could change so abruptly. It’s not that we don’t
believe it,
we’re just marveling. Though darkness
has come, we linger here on the porch,
in the light pouring on us through the dining room window.
Not five minutes after we speak of the warm night,
the radical change to come,
we smell cool,
and feel
the slightest stirring of cool air. Could this be it,
we wonder; that, just as we are speaking of transition,
here it is?! A wind chime suddenly sings
and we look at each other,
smiling, without uttering a word: we are here, and aware,
the very moment the wind shifts. Now
comes a cool breeze that continues
to build. In moments, we are chilled
and hustle indoors.
The temperature has dropped 10 degrees
in a matter of moments.

28 degrees
by morning light.
There’s nothing
like being home.

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Ann’s garden in the high tunnel
has so far escaped grasshopper
devastation.
A few grasshoppers have found the plants—
big yellow ones fling themselves
from leaves—but
the invasion has not reached a critical
point.
So we are enjoying tomatoes, chard, basil,
cucumbers, eggplant, peppers…

We know from friends who are the most successful
organic gardeners
we know
that grasshoppers are not only destroying the plants
but are also eating the row covers
covering the plants to protect them
from grasshoppers.

This is the third year of our grasshopper
devastation. This is a cool, wet summer; and
we thought they thrived in a dry and hot
habitat!
Turns out, as weather changes,
due to climate change
due to global warming,
the grasshoppers are an indicator species
for scientists. And turns out,
grasshoppers develop better in
warmer temperatures. And,
there are grasshoppers
who like cool-weather climates. And,
because weather is changing,
grasshoppers are re-distributing. They’re
on the move—and longer summers,
give them that opportunity. We might have
cool-weather grasshoppers
this year!

So…It’s not simply the giant devastating events—
fires, floods, extreme storms—
that point to the impact of changes in climate;
these masses of chomping, flingy
insects do too.
One benefit of grasshoppers
in the prairie ecosystem:
more food for birds.
So, while humans have to figure out
how to grow food in changing conditions—
why aren’t we in the U.S. cooking those grasshoppers?!—
people in other cultures love them—
the prairie birds are happy.
Yay! More birds!