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The Oklahoma Conference of Churches
environmental committee
has partnered with the Whole Creation Community
and each day there are devotional posts
on the WCC’s fb page.
This week I have the privilegeof writing them.
Click on this link
to enjoy all the posts.

And, to celebrate Earth
during Earth Day weekend,
check out the resources offered
for worship services
at the Oklahoma Conference of Churches website.

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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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This morning,
set the tone:
a freeze
that warmed quickly
and turned everything
from white
to gold.
And now it seems the tone
for this whole day
is muted, soft yellow.
It’s in the rose blossoms,
undamaged by morning’s bite—
still, the prettiest of the year.
It’s in the Hackberry leaves—
yet to let go from dark branches—
stirring in the breeze,
and blanketing the ground below,
where they’re on their way
to feeding the soil.
It’s in the now-and-then gentle tones
ringing in the big windchime
hanging from the thickest Hackberry arm.
It’s in the light—
yellow barely, dimmer sunny than bright.
It’s in the bowls of water
under the tree,
quivering in the air,
mirroring patches of blue sky
and the yellowing leaves above.
I hear the descending high cry
of a Red-Tailed Hawk,
then see its shadow
and finally watch it float,
wings golden in the sun.
Guineas squawk out at the barn,
having made their mid-day rounds.
The chicken flock
is making its rounds,
pecking in grass,
scratching in the fallen yellow leaves,
stopping for water in the bowls.
I just poured wet yellow leaves
from each bowl
and refilled with fresh water.
It’s a small thing,
a routine thing.
But, somehow,
on this mellow day
filling bowls with fresh water
so dogs, birds, guineas, chickens,
maybe a turtle,
can drink
seemed a soft task,
a welcome task,
a gift returned.

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Robin in Tree Full of Hackberry Seeds Last Fall,

It wasn’t so cold
Saturday.
But the wind was sharp
and after feeding the animals
we settled inside the farmhouse
for the Living in the Moment retreat.
After lunch,
which we prepared
and ate
mindfully
(in silence,
chewing one fork full at a time
before picking up the fork
for the next bite),
the house felt chilly
and so I went out to the grain bin
to bring in firewood.
I walked out mindfully,
filled my arms with wood,
mindfully,
and returned to the house,
mindfully.
It was during the walk
from grain bin to house,
being mindful,
that I noticed
all the seeds
in the big, old Hackberry tree
are gone.
The tree had been loaded
with the tiny, magenta seeds
by the time the leaves fell
in the fall.
I’ve been paying attention
to the birds feasting
at the birdfeeders.
I hadn’t noticed
they’ve been eating the seeds
in the tree too.
Seeds that our human ancestors
used to live on.
Seeds that, we discovered last summer,
are sweet
and make good wine.
We never picked enough for wine—
it would have taken days.
Now I’m glad we didn’t.
The birds needed them.

—Photo by Tricia Dameron

The massive Hackberry tree
at the corner of the farmhouse
is a Grand Presence
on the farm for me.
This particular Hackberry tree
has a thick trunk
with thick branches reaching out,
forming a wide, green,
gently drooping umbrella.

It is an abiding companion,
always there,
sheltering,
welcoming,
comforting.
A wooden statue of St. Francis of Assisi
stands alongside the trunk,
offering a place
for me to leave feed for the birds.
Several bird feeders hang
from one of its lower limbs.


Birds flock to it
and nest there
and eat from it
the tiny reddish-orange seeds.

Last year,
in the drought,
there were no seeds.
This year, there are many
and they’re ripening early—
a crop at wait for winter birds.
And then, last weekend,
along came my nephew Brok,
Ann’s oldest,
who is a beer miester and wine maker.
Looking into this deeply beautiful tree,
appreciating it,
extolling its quiet strength and beauty,
he asked me what kind of tree it is.
“Hackberry.”
Something clicked in his data bank:
“Hackberry…are you sure?
I think you can make wine
from Hackberry berries.”
We googled
and yes, you can.
In fact,
says Merriwether’s Guide
to Edible Wild Plants
of Texas and the Southwest,

Most of your ancestors owe their lives to the fruit of the Hackberry tree. It is the oldest-known foraged food, going back over 500,000 years to the grave of Peking Man. Found on every continent except Antarctica, every culture that arose around Hackberry trees utilized them as one of their main sources of calories…until us now. Now it is considered a “trash tree” and considered to me an annoyance. We have forgotten how it kept so many humans alive for tens of thousands of years.

Brok was the first
to taste the Hackberry berry.
We could see the delight
on his face
as he discovered
what Peking Man
knew:
the thin layer of flesh
around the white, rock-hard center,
is sweet.
It takes two pounds of berries
(about 1600 of the tiny orbs)
to make two gallons of wine.
It would take us a long time
to collect 1600 berries,
because we didn’t want to stop
eating them.
Still, it would take us a long time
each day
to eat enough berries for a meal.
It would, however, be a pleasant
pursuit.
There are two other large
Hackberry trees
near the farmhouse.
One tree’s berries
didn’t taste quite ripe yet.
We learned that
besides eating them right off the tree
and making wine with them,
we could crush them for jam,
use them for baking
and make them into a kind of fruit leather.
I was flabbergasted.
Here is this tree
which I have known all my life,
appreciated especially
since I returned home from my wanderings
to stand in awe
of what it had become.
Here I am,
reading books about perennial vegetables,
trying to learn what will grow
on the prairie
in years of drought.
And here are the Hackberry berries
hanging there
right in front of me.
I had noticed them,
was glad the birds ate them.
But I had never once thought
of eating them myself.
And now to discover
people lived on them
and that they are sweet
and delicious!

What our ancestors knew
that we don’t…
What our children learn
and teach us…
What nature provides
without us even seeing…
What sweet, delicious food
offered
on the lowered branches
of the wondrous Hackberry
as gift…
The universe seems to be
whispering:
Look.

At first
the morning air
is so still
I can see a reflection of tree and sky
in the bird bath..
A lone Cow Bird in the Hackberry—
I suspect it is  one
who was hurt earlier
and stayed—
speaks,
a clear, strong “churr, churr, churr.”
A Red-Winged Blackbird lights in the tree
and joins the song with its “are-are-are-ree.”
A lone Black Oil sunflower—
sprouted from the seed
given the birds last winter—
stands straight and bright
and beautiful, being
all she is.

It is a cool June morning.
Now the breeze stirs
and brushes my face softly,
blows my hair.
Off in the distance,
the Red-Bellied Woodpecker drills wood,
a Mockingbird in the north hedgerow
runs through its repertoire
and the Meadowlark whistles sweetly from the pasture.
I hear the Hummingbird’s whir
then watch as it drinks.
Sitting in the cool morning breeze
I am drenched in Kindness.

 

The Hackberry tree leafed out
when I wasn’t watching.
Seemingly, I looked up
and the tight little green balls
had burst open,
leaves completely unfurled.
Now they drip rain drops.
Rumbling, then cracking thunder
preceded a lovely soaking rain
that has fallen all day.
These are spring rains
that never came last spring.
And this year
they are about six weeks
early.
With a mild winter
and very warm March,
we looked ahead to summer
with trepidation.
But not today.
We are delighted.
Thrilled.
Relieved,
grateful—
ever more deeply.
Doe Creek is running
and filling.
This rain will top off
the big pond
that sat dry for five months
last summer and fall.
The prairie
sighs.