Glorious Summer Days at Turtle Rock Farm
Our July 2015 Newsletter


I worry that the choices all of us make today, in our homes and workplaces, in offices and legislatures, will leave fewer choices for you and your own children and grandchildren, fifty or a hundred years from now: By indulging our taste for luxuries, we may deprive you of necessities. Our laziness may cause you heavy labor. Our comfort may cause you pain. I worry that the world you find will be diminished from the one we enjoy.

If Earth remains a blessed place in the coming century, you’ll hear crickets and locusts chirring away on summer nights. You’ll hear owls hoot and whippoorwills lament. You’ll smell wet rock, lilacs, new-mown hay, peppermint, lemon balm, split cedar, piles of autumn leaves. On damp mornings you’ll find spiderwebs draped like handkerchiefs on the grass. You’ll watch dragonflies zip and hover, then flash away, so fast, their wings thinner than whispers. You’ll watch beavers nosing across the still water of ponds, wild turkeys browsing in the stubble of cornfields, and snakes wriggling out of their old skins…

The list of wild marvels I would save for you is endless. I want you to feel wonder and gratitude for the glories of Earth. I hope you’ll come to feel, as I do, that we’re already in paradise, right here and now.


—”We Bear You in Mind” by Scott Russell Sanders
An Essay in Moral Ground. Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril
Kathleeen Dean Moore & Michael P. Nelson, editors

Moon and Clouds

Whatever else Jesus may have meant by heaven or the kingdom of God, I hear in these terms the promise of utter fulfillment. I imagine heaven to be not a place but an experience, the bliss of realizing our true nature, as in the Buddhist and Hindu vision of nirvana. Of all the distractions that might prevent us from realizing our true nature, none is more seductive, according to Jesus, than the pursuit of worldly wealth. One need not accept this pronouncement as divine in order to recognize it as psychologically sound. If, above all other things, we treasure money and what money can buy, our lives will be given over to securing, monitoring and protecting our hoard, like dragons defending piles of gold. The craving will consume us. Multiplied a billionfold by a global population whose numbers Jesus could not have imagined, this craving, if unchecked by ethical or cultural restraint, will consume the planet.

— Scott Russell Sanders, A Conservationist Manifesto

Photo by Nancy Van Antwerp

Sol Duc Rain Forest, Olympic Peninsula


If you honor the Sabbath in any way, or if you respect the beliefs of those who do, or if you merely suspect there may be some wisdom bound up in this ancient practice, then you should protect wilderness. For wilderness represents in space what the Sabbath represents in time—a limit to our dominion, a refuge from the quest for power and wealth, an acknowledgment that Earth does not belong to us.

In scriptures that have inspired Christians, Muslims, and Jews, we are told to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy by making it a day of rest for ourselves, our servants, our animals, and the land. This is a day free from the tyranny of getting and spending, a day given over to the cultivation of spirit rather than the domination of matter. During the remainder of the week, busy imposing our will on things, we may mistake ourselves for gods. But on the Sabbath we recall that we are not the owners or rulers of this planet. Each of us receives life as a gift, and each of us depends for sustenance on the whole universe, the soil and water and sky and everything that breathes. The Sabbath is yet another gift to us, a respite from toil, and also a gift to the earth, which needs relief from our appetites and ambitions.

Honoring the Sabbath means to leave a portion of time unexploited, to relinquish for a spell our moneymaking, our striving, our designs. Honoring wilderness means to leave a portion of space unexploited, to leave the minerals untapped, the soils unplowed, the trees uncut, and to leave unharmed the creatures that live there. Both wilderness and Sabbath teach us humility and restraint. They call us back from our ingenious machines and our thousand schemes to dwell with full awareness in the glory of the given world. By putting us in touch with the source of things, they give us a taste of paradise.

— Scott Russell Sanders,  A Conservationist Manifesto


the beauty
of snow and cold –
the sunlight sparkling the snow,
afternoon’s shadows of barren trees growing long across the white plain,
rabbit, birds, dog tracks dug into the snow in long strands –
there come humans,
guests, to make retreat in the strawbale hermitage,
bearing gift.
The gift? Retreatants’ enthusiasm –
for the thick mud walls of the warm and cozy hermitage,
for the composting toilet (“I’m so glad you have a composting toilet!” she said),
for walking the labyrinth in the snow,
for watching the red-tail hawks soar
and sparrows feast on the seeds they had put out.
It is true, they say, as they sit on the windowseat,
sunshine streaming through:
we do need a place to come aside,
to feast on the beauty of the natural world,
to ground ourselves
in the land, the sky, the fresh air.

And so, I am reminded of these words,
from Scott Russell Sanders,
in the “Simplicity and Sanity” chapter
of his book A Conservationist Manifesto:

The hucksters brag that electronic media have enabled us to create an ‘always on’ society, with stimulation on tap twenty-four hours a day. This is a comical boast, given that we dwell in a universe that has been ‘always on’ for more than thirteen billion years, casting up an unbroken stream of miracles, from quasars to fireflies, which make sitcoms and celebrity profiles and video games seem trifling by comparison. We have traded the nonstop spectacle of nature for a shabby electronic substitute, one that requires from us less effort, less skill, less reflection or responsibility.


Through an aisle of waving woodland sunflowers and purple ironweed, I approach a cedar hut where I plan to sit quietly for a few hours, gathering the scattered pieces of myself. Resting at the foot of a hill between a meadow and a forest, surrounded by a deck and railing, the tiny cabin seems to float on the earth like a gabled houseboat the color of cinnamon. Grasshoppers lurch aside with a clatter as I move along the path, but hummingbirds and butterflies continue blithely feeding on late-summer flowers. On this last Sunday in August, here in southern Indiana the tall grasses have bent down under the weight of their seeds, the maples and sycamores have begun to release a few crisp leaves, and the creeks have sunk into their stony troughs…

The Hebrew root of sabbath means to rest. Keeping the Sabbath holy means not only that we should rest from our own labors but also that we should grant rest to all those beings – both human and non-human – whose labor serves us…For six days we make Creation serve our needs but on the seventh day we must leave Creation alone. We may hold title to the land but we may not claim it for our own, as if it were ours to do with as we choose…

…And so, without planning to leave my hermitage, I’m drawn outside by a pair of birds. Standing in the open air, I realize I’m hungry, I’m thirsty and I’m eager for company…I want to carry back into my ordinary days a sense of the stillness that gathers into the shape of a life, scatters into fragments, and then gathers again.

— Scott Russell Sanders, A Conservationist Manifesto




Dewy Spider Web Among the Winesaps

…we must protect the remaining wild lands, especially in our cities, because we desperately need the companionship of other species. We need them for pleausre, for instruction, for inspiration. We need them to recall us from the frenzy of our lives. We need the birds, butterflies, frogs and snakes to help us monitor the health of our home places. We need the trees and other plants to purify our water and air. We need wild lands as reminders of the natural cycles and deep time out of which we have evolved and on which we depend. These untrammeled spaces offer us relief from the hard, temporary, sometimes ugly shapes of human constructions. They serve as reservoirs from which other parts of the city and countryside might be repopulated with wild creatures. They give us a chance to glimpse the shaping intelligence in nature, to sense the ultimate mystery from which all things rise, and to align our lives with that power.

Scott Russell Sanders, A Conservationist Manifesto