We’ve been enjoying the dark,
moon-less night sky:
so many stars,
as deep as we can see,
deeper than we can imagine;
too,
those bright ribbons of cosmic dust.

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And then, last evening,
mid-stride,
I see: There you are!
Even when you show up
as a whisper of moon
you are stunning. And
reflecting that pink sky…
so good to see you!

There was cloud cover when
we set out, and so the night
was darker than we expected. Light
from flashlights shown
our way across the rickety crossing
at the spillway
and on the mown path
across the dam. High thickets
of sunflowers
created a ghostly green gauntlet
on each side as we passed.
Once we crossed the pond
we doused our flashlights
and walked the path
Ann had mown through the prairie.
We fell into silence
as we walked. Still,
clouds covered the full moon—
full blue moon—
but they couldn’t cover
its white light.
At the top of the prairie,
there was enough light to see
where to enter the labyrinth;
the tall grass walls reflected
enough light
to see the darker path,
make the turns. We walked silently
still,
brushing palms across tall grasses,
passing each other,
following the path,
moving parallel for awhile
before one or the other
made the next turn—friendly,
familiar,
ghostly figures along the path.

Debra had entered the labyrinth first.
She has been a friend for a long time,
through many joy-filled and
tear-filled times. It was she who
first asked if I wanted to walk the labyrinth
in the light of the full moon. That thought
had never occurred to me. Of course
it would occur to Debra,
so steeped in Earth’s beauty
and mystery. As always, there were
mutual insights: she thought moonlight
was the only light under which one
walked the labyrinth. The day she called
to tell me her beloved Danny had died,
she asked me to go out
and walk the labyrinth, which, of course,
I did, not knowing how
that could possibly help.
Here we are
again. This time accompanied
by another dear friend, Rachel.

Debra reached the center first.
Cloud cover had cleared,
and formed an interesting pattern
of stripes, curved gently,
pointing north. Maybe that’s why
everyone laid down in the grass
facing north, eyes
to the sky.
Higher in the east now
the full blue moon
shown bright and clear,
its face glowing.
Silently, we watched stars
and moon
and clouds;
felt the night air cooling.
Safe
inside a bright circle
for a little while,
with stars and moon,
grass and cool air,
dear friends.
We lingered long.
Slowly then
we made the turns
that took us out,
walked down through the prairie—
the quietest of times on the prairie,
when the wind is stilled,
the birds sleeping—
back across the dam,
through the dark flanks of sunflowers,
and home
for ice cold watermelon.

This I know:
There are things
you can only experience
in the darkness—
and by the light of the moon.
The labyrinth—
in moonlight
or daylight—
will take you in,
hold you safely for a little while,
and send you on your way again.
It is necessary
to walk with friends on the path,
at every turn.

DSCN7683Debra and Rachel at prairie labyrinth

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Owl sleeps,
standing,
all day.
At night,
flown from the barn,
it’s closer:
in the old Juniper
next to the house.
I hear its rich,
haunting
call
when I go out
to look at the stars.

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It’s quiet on the prairie.
Breezes.
Overcast days,
until just before the sun appears
or disappears—
then pinks, oranges, reds
more vibrant
than the usually beautiful
morning,
evening skies.
On clear nights
the depth to which
we can see stars
is wildly breathtaking.
Red-winged Blackbirds,
atop trees,
seem louder in the winter quiet.

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Red-tailed Hawks
glide silently over the prairie,
red tails aglow
as they dip toward the sunshine.
There are lots of hawks now. So many,
flying low across the land.
A friend tells me she’s seen a couple
hit by cars on the highway. I hear
their searing calls
and spot several to the mile,
on tree tops,
fence posts,
watching—for mice,
I hope, for there are so many.
I discover those tiny bodies
floating in water buckets at the barn,
see them scurry across the country roads,
find them here and there,
obviously a cat’s catch.
I trust that the hawk population
has increased
as the mouse population
exploded
and that they will come into
balance
before Ann plants the spring garden
in the high tunnel greenhouse. She’s still
not in the mood
for the tiny mouse teeth
to chew her tender sprouts!

Every evening that I gather eggs,
shepherd in the guineas,
feed and water
the alpacas, goats, guineas, chickens, rabbits,
the cat,
I talk to the barn community
as I close the last gates:
“Thanks for the eggs.
Look out for each other.
Be nice to each other.
Take care of each other.
Have a good night.
Sleep well.”
I don’t know when I started this.
It’s as natural now
as every other part of the nightly
routine.
But I’ve noticed lately
that I really do care about them;
that I do feel part of their community;
that they are so used to me,
they come running when they see me
and it’s time to be fed,
and they ignore me as I walk close to them
any other time—trusting completely
my footsteps.

The other company
I keep
is the community of stars and planets.
Sometime every evening,
at least once,
I go to see them—
see what is where,
how many I can see,
which is red, blue, yellow,
clear,
bigger, more brilliant,
fainter.
Those nights they are brilliant
and many,
the sky clear and black,
something glad happens deep inside me
and I have to catch a deep breath.
Lately, the great swathe—
the other 100 billion stars
in the Milky Way—
are showing
and there is a sweet familiarity,
a quiet welcoming,
as if they’re/I’m coming home. Stars feel like
company,
always have.

How is it possible?
That though I’ve treated the stars,
the animals who live here,
like company,
suddenly,
I know:
they are.

10557160_10203890552378674_8023954093810462506_n“Landscape of the Heart”
A Watercolor by Mary Tevington

 

The gift of a welcoming friend
who realizes our interconnectedness
with everything
and enjoys soaking it up
in a bioregion
different from the one I enjoy
is delight.
A visit with Elizabeth and John
includes not only
healthful, tasty supper
and meaningful and fun conversation
but a long stay under the stars
and many joy-filled exclamations
around stars and bright moon
and soft night air
and the reluctance to go inside,
but the necessity to do so, so that
tomorrow morning’s walk
can be earlier than the wind
and unseasonable heat.
Surprisingly,
after record-high temperature (101!)
the morning is cool
as we set out on a woodland walk
toward Lake Tenkiller.

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Elizabeth lives in the Ozark Highland
ecoregion,
one of 11 or 13 (depending on whose drawing the map)
ecoregions in Oklahoma.
We live in the Prairie Tableland
of the Central Great Plains ecoregion.
Simply,
we live on the mixed grass prairie
and our friends live in the Ozark forest,
with Hickory and Oaks.
Elizabeth and I poke along the trail,
taking in everything we can.

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Evidence of tiny lives
catch our attention early…
delicate flowers on the ground,
beautiful clovers,
ferns, moss, lichen,
a tiny butterfly no bigger than a fat pea.
They flit around our feet,
almost invisible when they stop.
Unfolding briefly before flying again,
they expose lavender wings. And when
two land next to each other,
they look like scalloped flying flowers.
We listen for birds.
Birder-friends who had visited recently
had identified 27 varieties
in the forest birdsong.
I am thrilled just to see
a Summer Tanager couple.
He allows his gorgeous red self to be seen
while we stand thoroughly engaged.
Larger butterflies appear,
floating silently, as the air warms:
yellow Tiger Swallowtails, Monarchs
and an also-beautiful black/dark blue one.

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So good
to visit other bioregions,
enjoy the diversity of life,
notice how different habitats
enable and support different lives.
Born under the prairie’s big sky,
always called to the ocean, so far
away,
I walk in the sunlit, newly-greened woods
as butterflies softly approach
the very friend
who taught me interconnectedness
and the gratitude is so profound
I can only sigh
deeply.

Te constellation Orion is easily found thanks to a line of 3 stars. Below the trio is the sword with the Orion Nebula. Credit: Starry Night Software/ A.Fazekas

Love this blog: National Geographic’s Star Struck.
Keeps us posted
on what’s happening in the sky.

Tonight (Sunday, 5 January):

Jupiter Opposition. The largest planet in the solar system reaches official opposition on Sunday, January 5, rising opposite in the sky from the setting sun, and offering its biggest and brightest viewing opportunity to astronomers.

And coming up…Sneak-Peek: Top 5 Sky Events of 2014.