Otis & Friends 1I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

One friend I want to introduce you to is Marianne Abel-Lipschutz. She and I spend a lot of time together at Prairiewoods … on the trails, around the Labyrinth and in programs like Seeing IS Believing (although I usually just peer in through the window). Marianne is a writer, and I love when she reads to me and to the other animals in the woods. Here she tells us about solitude, a topic we critters know a lot about …

I’m not complaining, but it’s really hard to be alone at Prairiewoods. Cars in the parking lot, tracks in the snow, a movement in the sky chair under the big oak trees, everywhere I look or go, something reminds me, “You are not alone.” Billions of years ago a sign appeared on one of the trees in the forest across from the community center, marking time even then. Signs are for people to read. The proverbial babbling brook communicates its story of the day, loud and rushing if rain overflows, or nearly silent in the dog days of summer.

Marianne Abel-LipschutzPrairie grasses whistle with the wind. The coverings for the sweat lodge are drying off or wrapped up, evidence of people coming from or going to the inipi ceremony. Footprints on the sand path around the labyrinth tell me who has recently walked the spiral, whether human or not, inward, outward, or beyond. They are so present. I wonder if they received the answer to their spiritual quest and, of course, what their question was. Otis the squirrel waits to say hello near the patio door.

Prairiewoods cultivates a heightened awareness of “other.” Other is not the foreigner we can never meet on our own terms but the community at large—past, present, and future; animal, vegetable, mineral; spiritual, cosmic, and whole. The Presence, drawn in as if through the solar panels, infuses the place with inescapable Love. Relentless community. Even the hermitages are a community of two.

—Marianne Abel-Lipschutz, program participant