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Did You Know-vember …

When we are out in the community, we often encounter people who have no idea that Prairiewoods exists. We also meet those who think we are a convent, a nursing home or a private club. To ensure that the greater community knows about all the resources Prairiewoods has to offer, we have embarked on a campaign called Did You Know-vember. Each day in the month of November, we are posting a new Prairiewoods-centered fact to our Facebook page.

Like us on Facebook to see each post and to join in the conversation. And in case you aren’t on Facebook, here’s a complete list of our Did You Know-vember facts. Is any of this information new to you? Let us know in the comments below!

Did you know …

that Prairiewoods was founded in 1996 to further connect spirituality with care for Earth? It was created in the spirit of theologians and writers such as Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, and it has developed at the forefront of eco-spirituality over the last 21 years!

that Prairiewoods was founded in the Franciscan tradition? St. Francis of Assisi is known for his love for and kinship with the natural environment and for his beautiful canticles in praise of Creation. People of many faiths are drawn to St. Francis through our shared love of the environment!

that Prairiewoods offers about 400 programs and retreats each year to help you explore ecology, spirituality and holistic health? For a current list, check out our events on Facebook, visit www.Prairiewoods.org or read our newsletter!

that the Prairiewoods Guest House and Hermitages offer a place to unplug and experience quiet, reflection and prayer at the low price of $55 per night? Book now to get away for a few relaxing, rejuvenating nights!

that the items in the Prairiewoods Gift Shop are carefully curated to provide you with current and classic spirituality books, fair trade and eco-friendly items for your home, and cards and gifts that feature local images? Check it out any time the Center is open!

that Prairiewoods has more than 2.5 miles of wood-chipped walking trails that are open to the public and pets? You are welcome to walk the trails any time you need to get outside, connect with nature or commune with God through this great Creation!

that the labyrinth is a prayer and meditation tool found in medieval churches as well as at Prairiewoods? We have a beautiful outdoor stone labyrinth that all are welcome to walk, as well as an indoor labyrinth available for rent.

that Prairiewoods has several meeting spaces for rent that accommodate 2 to 70 people? Your business, church or other organization can host workshops in the natural beauty of Prairiewoods with a variety of extra comforts, like healthy meals made on-site and overnight lodging.

that the Prairiewoods Art Room is stocked with a variety of art supplies? You are welcome to grab some pastels, markers or paints and get creative, either in the beautiful natural light of the Art Room or on one of the many benches that dot our 70 acres of woods and prairie!

that Prairiewoods has 100 solar panels that provide about 45% of the electricity we need in the Center? The sun’s power also heats the water used in the Guest House, powers everything in the Hermitages and even heats a Hoop House in our Green Prairie Garden!

that three of Prairiewoods’ six foundresses are still on staff 21 years after they started this retreat and conference center? They offer a wonderful continuity of vision to our mission-focused offerings, such as retreats, programs, spiritual direction and holistic services.

that the Prairiewoods Media Center is a full lending library, currently offering 3,783 different books on topics ranging from ecology to women’s spirituality, theology to Pope Francis? Check it out the next time you need a good read or a great resource!

that Prairiewoods hosts an annual Holiday Bazaar on the Saturday before Thanksgiving? This features handmade gifts from a number of local artists and is a great way to kick off the holiday season. Join us this Saturday, Nov. 18, for this year’s Holiday Bazaar!

that the Prairiewoods staff is comprised of both lay people and sisters? (At this time, twelve lay people of various spiritual backgrounds and six Catholic sisters make up our staff.) We welcome people of all faiths, at any point on the spiritual path!

that Prairiewoods partners with Metro Catholic Outreach (MCO) to tend our huge Green Prairie Garden? Together, we harvest about 2,000 pounds of produce each year! This food is used in meals for our guests and given to families in need through the MCO food pantry.

that almost 200 volunteers donate 5,000 hours of their time to Prairiewoods each year? They help with office work, special projects and mailings, kitchen cleanup, housekeeping and laundry, hospitality, outdoor land maintenance and gardening. Call us to get involved!

that Prairiewoods offers more than 800 holistic services each year, including massage, reflexology, healing touch and guided meditation? If you can’t choose just one service, join us for our popular Day of Self Renewal—a full day of pampering offered each month!

that Prairiewoods’ six trained spiritual directors offer more than 1,500 spiritual direction sessions each year? Spiritual direction is an ancient Christian tradition that provides you with a companion on your spiritual journey, someone to listen and ask questions. Call to see how it can help you!

that Prairiewoods has a traditional sweat lodge on site and works with local Native Americans to offer frequent Sweat Lodge Ceremonies? This ceremony predates recorded history and is focused on prayer, purification, recognition and healing.

that Prairiewoods has on-staff chefs who prepare meals for our guests, mostly from local, organic ingredients? In fact, you can feast on a fabulous holiday harvest meal at the Y.O.L.O. (Your Other Lunch Option!) Lunch on Wednesday, Dec. 6!

that Prairiewoods’ 70 acres are home to a huge variety of wildlife, including birds, snakes, insects, rabbits, squirrels, owls, turkeys, red foxes, groundhogs and our beloved deer? Take your family on a walk through our trails and see how many species you can spot!

that Prairiewoods offers about 25 organized group retreats each year? These range from week-long silent directed retreats to weekend forays into writing, social activism, yoga and meditation. Find a retreat that calls to you at www.Prairiewoods.org/Group-Retreats!

that a number of groups host their annual creative workshops at Prairiewoods? Our meeting spaces and Guest House witness the creativity of everyone from quilters to yoga practitioners, embroiderers to writers. Come see how these grounds encourage your creative side!

that Prairiewoods has a beautiful Meditation Room? The floor-to-ceiling windows facing the woods encourage contemplation, prayer and meditation in a quiet, serene setting. You are welcome to write your intentions in our book for continued prayer by our staff and volunteers.

that Prairiewoods was founded on a deep love for Earth? Because of that, we take ecology very seriously! Our extensive green features include solar panels, green-cleaning practices, a solar-heated hoop house and a holistic land management approach.

that the Eastern Iowa Heirloom Quilters Guild created the stunning quilts that grace the Prairiewoods Guest House? Thanks to their generosity with their time and talents, all 33 beds in the Guest House are warmed by their loving creations!

—Andi Lewis, Prairiewoods marketing coordinator

Posted Nov. 7, 2017

Harvesting Relationships

Fall is the time of harvest, of reaping what has been sown. It is a time to delight in abundance and to be grateful for all that the Universe provides. Here at Prairiewoods, we are astonished by all that we are honored to harvest—from the hearty squash to the sweet plums to the caring relationships that are ever-evolving with Earth, Spirit, self and others.

Please allow us to share some of what is being harvested here at Prairiewoods!

We harvest the creative ideas, plans and designs of the flower gardeners. Using God’s palette of colors, shapes and sizes, they lend their own unique talents to tend the flowering beauty that feeds our souls. Their commitment, energy, hard work and joy is a harvest of inspiration!

 

 

 

 

Weekly, we harvest a special crop with our Wednesday Outdoor Crew. Not only do they sweat while doing routine mowing and upkeep, they also suggest and carry out improvements that will make Prairiewoods flourish. Over years of service, they have moved from volunteers to special guardians of the land!

 

Over the last three years, we have been harvesting a mutually beneficial relationship with Metro Catholic Outreach (MCO) via our veggie garden, known as the Green Prairie Garden. We provide the land to grow food for our guests and for the MCO food pantry, and MCO provides many of the volunteers that tend the garden. This relationship has harvested around 2,000 pounds of produce just this year!

 

A fairly new relationship that is plentiful in its harvest is our collaboration with Backyard Abundance, a nonprofit organization in Iowa City with a focus on edible landscapes and permaculture—a gardening style that incorporates the natural cycles of nature, making gardening a more joyful, connected experience. This harvest includes the creation of the Healing Garden, our ever-developing Garden of Eat’n and permaculture beds in the Green Prairie Garden. Jen Kardos and Fred Meyer, Backyard Abundance co-directors, love visiting Prairiewoods … and we love learning from them!

 

Although a number of our staff members have been at Prairiewoods for its entire 21-year history, we are growing and changing. On Aug. 21 (the day of the solar eclipse), Angie Pierce Jennings joined the Prairiewoods staff in the new position of Hosted Groups & Hospitality Coordinator. Angie has always felt welcome at Prairiewoods and is very excited to offer that hospitality to all our visitors! She has a great love for music and the arts, is a people person, loves nature, and is an advocate for education and environmental sustainability. We celebrate in harvesting new relationships with a growing and changing staff!

 

We are grateful for the many relationships that make Prairiewoods what it is today! In what ways are you harvesting relationships—with Earth, with our loving Creator, with yourself or with other people? Perhaps you are:

  • standing up for Earth by taking action for renewable energy (with an organization like 350.org)
  • improving your relationship with God and God’s people by championing interfaith relations (through an organization like the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County, www.IRCLC.org)
  • getting centered and grounded in who you are as a person (through participating in Prairiewoods spiritual direction or programming like yoga, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, a Silent Directed Retreat or Wednesday Women)
  • helping your neighbors by committing to permaculture and pesticide-free lawn care (check out www.GoodNeighborIowa.org)

Whatever you are doing to harvest relationships, we would love to hear your story! Please share it with us on Facebook.

—Nancy Hoffman, FSPA; Angie Pierce Jennings & Emelia Sautter; Prairiewoods staff members

Posted Oct. 24, 2017

Prairiewoods Holiday Bazaar

Saturday, Nov. 18, 8 a.m.–1 p.m.

Join us for Prairiewoods’ annual Holiday Bazaar to jump start your Christmas shopping and get in the spirit of the season! There is no entrance fee, and coffee, warm apple cider, breakfast items and lunch will be available for purchase. Visit the energy room for a holistic services open house!

The Prairiewoods Gift Shop offers:
Prairiewoods Tree-shirts (long-sleeve crew-neck and short-sleeve V-neck shirts featuring our original tree of life design)
Books on spirituality and ecology
Wind chimes
Fair-trade scarves
Critters beautifully carved out of tagua nuts
Gift certificates for holistic services, programming and the Gift Shop

Local vendors offer handcrafted items such as:
Mixed-media artwork
Baked goods
Knitted and crocheted items
Unique cards and notebooks
Pottery
Jewelry
Handmade toys
Holiday ornaments
and much, much more!

This will be a great opportunity to cross items off your shopping list and get into the holiday spirit!

—Angie Pierce Jennings, Prairiewoods hosted groups & hospitality coordinator

Posted Oct. 13, 2017

Green Prairie Garden

Metro Catholic Outreach (MCO) is a Cedar Rapids–area nonprofit that provides groceries to about 400 local families each month. Like most food pantries, they realized they were supplying their families with lots of canned and boxed goods, but very few fresh, healthy foods. In 2014, they began partnering with Prairiewoods to cultivate the vegetable garden at Prairiewoods, which we call Green Prairie Garden.

Through this partnership, Prairiewoods gets tons of volunteer help tending the garden, MCO is able to nourish a huge plot of land and the families who rely on MCO for some of their food get veggies straight from a local garden. It’s a match made in heaven!

Next time you’re at Prairiewoods, you’re invited to wander through the giant Green Prairie Garden, sampling the fresh produce as you go. Perhaps you can also say a little prayer for those who are nourished by the garden and for those at MCO who so graciously tend it!

—Andi Lewis, Prairiewoods marketing coordinator

Posted Sept. 26, 2017

Images of Hope

After releasing the 2017 Retreats Brochure, Prairiewoods received a lot of positive feedback on the cover art, which was created by Dutch artist Coby van den Heuvel. The bright colors, mesmerizing spiral and intricate patterns from nature were captivating, and you responded. Thanks for letting us know how much you liked it!

Because of that feedback, we realized that the Retreats Brochure, which is delivered to 10,000 homes, is being noticed and read. So why not use it to feature a local artist and an image from Prairiewoods’ 70 acres of natural beauty? That’s where you come in8! Prairiewoods invites all photographers and artists to capture Prairiewoods Images of Hope!

Do you have an eye-catching photo or piece of art you took or created at Prairiewoods that shows inter-connection or hope? Have you captured a beautiful rainbow, an intricate spider web or intertwined trees? Do you have evidence of an inter-species friendship or new life? Feel free to think outside the box!

Submit your favorite photo or artwork to Prairiewoods for our Images of Hope campaign. The entry that we feel best captures hope or inter-connection will be featured on the cover of the 2018 Retreats Brochure. Even if your entry isn’t chosen, it may be used for future marketing efforts with credit to you as the photographer. Entries should be emailed to me as high-resolution images by Oct. 16.

So get creative, and capture Images of Hope!

—Andi Lewis, Prairiewoods marketing coordinator

Posted Sept. 12, 2017

Sweetgrass Flute & Nature Festival

Come hear the voice of the land! The third annual Sweetgrass Flute & Nature Festival is coming to Prairiewoods Sept. 29–Oct. 1. This free, family-friendly festival includes live performances by internationally renowned musicians specializing in the music of Native American–style flutes and world flutes.

Unlike any other event in the Midwest, Sweetgrass offers abundant opportunities to immerse yourself in indigenous music, nature and mind-body-spirit wellness. Participate in a variety of workshops for the whole family to experience inner transformation, learning and fun! Then stroll through vendor village to find great food, one-of-a-kind crafts, handmade flutes, essential oils, nature-inspired jewelry and more.

The festival culminates Sunday afternoon, with Prairiewoods’ popular Blessing of the Animals. Bring every member of the family—even those with fur, wings, scales and fins—to this annual celebration in honor of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology. This family- and pet-friendly celebration honors our connection with animals, Earth and all of creation. Sweetgrass concerts, workshops and vendors will be available starting at 11 a.m., as well as children’s activities at noon.  At 3 p.m., join us for a tribute to Earth, our common home, as local organizations share positive stories about ways they are caring for Earth, followed by the Blessing of the Animals.

Details
The festival features live performances by eight critically acclaimed musicians specializing in indigenous and world flutes.

Workshops will teach you everything from mandala painting to smudging, yoga to didgeridoo playing. Come play and learn!

Vendors offer handmade flutes, local food, organic and natural items, arts, crafts, jewelry, stones, essential oils and so much more!

Sunday’s Blessing of the Animals allows you to include your favorite four-legged, winged or slithering family members in the fun!

Schedule
Friday, Sept. 29, 5–9 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 1, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. (Blessing of the Animals at 3)

Visit www.SweetgrassFest.com for complete details, including schedules for concerts and workshops. This unique, nature-focused music festival is one your whole family will love!

—Emy Sautter, Prairiewoods staff

Posted Aug. 29, 2017

The Ancient Tree and the Tyrant

When I see a tyrant,
Bloated with ego,
I must look beyond
His twisted fury
At the ancient tree behind him.

Then I remember what is real.
Those beautiful gnarled branches
Still creaking, reaching out
Providing shade, even to tyrants.

Her roots still pushing
Against rock-hard darkness
Deep in the ground
Under everyone’s feet.
Where they have been soaking in
The earth’s richness
Long before our time.

Have courage!
Speak out against hatred,
But not before admitting your own.
We are weak, but Love is strong.
All things are passing, but Love remains.

Roots seek water
Sap will flow
Sediment settles
Love is what I know.

—Jean Elliott Junis, Prairiewoods retreatant

Posted Aug. 15, 2017

 

Garden of Eat’n

Have you noticed the many changes happening around the Prairiewoods Center? We’re working with Backyard Abundance to create new permaculture landscaping that features edible landscapes (with lots of veggies and herbs for snacking), a Healing Garden, a mushroom growing area and Outdoor Classrooms. These are all part of the Garden of Eat’n that began this spring.

Edible landscapes surround the Center with fruit, vegetable and herb plants. You can eat your way through the walk—look for signs that explain what you’re eat’n!

A Healing Garden between the Center and Guest House features a sitting bench, St. Francis statue and willow angel, as well as edible herbs and fruit.

A mushroom growing area just outside the kitchen is complete with inoculated logs that will soon produce shiitake and chicken of the woods mushrooms.

Outdoor Classrooms allow facilitators to lead hands-on workshops on everything from holistic gardening practices to container gardening. Come learn in this fun environment!

—Emy Sautter, Prairiewoods staff

Posted Aug. 3, 2017

 

 

Lilies Rising

Lilies Rising
The Milky Way is overflowing
With mother’s milk that keeps pouring
Down, upon the earth.
Droplets rooting as lilies.

I woke up the day
A lily brushed my cheek.
Strong stalk and fleshy petals
Trumpeted out a mother’s fierce cry-

Love the earth and all who dwell upon it!
Oh, drink freely from
Her wisdom
And live!

—Jean Elliott Junis, Prairiewoods retreatant

Posted July 18, 2017

Interning at Prairiewoods

My name is Taryn Freilinger. I am a student at Mount Mercy University and graduated in May with a Bachelor’s of Biology and a Bachelor’s of Outdoor Conservation. I am currently interning at Prairiewoods, helping create the Garden of Eat’n in order to fulfill requirements for my Outdoor Conservation degree. When I heard of this opportunity I was excited at the possibility to be a part of it. The garden is not only a place for beauty but also a place for learning and sustainability. Also it offers food for both humans and animals, creating an ecofriendly habitat. There are various aspects to the garden at Prairiewoods. These include a healing garden, mushroom classroom, veggies and herbs, and more. To go along with the beautiful space, Prairiewoods hopes to utilize the garden walk to help teach others the importance of sustainability and how they can implement similar aspects into their own gardens.

My journey started in October. My first day, I spent two hours shoveling rock. You would be safe in guessing I had a sore back the next day! In the weeks that followed I began removing and transplanting some plants that were a part of the original landscape. I removed wheel barrows and wheel barrows of lilies! I began wondering if the lilies were ever going to end!? Once we had gotten all the plants that needed to be removed from the area, cardboard was put down and covered with a thick layer of mulch. This “sheet mulching” inhibits the growth of weeds (plants we don’t want in this area). Eventually the cardboard and mulch break down, adding nutrients to the soil. We got this done just in time before the cold weather was too bad.

This winter, I researched information that was used to create an educational sign in the Center about the new Garden of Eat’n project. To keep myself busy and learning through the winter, I also found informational videos to watch and learn from. The videos that I have watched so far include Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective and Forks over Knives, two documentary films. I also watched numerous YouTube videos, including New Earth Living; Grow Your Own Food, Permaculture Design and Simplicity; and Why I Live a Zero Waste Life. Each video offered useful information. The two films were informational and eye opening. They provided information that could be life changing. Inhabit went through various homes around the United States and talked to people about how they utilize permaculture. There were back yards and even entire farms! Forks over Knives discussed the effects of animal-product foods versus plant-based or whole-food diets. There were many interesting facts provided in the film. The videos were more informational with the exception of the Zero Waste Life. Lauren Singer shared how and why she lives a zero waste life and it is truly amazing. I would recommend watching all of these videos/films.

As spring hit, I began working outside again. I worked a full day on Wednesdays and a half day in the mornings on Friday. I helped with whatever needed to be done to create this wonderful edible garden walk. So if you have any free time don’t be afraid to stop on out and lend a hand!

—Taryn Freilinger, Prairiewoods intern (Oct. 2016–June 2017)

Posted July 4, 2017