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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

Practicing Yoga at Prairiewoods

Hatha Way Yoga has been at Prairiewoods for almost 4 years now, and it has been an effortless recipe for calm and well-being. Created by the simplicity and beauty of a natural setting coupled with down to earth and loving people—I can’t think of a better place for yoga!

Check out our schedule here. We haven’t had many changes to the schedule in the past few years, but this year we decided to move the chair classes from 4:15 p.m. to 10:45 a.m. Also, beginning July 1, we are cancelling the evening classes. We are hoping these changes will give more folks the opportunity to attend without exhausting me! The chair classes are meant for adults with limitations, such as knee, hip or shoulder issues, who still need flexibility, balance and improved range of motion. Chair yoga is the perfect place to start for those who are fearful or cannot get up and down from the floor easily.

Also, this year, I am excited to host my first Yoga Retreat at Prairiewoods! The Joy of Yoga will be a weeklong retreat, July 24–28. If you haven’t attended a yoga retreat, I promise, a week filled with yoga, meditation and general feel-good activities is the best way to refocus and pamper yourself! Please check it out on the Prairiewoods website.

Hoping to meet you on the mat! Namaste!

—Cindy Hathaway, Prairiewoods program facilitator

Posted June 20, 2017

 

A Reflection on God’s Grandeur

This was written as my reflection following the lecture by Wendy M. Wright and her reading of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem God’s Grandeur. As I pondered these things, the Canticle of the Sun came to mind, as did the book my Companion group People of the Earth is reading, Ilia Delio’s Care for Creation: a Franciscan spirituality of the earth.

 

Realizing the glorious beauty of the world is almost beyond comprehension
Coming to terms with the ways we have trod, have trod, have trod
is our greatest hope to regain our awe
for the grandest of God’s work on our behalf.
There are shards of light in people rising up (Standing Rock, Flint; Michigan; Paris Accord)
standing up for this grandeur that is your work, O God,
getting in touch with the shining beauty.

We cannot and must not keep trodding, trodding,
trodding on this shook foil.

We cannot and must not tarnish any further the creation or her creatures great and small. They are as brother and sister to us—

Brother Sun, Sister Moon
Brother Wind and Air, Sister Water
Brother Fire, Sister, Mother Earth

And yet we trod, we pillage, we burn
we plow fence row to fence row—oh my, we
even remove the fences and take down the
habitat that houses brother and sister creatures
leaving them without shelter.

Forgive us, Holy One, Holy Three,
for our consumption, for lack of courage
to join in standing alongside our Brothers and Sisters,
human and creaturely and even the plants and minerals that
give beauty to your world.
May you, Holy Spirit, bend over us
with warm breast and ah! bright wings
to teach us anew the connections you
invite us to see—to taste—to smell
—hear and touch in all your creation—
Your Glorious Grandeur we call home. May it be so—

—Rose M. Blank, Prairiewoods friend

Posted June 6, 2017

 

Ubuntu

Last week, my niece posted a photograph of her new tattoo: hands, holding the Earth, with the word “Ubuntu” inscribed below it.

The next day, I met singer/songwriter Sara Thomsen, and saw her project booklet (from an event combining music, art, poetry) titled Ubuntu.

On the third day, I walked into my brother’s home in Chicago and immediately saw a sign, “I am because we are.” In other words, ubuntu.

Some, perhaps many, people would have me believe this is a great example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (also known as frequency illusion). But that would remove all of the magic and wonder from the experience of such synchronicities—and I believe that magic and wonder are absolutely necessary these days. I refuse to give them up in the name of psychology.

I first heard the word and concept of ubuntu in a televised interview with Desmond Tutu 20 years ago. He roughly translated it as “a person is a person through other people”—I remember it because I immediately wrote it in my journal so I wouldn’t forget. It spoke to me very deeply of what I knew in my heart but always had difficulty articulating: namely, that we are all intimately connected with one another. The concept has a long history and has been translated in various ways, though maintaining throughout its essential character. Ubuntu is about relationships. (See more history here.)

Though I haven’t had a chance to ask her yet, my niece Hallie most likely became aware of the concept because of her love for and travels to Africa. Hallie is our social justice warrior, our peacemaker, our world citizen. Ubuntu is a concept she has understood since she was quite young, regardless of when she learned the word that names it. Hallie has a heart for the world and will fight for equality and opportunity and fairness for all. When I saw the beautiful photo of her tattoo I couldn’t help but feel emotional. “My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours,” she declares. It is written on her body.

I met Sara Thomsen when she was one of the facilitators for our annual Spirituality in the 21st Century event. I learned about her work with the Echoes of Peace community choir, and their “Art of Ubuntu” project. Prairiewoods’ vision, expressed through offerings such as our annual event, is beautifully commensurate with the Beloved Community described in this quote from the “Art of Ubuntu” project materials:

It is like the Beloved Community, the “network of mutuality” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke … “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. This is the interrelated structure of all reality. You can never be what you ought to be until I become what I ought to be.”

Immediately after closing our conference on Saturday, I drove to Chicago. The main reason for the trip was to see my niece Zoe in the role of Veruca Salt in her school production of Willy Wonka. (She was awesome!) As I joined together with family and friends after the production, I was once again reminded that connectedness is our nature. “I am because we are,” as the sign in my brother’s living room declares.

Ubuntu: I so needed this repetition of the concept. I refuse to chalk it up to a mental trick or illusion. When you are parched and thirsty, water is always a miracle, not merely a chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen. More than anything, I needed the reminder that there are many others who hold ubuntu in their hearts. It is inspiring and affirming and it offers me energy for whatever this day or the next may bring.

As Sara Thomsen’s song “By Breath” says:

“The fire in my heart, my soul flame burning
Is the fire in your heart, your soul flame burning
We are Spirit burning bright, by the light of day, in the dark of night
We are shining like the sun, and like the moon, like the Holy One

By breath, by blood, by body, by spirit, we are all one”

—Jenifer Hanson, Prairiewoods director

Posted May 23, 2017

 

What can I do to make today a little easier for you?

I am not comfortable with the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers.” Why can’t they be choosers? Someone who has to ask for help is no longer entitled to preferences?

A few months ago, I saw a woman standing on the side of the road, asking those who passed by in a little Prius or a huge Durango for some spare change and a little compassion. I took a break and sat down with her, this kind, well-worn woman named Dawn. I learned that Dawn loves chocolate donuts, red Gatorade and hot chocolate on cold Iowa days.

So instead of simply handing a few dollars out my car window and driving on, I began asking, “Dawn, what can I do to make today a little easier for you?” Some days, she just wanted something cold to drink; once, she needed a full meal, as she hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours. No matter what sustenance she needs on a particular day, Dawn seems to crave companionship as much as anything. I try to give her both.

Over the last few months, she has gone through several major life changes, including leaving an abusive boyfriend who bruised her skin and her spirit. I just listened, and brought her a few extra chocolate donuts.

Pope Francis recently said that, when we encounter panhandlers, we should give them money and not worry about where it will go or what it will be used for. Whether it is used for diapers or drugs, food or liquor, we should give. The pope says that if “a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s O.K. Instead, ask yourself, what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?”

When Pope Francis says that giving to someone in need is “always right,” I think of Dawn and all she has given to me. I can only imagine how much better life would be if we approached everyone with the question, “What can I do to make today a little easier for you?”

—Andi Lewis, Prairiewoods marketing coordinator

Posted April 25, 2017

Solar Love

On March 31, Iowa Interfaith Power & Light organized a solar tour in Eastern Iowa, inviting local elected officials to learn about solar and why organizations in the area choose solar power. Here at Prairiewoods, we choose solar for a number of reasons:

1) Solar (renewable energy) fits deeply with our missions and core values of caring for creation

2) Solar power helps us be a place where people can come and learn about many ways that individuals and businesses can incorporate eco-friendly practices and systems into their lives—whether it be installing a photovoltaic solar array or making a rain barrel

3) Benefits are three-fold: environmental, financial and educational

Prairiewoods has a 100-unit photovoltaic (PV) array that is tied into the Alliant Energy utility system. (We have other solar units on site that are off-grid and store energy in batteries.) This 17.5-kilowatt system provides about half of our electricity needs. It was installed in 2009 and 2010.

I loved sharing our solar story with some of our elected officials at the city and state level. Renewable energy is on the rise, but people are still largely unaware of how these systems work and opportunities to see them in operation are still fairly uncommon. Thankfully Prairiewoods is a great place to come and learn more, as well as see renewable energy systems and eco-friendly practices in person! Do you have a group that wants a tour of our many eco-features? If so, get in touch with me here at Prairiewoods!

We love solar here at Prairiewoods, and thankfully the sun loves us too … and I am reminded of that great love when I read this short poem:

The Sun Never Says
by Hafiz

Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to Earth,

“You Owe Me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

—Emelia Sautter, Prairiewoods ecospirituality coordinator

Posted April 11, 2017

Transformational Singing Bowls

Kathy Broghammer offers regular opportunities to pray and relax with the sounds of singing bowls at Prairiewoods. (Find some upcoming opportunities on our calendar.) Here is her take on the experience …

I become an open vessel, one with the bowls. Allowing the vibrations of the bowls to settle in, releasing tensions, calm my mind, and soothe my soul. I give myself space, connecting with the Divine within. I listen, RECEIVE, melt into peace. Allowing this sense of well-being, I become a better healing vessel for the world, to BE a healing presence for others.

The Himalayan and crystal elemental bowls must be experienced to fully appreciate. Others have commented on their transformational and nurturing experiences. Offering opportunities to others to have these experiences is heartwarming and enriching. Playing my singing bowls brings me great joy, whether it is at a spiritual retreat center, yoga studio or private session.

—Kathy Broghammer, Prairiewoods facilitator

Posted March 28, 2017

Echoing a Song is Somewhere to Begin

A song is a gardener
It picks up a shovel and starts to dig.
Tenderly tips the blade into the burnt and brazed,
Crusted, cranky, depleted, impenetrable soil
at the surface of the heart

Tosses and turns over and around all the scraps, remnants, remains,
All the crap, cruelty, and craziness
Amending, softening, sifting
Activating, aerating, enlivening

A song is a seed
It is not derailed, discouraged, deterred by gated, guarded hearts
It finds every shortcut, crack and crevice
It flits, floats, meanders, winds, works its way in
Wakes us up to what is and what can be

It will knock down the wall and fashion a bridge from sundered stone
Enter the soul’s secret garden
Subtly scatter seed

A song will not change a policy, re-write the laws, topple dictators,
End discrimination, stop deforestation
House the homeless, feed the hungry, heal the land

The singing of songs, the piping of poems,
The drumming, dancing, delving, digging, delighting, daring,
Beautiful boldness of art
Will merely crack open the hard shell
of the dormant heart

And hearts awakened
are unstoppable.

May a song, a story, a poem, a painting, a puppet
Tap you on the shoulder
Trickle to your heart
Invite you to Dance
Ripple, rhyme, resound
a pebble tossed
an echo of peace

—poem by Sara Thomsen, Prairiewoods facilitator

 

Sara Thomsen will be the musician for Consciousness & Christogenesis, Prairiewoods’ annual Spirituality in the 21st Century event May 5–6, 2017. Learn more about this chance to find hope for emerging wholeness here. Also be sure to check out Sara on her website or listen to her song Somewhere to Begin on YouTube!

 

Posted March 14, 2017

The Cedar Rapids Floods

 

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness …
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

—from Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

In 2008, Cedar Rapids experienced a catastrophic flood. It surprised us, the waters rising fast and destroying so much of what made our town unique. I’ll always be haunted by the memory of cresting the hill on the south side of town, after the main flood waters had passed, to discover the very heart of the city enveloped in darkness. The sorrow and loss of that sight.

For eight years, many people labored to not only bring the city back but to make it better, stronger, more distinctive until you could literally feel the energy of creativity and new growth.

As this photo from Lone Star Aerial shows, Cedar Rapids was prepared for the flood in Sept. 2016.

And then the unthinkable: another flood threatened the city in the very same way. This time, we had some warning, a little time to prepare. And the people, remembering, rolled up their sleeves and got to work saving our city and each other. It was inspiring, and it was humbling—and it was an example of what we are capable of when we forget our differences in the midst of what we share.

We still have our differences. We still have our critics. We still have our imperfections. However, what we learned from what we lost is ours now—we own it, and it has changed us for the better.

—Jenifer Hanson, Prairiewoods director

Posted Feb. 28, 2017