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Got Hope?

Following Prairiewoods’ Spirituality in the 21st Century conference with Ilia Delio, OSF, and Sara Thomsen in May 2017, a number of people felt challenged to continue finding hope in things going on in our community. Seven Hosting Hope Circles are forming this fall around topics like Health Care & Education and Peace & Restorative Justice.

One Hosting Hope Circle of particular interest to me is the Storytelling, Art & Music group. Together, those of us who make up this Hosting Hope Circle would like to offer you a bit of peace or respite from your busy day. We invite you to take a few minutes to reflect on the beauty of our planet in Tom Chapin’s song This Pretty Planet through links we have provided below. We all need to remember to take care of our planet, and perhaps this brief uplift can inspire us in our part of keeping our world viable and beautiful!

The following videos feature three different version of This Pretty Planet. Each is only a few minutes long. The first has stunning photos accompanying the song; the second offers Chapin’s thoughts on the song’s meaning and impact; and the third features a children’s choir, full of giggles and wiggles, and sure to bring a smile to your face.

For a lovely bit of inspiration and peace, click on the links below. Enjoy, and keep hope alive!

Song with Beautiful Photos

Tom Chapin’s Insights

Children’s Choir

(And If you would like to join us in finding hope for a better future through storytelling, art and music, please email Andi Lewis. We welcome your creativity and hope!)

—Joni Reed Cooley, Prairiewoods Artist-in-Residence

Posted Dec. 5, 2017

 

Prairiewoods Knitters & Stitchers

Our Knitters & Stitchers group is getting a reputation it seems! It’s a good one though.

Here is one story we experienced recently. A woman named Debbie does the collections for Salem United Methodist. She is already on our list for this year’s distributions and will be picking up a box of donations on the 14th. She said she takes them to schools.

Because we add tags with “Prairiewoods Knitters & Stitchers,” a second woman at Salem called the Prairiewoods office requesting children’s mittens, hats, and scarves for Kenwood School. She remembered the tags last year. Sheryl is part of the Kenwood Neighborhood Association. Well over half of the pupils there qualify for free lunches and she is acting on their behalf.

Getting requests is great for us. We pack up our yearly items in November and distribute them to many local places. This includes Olivet Neighborhood Missions, Homeless Veterans, Mission of Hope, Young Parents’ Network, and HACAP.

We have given to many other groups over the years and it seems to vary each year. We have also given monetary donations to food banks, weekend backpack programs (now through HACAP), SPRINT (a Wellington Heights program), as well as Prairiewoods. This money is from the profits of the Holiday Bazaar.

We appreciate the use of a beautiful, peaceful location. The notices in your newsletter have been appreciated because they bring in many new knitters plus an overwhelming amount of donated yarn. All of our items are made from these supplies.

Thank you, Prairiewoods, for taking us under your wing. We have made many new friends, shared tips, taught techniques to beginners, and created a supportive group of companions.

—Diane Olsen, Prairiewoods Knitters and Stitchers

Posted Nov. 21, 2017

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

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

 

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