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Holistic Health

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

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

 

 

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

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

Dakota Access Pipeline & the Value of Water

Otis & Friends 5I’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.

My squirrel friends and I live on the banks of Dry Creek, so we understand the value of clean water. Prairiewoods Director Jenifer Hanson grew up on the banks of the Mississippi River. Here is her story of what that water — and all water — means to her …

I could not see the river from the yard of my childhood home, high on the bluffs of Dubuque, Iowa. Yet the Mississippi was a felt presence there, always that force by which I oriented myself in the world. Even at play, I paused for the low sad call of a barge whistle. In the Dubuque of my youth, there were the flats and the bluffs, dividing rich from poor; there was the north end and the south end, dividing Germans from Irish. But relation to the river defined them all.

All of my early life was lived along the Mississippi. We left Dubuque for Davenport and Hastings, Minnesota, but both were Mississippi towns. For the four years we lived in Ohio, in a town along the Little Miami River, I yearned for THE river. Despite the fact that the Little Miami is a National Scenic Waterway, I couldn’t appreciate it. The Mississippi River was the water in my blood.

Jenifer Hanson on bike_cropA couple of years ago, on a bike ride with friends in the Twin Cities, we stopped and gazed at the Mississippi, from a point high above it. My friend, V, born and raised in St. Louis, released a satisfied sigh and said, “My river!” I laughed, having just had the same experience — an internal relaxation like that of coming home, accompanied by a proprietary love. Neither of us owns the river, but we both love it fiercely.

Today, in North Dakota, there are people fighting to protect the Missouri River from the Dakota Access Pipeline. People for whom that river speaks of life and home. People whose histories are inextricably bound to the land through which the Missouri wends its slow passage. My heart is with them, because their fight is my fight too — the same “black snake” is intended to pass through our rich Iowa farmland, and then underneath my river, too. Their fight is my fight, and is bigger even than us: because water is life for ALL.

I can’t believe in the safety of this pipeline despite the many assurances we’ve been given by those who support it. Pipelines virtually always leak at some point. It doesn’t take long to learn this — check out this list of pipeline accidents in the US since 2000, if you doubt that this pipeline poses a danger to the waters of our rivers, our groundwater, our soil. Look at the pictures of the aftermath of these leaks and explosions — I did, and they broke my heart.

There are many issues and opinions associated with this pipeline. I don’t claim to have all of the information, much less all of the answers, though I am educating myself. What I do claim is my love for one special river and the ways that river feeds, slakes the thirst of, and enhances the earth and its people. And because of that love, I hear in the depths of my heart the voices raised in care for other special places: other rivers, waterways, beloved and/or sacred lands that are endangered by human action.

What I do claim is my belief that water is the sacred right of all creatures on this earth — not to be squandered uselessly, endangered through greed, or owned by corporations.

—Jenifer Hanson, Prairiewoods Director

 

Set the Pace for Peace

Otis & Friends 4I’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.

Marianne Abel-Lipschutz is a writer, frequent program participant at Prairiewoods and friend to critters large and small. And as she describes here, she is one who is “baked in prayer” …

My friend Teresa texted our group of friends to pray for her mother Dorothy when she was rushed to the emergency room with a heart problem recently. A second text shared the doctor’s plan to install a “peacemaker” in Dorothy’s heart. I read through the typo, knowing that Teresa meant a pacemaker. This second text came as an early email before I left my house for Prairiewoods that day. The mental space offered by the hour-long drive helped me acknowledge the meaning of Teresa’s message. Going to Prairiewoods is the peacemaker my heart needs.

Marianne Abel-LipschutzThe Prairiewoods environment, community, events, and spiritual focus activate me in ways that reach beyond the masterful abilities of an electrical device. I can adjust more readily to the pace of life and be more fully responsive to the needs of those around me. Opening my heart and mind to the expansive energy of our world, I can receive and reflect the blessings of abundance that God makes available to all of us. Prairiewoods recharges me with the gift of lovingkindness, an eternally sustainable resource that comes with the air we breathe.

—Marianne Abel-Lipschutz, program participant

 

Anonymous Sightings at Prairiewoods

Otis & Friends 5I’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.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we are reminded of a multitude of tiny gestures that can add up to a feeling of welcome and beauty. One Prairiewoods guest, who prefers to remain nameless, finds reasons for gratitude in the tiniest details …

Anonymous is alive and well at Prairiewoods. Turning in off Boyson Road, the landscaped explosions of perennial colors show the care provided by volunteers we may not know. Just look at all the giving that enriches this sacred space: quiet conversations, swings, tables and chairs on patios, decks, picnic tables, benches, bird feeders, open space, laughter, mulched pathways, guest houses, silence, the solar installation. The community spirit is everywhere but you have to come frequently to catch someone actually doing the work that keeps Prairiewoods vital.

The floral and nature bouquets set on tables wherever people gather in the Center or Guest House are a subtle but consistent reminder of Anonymous among us. One winter weekend, I participated in a retreat that could have focused only on the exuberantly fresh flowers arranged in a vase on the presenter’s table, a glorious living sculpture the size of a human torso. The bouquet breathed the retreat theme of beauty as a path of worship.

Rita arranging flowersOne morning, I watched Sister Rita Heires trim the wilted flowers and greenery during a session break. Another time I saw several people prepare the Center for a silent retreat with single tables set for each retreatant. Every place held a unique tabletop corsage created by Sister Rita. I love coming to Prairiewoods to see what she has made for us that day.

Recently I walked into the conference room at the Center and out of the corner of my eye, the soft colors mixed in a tall vase on a side table intrigued me. My mind thought “iris” but another mental screen flashed “November.” Surprised, I turned to look more closely. Tall twigs with crisp, ochre leaves impersonated flowers. An evergreen branch held its flat needles like leaves. These simple parts posed in a pastel pink vase refreshed me, clarifying my attention for the contemplative session ahead.

When I asked about her training, Sister Rita laughed at anything so formal. Playing with flowers and natural forms dates back to her childhood on her family’s farm near Carroll. She loved making bouquets, even though her father didn’t like one more thing added to the table set for their large family. Now she roams Prairiewoods to collect what attracts her.

Sometimes her findings are spread out over the dessert table before she assembles her creations, vases and fabric and ribbon alongside hickory nut husks, flowers, greenery, water, and rocks. Intricate fabric swatches complement the complex patterns in seed pods and feathers, dried leaves and acorns. The juxtaposition of shapes, colors, and textures delights us: a centerpiece at lunch last week sported a hosta leaf, some parsley sprigs, and a dainty miniature iris, soft as silk.

The daily tasks of the Prairiewoods staff set the tone for humility and service in the programs, fields, gardens, and forest. You may not know or meet the person who does the work that catches your eye or fills your heart, but until then, you receive the great gift of service for the common good. Their work effortlessly transforms us. “I don’t know what it is about being here,” I’ve overheard people say on their way to the parking lot. “I feel different when I leave.” I think it’s why we keep coming back.

— Anonymous

Sweet Memories of Sweetgrass

Otis & Friends 4I’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.

Today I want to tell you about a lively party that recently took place right here in my home, the 70 acres that make up Prairiewoods …

The second annual Sweetgrass Flute & Nature Festival (and the flute school that preceded it) recently rocked the Prairiewoods grounds with the sounds of the Native American style flute and experiences that connected us to nature. Even though the Cedar River was cresting, about 1,000 guests came to Prairiewoods Sept. 23–25 to hear — and BE — the voice of the land!

Here are a few pictorial highlights of the festivities, as shared by our friends on social media. If you have others you’d like to share, feel free to use the comments section below. (If you don’t see “Add a Comment,” click on the green “Sweet Memories of Sweetgrass” above and then scroll to the bottom.)

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Happy Anniversary, Prairiewoods!

Otis & Friends 3I’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 such friend is Laura Weber, the associate director and retreat coordinator at Prairiewoods. Laura, like many who come to Prairiewoods, finds solace in a slow walk through the woods, a wordless discussion with nature. Here is her take on Prairiewoods’ first 20 years …

When Prairiewoods opened twenty years ago, the first retreat we hosted was a Silent Directed Retreat, offering guests a gracious invitation to come away to the quiet and rest. Guests were welcomed first and most hospitably by the land and the creatures who call Prairiewoods home. Pilgrims who needed respite were embraced by the trees, caressed by the gentle breezes rolling through the prairie grasses, and delighted by the deer peeking through the brush to see who these cerebral creatures were making their way through the woods. Butterflies and dragonflies alighting on the lily pads, bees buzzing around the wild flowers, turkeys in their rafters gobbling for sheer joy, frogs croaking in great chorus to welcome the evening shroud, and squirrels like Otis scampering through fallen leaves to hide their nutty stash were all welcoming signs of love and hope for the weary souls who came to this sacred place carrying too many burdens.

Soon, more people would come, and more, until thousands made their way each year to Prairiewoods for the quiet, to receive healing energy, to pray silently in the Meditation Room and to fall asleep listening to the owls and the locusts. They came to walk the Cosmic Walk, entering into the big story of the great Flaring Forth of the universe from the Font of Eternal Love and then finding their own place in the awesome magnificence of creation. They came to stroll through the gardens, and to breathe in the sweetness of lilac and jasmine, pine needles and pungent brown earth. They came to wind their way prayerfully around the labyrinth, in the midst of all life’s twists and turns, and to journey way out to the edges, only to find themselves at home in the middle of it all. They came to sing or dance, paint mandalas, beat drums, or sit peacefully by the pond or Dry Creek, mesmerized by the birdsong and the way the sunlight plays on the high canopies. Here is where they remembered their breath again. Here is where they found that “all is well and all manner of things shall be well.”

Laura and WolfieTwenty years later, Prairiewoods is still hosting sojourners seeking spiritual renewal, healing for body and soul, and sacred space for contemplation and rest. One guest put it this way:

Prairiewoods
This is a place of grace
A place resplendent with Queen Anne’s Lace
Along the gravel paths I trod
On my journey with my God
Show me the way, I pray
—Kathy Braun, SSND

As we celebrate this milestone in Prairiewoods’ history, we join with the choirs of creatures, the swaying grasses and the forest symphony, and we thank God for all good gifts and the wonder and joy of being alive! Thank you for joining in the dance!

—Laura A. Weber, Prairiewoods Associate Director and Retreat Coordinator