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.

Whenever I see Prairiewoods Artist in Residence Joni Reed Cooley, she has a camera in her hands. She snaps, snaps, snaps pictures of me, of the trees, of the other critters that call this land home. Here are some of her favorite pictures from this holy space …

One of the many joys at Prairiewoods for me is the opportunity to take some special nature photos. I love to watch for the critters around Prairiewoods and capture their personalities in photos. From many hours with my trusty point-and-shoot camera in the woods and through the Guest House window, these are some of my favorite photos of Prairiewoods animals.

Deer in Winter_Joni Reed Cooley

While I was sitting on the swing by the labyrinth on a late winter afternoon, this group of deer ambled by. I just love how you can clearly see each deer’s personality. The ringleader, the watchful scout, the shy one—can’t you just imagine what they are thinking? And just what do you imagine the ringleader is saying?

Praying Groundhog_Joni Reed Cooley

During a summer retreat in the Guest House, every day was “Groundhog Day” as I rushed to the window each morning to look for the groundhogs. They were frequently very busy grazing outside my window and keeping a watchful eye out. I enjoyed watching them suddenly rear up and stand motionless to check for danger, and then quickly go back down again. I later learned that their eyesight is not so good, hence the need for frequent upright checks. I always imagine this groundhog as the greeter, proclaiming “Welcome to Prairiewoods.”

Turkey_Joni Reed Cooley

Walking to the bench overlooking Dry Creek one summer day, I saw a lone turkey heading down the path behind me.  As I came to the bench, I wondered if he would continue coming toward me. We looked at each other and he apparently decided I was no threat to him. As I grabbed this photo, he continued down the path with his jerky turkey gait and walked past me into the grasses. Later while sitting on the bench, I was amused to think about the implications of the turkey and I on the same path.

Rabbit_Joni Reed Cooley

This special rabbit rested next to my Guest House window one spring afternoon. I felt sad about her ear and I wondered if she had been in a fight or maybe had it caught in something. But it had healed well and she seemed fine. I marveled at all of the colors in her fur, something I had never noticed before. I was inspired to paint her portrait before I left my retreat that week.

Nursing Deer_Joni Reed Cooley

If you attended Prairiewoods’ wonderful Spirituality in the 21st Century event, you have seen this photo. But did you know that it was taken from a Prairiewoods Guest House window? I spied this majestic doe standing across from my window one dusky evening, and I hurriedly focused on trying to get a good close-up photo of her. Then I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, and fortunately I drew back to see the fawn with her! I was so amazed by what I was seeing that my hands were shaking as I tried to capture this incredible scene. Wow, did I ever feel privileged to have witnessed this beautiful, intimate tableau. And to think that I almost missed it!

Deer - spotted_Joni Reed Cooley

The last photo is that same fawn making its getaway after acknowledging me in the Guest House window. I love how she is so stretched out, so you can see all of her spots. To me, she looks like she is smiling and saying, “Gotta run—see ya later!”

 

—Joni Reed Cooley, Artist in Residence