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.

Hungry! I come hungry to the place where I know I’ll be fed: Prairiewoods. Overwhelmed with the burdens of caring for my family, scrambling for the few scraps tossed my way, and learning how to live peaceably with all my relations on the good Earth, coming here is like coming home. The peace washes over me when I reach the front doorway. It’s a lot less daunting when I know I’m surrounded by these beautiful trees, fresh water, and clean, breathable air. And here I’ll find the stillness. This is an oasis.”

Whether it’s me (Otis the squirrel) or Delilah the deer, Taproot the turkey, or a human-merely-being, the swaying prairie grasses and the gorgeous pines, oaks, and maples welcome everyone to the sacred stillness! We all come hungry. We all come weary from the labors that bend our backs and weaken our knees.

One brisk weekend in December, the Earth paused in the middle of a day’s rotation to welcome guests to the Stillness Retreat: “SSSH!” the trees said. “Hush!” the grasses whispered. “The humans are coming!” And our human guests arrived to candlelight and mystery, poetry and music, and breakfast at nightfall. The chill December shroud blanketed us all, and we heard the poetess Mary Oliver speak:

Otis relaxing with a cookie and some quiet

Otis relaxing with a cookie and some quiet

Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep. 
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

It feels so wonderful to rest! We all come hungry for stillness. We leave realizing we traveled a terrific distance, only to find the temple was inside us all the time. We just entered through the Prairiewoods doorway!

—Otis (as dictated to Laura A. Weber, Associate Director and Retreat Coordinator)