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’s friend is someone who has known my family for longer than I have been alive! Sister Marcia Baumert is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA), the order of Catholic sisters that founded Prairiewoods 20 years ago. She remembers the land as it was before Prairiewoods was even an idea in its foundresses’ minds …

I have known Otis’ family for a long, long time. When I lived in Cedar Rapids in the mid ’90s, before Prairiewoods was born, I walked what FSPA referred to as “the farm.” My soul hungered for the wide open spaces. Otis’s great great-great-grandmother and grandfather and extended family provided me with companionship as I strolled those wild acres. Mother Nature frolicked and played in every form of growing thing, meandering stream, wild life families and winged friends singing joyfully as they flew about in their paradise amidst city surroundings. Yes, it was a paradise held sacred.

I had at that time just graduated from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Being a small town girl in the whirl of grad school in Chicago certainly drew me out of my comfort zone in every direction. Following graduation, the opportunity to serve in rural parish ministry while living in Cedar Rapids gave me the chance to find respite on the farm. I delighted in the beauty of winter when I could put on my coveralls and snow boots and go walking through the glistening snow drifts amidst silent but wise trees to find stillness and peace in my soul. Although walking as one, I never felt alone as I enjoyed Otis’ family, deer, and other four-footed friends scampering about the grounds. I’ve always loved birds and found great joy in sighting the flash of color and the sound of a crisp clear call. My mom taught me about many birds and their calls, so each encounter was sharing a kinship with our winged friends.

Marcia Baumert FSPA

I always knew then that there was something very special about the farm. When Prairiewoods began taking shape 20 years ago, it was as though all of nature burst forth with new joy. The birthing of structures to provide human lodging and learning, protection from nature-limiting development, and tender care of experts in land management reassured Mother Nature that she was highly regarded and loved. Of course, Otis’ family and friends continued to thrive and find joy in their two-legged friends.
Walking the land these many years later still finds me delighting in the peace and healing energies of Prairiewoods. I even had the pleasure of swinging outside the kitchen with a friend last June and having Otis and family playing in the limbs of the mothering oak above us. May we listen to the gentle sounds, contemplate and find peace on the holy ground we know as Prairiewoods.

—Marcia Baumert, FSPA, Board member