Inspiration Across Generations

If you’ve read Prairie Grown, you may have noticed that I like to quote Wendell Berry. His writing, and his ideas about the world, have influenced my own significantly, and I got to wondering if there was a story behind why my folks have so many of his books. Mr. Berry has written over 40, and I would wager a guess that most of his titles have graced the Hillside Prairie Gardens homestead at some point during the last 40 years.  My parents have a small organic farm, one that is committed to keeping the health of the soil good and contributing in a positive way to the local community — much of Mr. Berry’s writing focuses on those basic principles of sustainable agriculture.

“For the true measure of agriculture is not the sophistication of its equipment the size of its income or even the statistics of its productivity but the good health of the land.”
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

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To Dance With Mountains

What would it be like to dance with mountains?  To sway with the majestic alpine wildflowers that dot the valleys, or to listen to the whisper of clear snowmelt as it cascades to lower ground over a bed of stones smoothed to perfection?  To kiss the pine needles, to breathe the scent of ancient bedrock mystery?  Or to walk in step with the peaks that have been stripped of life, or the valleys that have been clearcut and left for dead? The toxic rivers, the tundra fracked of life, the homeless topsoil that can’t hold on?  How do we love our failed expectations alongside our beautiful victories? How can our defeats, our poor choices, and our monsters co-exist with our grace, our goodness, and our love? How do we embrace them all and hear what they have to say?

Dance with mountains.
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Autumn’s Paradox

It has been a busy month.  September always seems to mean racing to prepare life for winter.  Of course we could do some of these things before we HAVE to do them, but it doesn’t seem to happen that way, year after year.  So we fly around in September getting fire wood cut and stacked, filling fuel tanks, mowing the grass a few more times, winterizing motors, cleaning the chimney…..the list is long, and usually expensive.  Things feel really hard, tempers are short, work days seem long and sometimes it feels like a hopeless cause to try to change anything at all.  But here we are on the first day of autumn, and the list is getting done.  We have firewood stacked, the septic is pumped, the furnace is tuned up, and we still have funds to the other things we need to do, even if we won’t be going on any European vacations anytime soon.

Autumn is a paradox. The leaves are changing, the harvest is coming in and the warmer temperatures this year mean the blackberries are still putting new blossoms on their brambles.    There is vibrant tree color alongside the withering of the annuals I planted in the spring.  There is the fresh possibility of a new school year alongside the mourning of summer’s sense of freedom.  There is hope for a late freeze alongside a yearning for the day the temperature drops far enough to bring many kinds of garden work (and allergies) to a halt.   We feel like we will never have enough, yet we always have more than we need. Continue reading “Autumn’s Paradox”

Bits of Astonishment

An excerpt from Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth – available wherever books are sold. 

 

About a month ago, we pulled into the driveway after a great five days up along the north shore of Minnesota, still reveling in the tonic that is Lake Superior, anticipating a low key few days of unpacking before returning to the usual work schedule.  We ambled down the path from the garage, happy to be out of the car and walked into the house to a putrid smell and reports that the septic alarm had been going off for an indeterminate amount of time in our absence.  Awesome.  Turns out a little creature of some sort had chewed through the cord that powered the septic pump, shorting it out.  Could have been much worse.  All and all and easy fix for Nick, and we were back in business.  But the smell….remained.  For another day we pondered just what could be making the kitchen stink.  Eventually we followed some clues and found a decomposing mouse behind the fridge.  Again, awesome.  But we got rid of it, gave the cats a pep talk and life carried on.  Then I got a call that my credit card number had been stolen and there was someone in Texas trying to charge a trip to Thailand on my Visa.  And the grass needed to be mowed and the garden weeded.   Then the water heater broke, one of our indoor cats got out and was lost for a day and a half, and my retreat co-leader broke her foot and couldn’t come to the retreat we had been planning for several months.   And then the road construction workers cut the phone lines that run to our house and we were down phone and internet for several days…and still are, truth be told.  Not a big deal, really, except for when you work from home calling people and working on the internet.   (And that’s just what happened in my own little privileged bubble – the events happening in tandem with my own mini dramas in terms of racial inequality and war and planetary destruction would make this little list much, much longer.)

It’s been a rough month. Continue reading “Bits of Astonishment”