Tuesday, May 31, 2011


One of the most poignant lines in a movie comes from the holiday classic, It's a Wonderful Life.  Joseph, the head angel summons Clarence, a rookie guardian angel, to give him a mission to help George Bailey.
"You sent for me, sir?"
"Yes, Clarence. A man down on earth needs our help."
Clarence asks, " Splendid! Is he sick?"  
Joseph answers, "No, worse, he's discouraged."  

I always get a little choked up at that point because I know that in my own experience getting over discouragement at times has been harder than healing from any injury or virus I've suffered.  Our bodies have built-in ways to deal with minor cuts, bruises, infections and other wounds.  But a wound of the heart or soul doesn't seem to just "fix itself" the way our bodies do. 

As I was planning the upcoming retreat, Women Encouraged - Finding the Wind Beneath Your Wings, the thought occurred to me that I can't remember the last time someone described themselves as "discouraged."  Maybe it's because we are less inclined these days to share our "weaknesses," or maybe people just don't recognize that they are discouraged, due to our fast pace lifestyle and stress.  But unlike our physical bodies, our hearts and souls need personal attention and an action plan to find our way back.

When we're discouraged, we need our friends to tell us how great (really) we are.  We need others to remind us that God is on our side...and that "this too shall pass."  We need some new perspectives...a multitude of counsel from those we respect.  We need to examine WHY we're discouraged...and where that issue originates.  We need to pray for ears to hear and for our hearts to be opened.  Maybe we need to loosen our grip or lower our expectations.  But all of this takes some intentional time...time we need to make...or take.

This Summer Retreat will focus on encouraging YOU...even if you are not discouraged...accentuating the positive in life is always helpful!  Please come and bring some of your best, trusted friends for a day of laughter, fun and encouragement! 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


A friend says I should write more poetry.
It’s been awhile.  There’s been
regime changes,
shear laziness,

But who am I and what do I have to say? 
And who would care?
Is there a poem I could write that would
or transform
or move anyone?

The old adage is: write what you know. 

So, do I write about the gnarly sycamore tree
which, though it dons a camouflage cover,
is always spotted where water christens its roots? 
Or do I describe the delicate Pink Lady Slipper orchid,
whose enigmatic, masculine form springs only from soil
made acid by
worn sandstone,
broken shale,

Should my poem ask the reader,
“Did you know you can read the land this way?”
But who cares, really?  Isn’t land just for
buying and selling
building upon
or harvesting from?

Is it a waste of words for a poem to beckon others
to consider life (aren't people too busy to read poetry?)
on a park bench,
a trail
or a bridge above
a lyrical stream?

Should the poem invite them to stop listening,
just for those few moments in time
to the voices of culture,
of family,
or the lies,
they tell

and listen to the song of the red-eyed vireo
chanting his mnemonic mantra?
“See me” “Up here.” “Here I am” 

Can a poem, even a silly one that doesn’t
say anything, just asks questions, inspire?
After it's written perhaps someone will
read this poem, then stand barefoot on
spongy grass,
rotting leaves,
hard, hewn wood,
raise their golden face, hands open
to the sun,
the black, rolling clouds,
the slice of moon,
and shout, maybe for the first time,
 “See me!  Down here!  Here I am!”
Cindy Steffen
May 2011


Saturday, May 14, 2011


Today is International Migratory Bird Day, held annually on the second Saturday in May.  Not very well known, or even important, to most people...but a miracle none the less!  Each spring, billions of birds (neo-tropicals) who have spent our winter in Central or South America, begin a very long, and sometimes treacherous, trek to familiar breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada.  Generally, they migrate at night, stopping for periods of time along the way to feed, rest and brush up on their mating songs.  If you are not looking for them or paying attention to the change in bird songs filling the air, you will miss this Great Migration!  And these are of some of the most beautiful birds in North America!

My birdwatching perch on the ridge
The Audubon Society has designated several Ohio Important Bird Areas (IBA's).  These are specific habitats able to provide premium food and nesting resources for land and water birds.  Prairie Pond Woods is located smack-dab in the middle of two of them, Shawnee State Forest and The Edge of Appalachia Preserve. While taking a retreat at Prairie Pond Woods in late April and early May, I was able to spot over 25 of these migrating species.  Some will be staying at the retreat to raise a brood or two, some will move on to more northern states and provinces and some will head to the Boreal Forest Region in Canada.  This is an extremely long journey and I am humbled each year when they return, and honored to be able to provide what they need in the prairie, on the pond or in the woods!

Below are a few stock photos of some of the warblers and other birds that grace the property each year.  Most are not mine, as I don't possess the camera or inclination to get these great close-ups.  Enjoy the beauty and wonder!

 Black & White Warbler...hard to spot as it tends to crawl along trunks and branches...but easy to hear.

 Black-throated Green Warbler...heard (and barely seen high in the canopy) on the day before I left the retreat.

 Blue-winged warbler...we play a game of hide and seek in the cedars...I usually lose.

 Hooded Warbler...just a lovely bird that hangs low down by the spring making him easy to see.

 Yellow-rumped Warbler...acutally had one of these stick around this winter...acting like he owned the maple tree where the feeder hangs

 Pine Warbler...not all that flashy...but one of the first to show up and now nesting in a pine tree by the deck!

 The ubiquitous Prairie Warbler...King and Queen of the Prairie. 

One is nesting in this small cedar tree.

The Scarlet Tanager...kept hearing his Robin-like song up in the canopy...then after 3 days I finally spotted it 
near the retreat house!
Bluebird Babies!

 Song Sparrow nest in Cedar next to garage

Phoebe nest above garage on the motion detector light