Wednesday, March 27, 2013


When I started this adventure of living for nine months at Prairie Pond Woods...feeling a little like Thoreau (and a little guilty)...I said I was ready to be "inconvenienced by the things I love."  As mentioned in the Week One post, sometimes we can put parts of ourselves on hold or let them die altogether because we allow other things in life take over. 

For me, this meant finally putting all my loves in one basket and seeing where they take me...FOCUSING on the "businistry" of Heart by Nature, spending time outdoors, raising my own food (chickens!), getting a dog (after being dogless for 7 years), writing, reading and helping women connect with their own heart's desires through nature.  

Could I have done this in my life up North?  Maybe, if I was a different person
But the advantage of years is that we learn who we truly are and accept it. I am not a highly disciplined person...and I am definitely not a multi-tasker.  I am motivated by passion, not productivity...and I do well focusing on a few things at a time with lots of time for reflection. It is who I am. In a book I read recently, The Artist's Rule, I recognized myself in the author's description of an "artist-monk," a person who is drawn to and more fruitful within a contemplative and creative lifestyle.  So when I finally realized I was being inconvenienced more by things I didn't was time to make a change.

So, the change has begun...sort of.  Week Two was less about contemplation and nature immersion and more about business marketing.  For the upcoming retreat, Birdwatching as Meditation, I learned (was inconvenienced by, actually) a new Email Marketing program through Vertical Response.  Hopefully, you received a copy of my labors in your email Inbox or through Facebook.  And when I wasn't staring down cross-eyed at my computer...I watched snow flurries and resident birds out the window.

The other boring to me as it is to you...was the sorting of paperwork into piles, then purging, then putting those piles somewhere that makes sense.  Piles for retreat ideas and hand-outs, piles of natural history resources, piles for writing piles of journals, piles of my life...all sorted and condensed.  And a pile of books, brought to finally read...  

I'll share my non-exhaustive Book List, which might be a bit less boring to you.  These are books I've read since I've been here, books I'm reading (or listening to) now, books I plan to re-read and new books waiting on the shelf.  Do they all look a bit similar?  They are...I call it focused.

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren (and others not yet purchased)
Writing Down your Soul by Janet Conner
Listening to the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by J. Phillip Newell
Prayers from Iona by J. Phillip Newell
Nature as Spiritual Practice by Steven Chase
A Field Guide to Nature as Spiritual Practice by Steven Chase
The Artist's Rule by Christine Valter-Paintner
Anne of Green Gables by J.M. Montgomery (never read it as a child)
An Obsession with Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell
On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs by James A. Schall
Spiritual Ecology by Rudolf Steiner
Holy Silence by J. Brent Bill
Newcomb's Wildflower Guide
Peterson Field Guide of Eastern Birds
Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds' Nests
Moth Field Guides, Insect Field Guides, Butterfly Field Guides, Etc.
AND...if I can get my hands on it anywhere:
Phytogeography of Unglaciated Eastern US and its Interpretation by E. Lucy Braun.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Tomorrow brings us the Vernal Equinox for 2013...the first day of 7:02 am EST.  For the northern hemisphere it marks the season of longer days and warmer temperatures - bringing back the animals, the colors, the vegetation...and the bringing forth the babies. The name comes from Latin meaning, "of the spring" and "equal night."  One of only two days during the year when the amount of daylight and dark is equal, and when the sun rises and sets exactly east and west. All over the world a time of momentary balance. 

Seems to me that since there are so many cycles and rhythms...these our natural world, we should take advantage of what they have to offer us symbolically, as ancient traditions used to do. It is not hard to imagine that spring is about new beginnings, so I have chosen tomorrow, Wednesday, March 20, to begin a new adventure at Prairie Pond Woods.

This past winter, I facilitated a group to discuss the book, Daring Greatly by Brene' Brown. It seemed to be a timely group for the nine women and myself; the readings and discussions being springboards for some of us to find the courage to reach for dreams that had been percolating inside us for years. 

I guess after a certain age, we begin to recognize and call things for what they are. We realize that some of our choices were made out of fear or not wanting to rock the boat or putting others way ahead of ourselves, leaving us with lives we truly didn't imagine...or at the least...hope will become more meaningful. This is all fairly normal. Some label all this analyzing and uncertainty a mid-life crisis. But others, like Fr. Richard Rohr, might call it a second-half-of-life-rise-in-consciousness. It's that very real time when, if you're willing to truly take stock of things, you begin to seek the answer to the exhortation in a quote by Howard Thurman:
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
So in our little rag-tag group of middle-aged women, two found the courage to return to college and one, after years of holding on to a houseful of inherited possessions, decided to lighten her life by giving most of it away to others.  Do you know how hard stepping out in to new territory or letting go of the familiar can be?  Yet they are willing to move forward, no matter how uncertain and unsettling, because they are ready to do a new thing that makes them come alive. 

For my part, I decided to stop living a divided and frustrated life to spend The Year of Living Daringly at Prairie Pond Woods.  Actually, it works out to about 40 weeks (the number for human gestation), from the Spring Equinox (March 20) to the Winter Solstice (December 21).  During this time I'll be laboring to bring forth more creative, business and spiritual fruit, while staying here full-time. I will continue working to restore the biodiversity of the land, as well as allow God to restore parts of me I misplaced along this interesting journey of life. 

One creative (and scary) goal is to work on a Young Adult fiction book I've had rattling in my head, as opposed to just thinking about it.  And to conceive another book of nature reflections for the soul, as I spend the spring, summer and fall developing a "sense of place" at Prairie Pond Woods...learning and listening as God speaks through it all.  Having kept a journal for most of my life, I know that writing is a powerful tool for healing, expression and change. Martin Luther once wrote, "If you want to change the world, pick up a pen (or in our case, a keyboard).  My books won't change the world, but they will bring about change in me, maybe inspire others to follow their dreams and hopefully be enjoyed by those who read them.  Small fruit.

Another focus during this period is to more intentionally build the "businistry" of Heart by Nature Retreats. When I think of what makes me "come alive," beyond being immersed in nature and creativity, it is the opportunity to share this place of peace and beauty, and provide tools for spiritual and emotional growth.  I am trusting that this year will be for you, as well as others:
A place women come to experience, learn about and appreciate the glorious wonder that surrounds us. On our nature walks, I tell group participants that if you learn the name of something you now have a relationship with it, becoming more interested, as well as more willing to protect it. Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts that, "Naming things is Edenic."  Because this world is a gift to us, and the entity that sustains our life through air, soil, water and vegetation, I believe that knowing it more intimately is a clearer window into the heart of God.

A place women who are seeking God's direction can come for study, reflection, prayer and rest, whether through Group Retreat programming or while taking a Personal Retreat. Larger women's retreats, where a speaker teaches what is on their heart, are beneficial. But I strongly support the wisdom of choosing extended, reflective times alone with God when, in the quiet, we are able to peel back our busy layers to get in touch with what the Spirit is speaking to OUR hearts at that time.

A place women in transition, who are grieving or who are perhaps "stuck" in life can come for a Personal Retreat to heal, untangle the webs, recognize patterns and see life from new perspectives. Whether you have your own agenda or need some guidance, through journaling, reflective questions creative exercises and spending time listening to your heart in solitude, you can begin moving to a greater wholeness.

A place where creativity flourishes. It would bring great joy to know that a painting was inspired by a tree, a bird or the colorful hills on the property. That a song welled up inside a musician while down by the pond. That the first chapter of a novel or The End was written by the wood burning stove some late evening. I would be honored to further that process of creative energy.
So, this is my new beginning...focused, simplified and marked by gratitude and an open heart. I hope you will walk with me every now and then on this new path by checking in at the Heart by Nature Facebook Page, following this Prairie Pond Woods Blog (sign up on the left) or by taking a drive to the country and experiencing some of the above at a Group or Personal Retreat.  I'd also love to know what "new beginnings" YOU are embarking on to bring that much needed balance or "aliveness" back into your life!  Feel free to comment...

Hope to see you outside!


Sunday, March 10, 2013


Last year during the Spring Retreat the participants painted bluebird boxes to either take home or leave at Prairie Pond Woods for the following year...their creative work always on display for others to enjoy.  So today, taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather, we loaded them all up in the wagon with tools and T-posts and headed out to the prairie.

Ran into a bit of a snag with the first attempt, trying to place it near the Refresher Course trail for best observation...hit dolomite rock about 6 inches down! This is typical of prairies in Adams County. The short-grass prairies here, unlike the tall grass prairies of the Plains, have adapted to thin soils atop rock outcroppings and dry conditions. No problem...we just moved up closer to the center towards the ridge.


 In the east section of the prairie, I decided to go with a red & yellow theme :-)


In the west section of the prairie, the remaining bluebird box stands at the turn right before you enter the pines at the upper ridge

Later in the early evening I decided to check the old bluebird box in the backyard attached to a utility pole.  I couldn't remember if I had cleaned it out last fall and thought I had better do that before the bluebirds start scouting.  When I opened it up, it was full to the top with moss and leaves with one small hole.  When I poked around with my finger, something snapped at it!  Something with enormous eyes and rodent-like teeth....

After a second observation with a stick this time (thinking that maybe I had mistaken it for a mouse), what jumped down to the ground and then up the pole was a


While on the ground I could definitely see its gliding membrane and its olive/white color. I quickly snapped a photo and then left the poor thing alone.  We may not have any bluebirds flying in the backyard this year, but I'll take it, if I can watch a family of flying squirrels instead!