Here is the report from the Back 40 – ferns and morels. Spring is spreading Her verdant carpet across the land, even in the deep woods, where the morels rise and release their spores in billowy clouds amidst the gentle breezes. Walk softly, gently today, my friends. Life is emerging from beneath our very feet, so tread lightly. #ReportFromTheBack40 #GetOutside #SquirrelRun #kippinitreal
The pine tree is an ancient tree whose lineage dates clear back to the time when the first reptiles appeared toward the end of the Permian era 280 million years ago. This tree is referred to as a gymnosperm (“naked seed”) because of its reproductive organs, with the most evolved flowering parts of all the plants prior to the emergence of angiosperms, or the flowering plants with which we are so familiar today – from the tiny duckweed to the amazing orchids. Pine trees serve earth and so many animals well. They are living carbon sinks, storing carbon for many years indeed, with the longest known living pine tree estimated at 4600 years old!
There are all kinds of facts and figures about pine trees, but here is what they teach me. The phoenixes of the plant world, they are born amid fire [see previous Report From The Back 40 (Special Pine Cone Edition)], in fact some pine tree species require fire to regenerate. They grow in communities. Each individual seedling must find a spot where there is enough sunlight to grow, but since so many of them come alive as a result of sweeping fires, and thrive as a result of fire’s after affects, they often sprout up together. When you add the community interconnected mycelium threads living in the soil to the collection of trees themselves, one begins to get a closer look at how the web of life weaves its magic throughout the whole system. Then add in all of the animals that feast of pine pollen (rich in protein), pine nuts (protein and fats), pine needles (high in vitamins C, B and a source of minerals), and the incredible habitat that the tree itself provides for birds, squirrels, and other tree dwellers, one gets an even bigger sense of the wonder that the pine tree brings to bear. So, community, protection (both in the larger sense of planetary environmental stability and in the sense of the more local strengths of just plain sticking together as a group), and sustenance in the form of food. Then there is the lovely soft insulating value of the spent pine needle. Remember how softly your foot falls on a path strewn with pine needles? And what of the heavenly scent wafting through the air in the pine forest? Lastly, though I doubt it is my last word on the subject, the evergreen speaks to me of a soul, albeit the soul of a tree being, forever connected to its heart. It is of a constant green after all. The pine tree certainly has every right to be a symbol of the birth of the Light and the essence of this time of year. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #PineTreeBeing #SquirrelRun #December #GetOutside #kippinitreal
I heard the owls last night as I drifted off to sleep. I felt as if they were lulling me to sleep. I slipped into a deep slumber, only to awaken shortly after midnight, when I heard them once again. Last night the owls were my close companions, as they are from time to time. My rest was peaceful and sweet, and I woke up before dawn for sadhana and was full of gratitude and joy. Gone was the too oft troubled blanket of heavy doom that has greeted me so many other mornings. I felt rested and ready to face whatever the day might bring – a sweet spot to find oneself in, right?
Great Horned Owls grace this land in numbers and have for many years. We are blessed indeed by their presence here all year long. While my spirited friend the hummingbird winters in Mexico searching for, and no doubt finding, bountiful drops of nectar, the owls remain and watch over all of us. I rarely see these owls, and even then it will be almost hidden in a tree, or perhaps I will catch a glimpse of one on the wing through the woods, more of a moving shadow really – such soft swift silent flight. We have the Barn Owl in these parts as well. The habitat here is well suited to their needs. Once in a long while I will spot a Snowy Owl, but I believe we are a bit south for them to be here en force like the other two more common birds. Whatever the species, the owl has always been an elusive but ever-present being in my world. I consider it to be one of my totems.
It is interesting to me that I most often come across these birds at night, especially as I lay my head down on the pillow. They come in when I am in that in-between-worlds place, between awake and asleep. In a place of floating neutrality. A place where I can see clearly without even knowing I am looking at anything at all. Owl medicine surely brings illumination and wisdom – the kind that is innate, known so profoundly that its truth is felt deep in the bones.
On another note, my sister Christine shared with me an image of a rose in full bloom in her magical garden, which we affectionately (and accurately I believe) call Fernwood Findhorn. There has been snow and sub-freezing temps there, but the roses seem to be oblivious to all such things. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #Squirrelrun #OwlMedicine #FernwoodFindhorn #kippinitreal
Here is my Report From The Back 40 – Snowflakes & the Power of Connection Edition:
It’s too warm today to expect snow, but the winter clouds are here and I am nonetheless reminiscing on my sheer love for the snowflake. To me it is a creature all its own, a power player if there ever was one, with distinct characteristics, though it is also a special version of water – that wondrous transmuter, able to come to us in so many forms. The big piece for me about the snowflake is in its lesson about the power of connection. Let’s start at the beginning, up in the clouds. The snowflake begins with the base of a grain of dust floating in a cloud. Next, water vapor in the cloud condenses on and around the dust particle and freezes into a tiny ice crystal. These ice crystals then join together forming into a snowflake. The size of any given snowflake is determined by how many of these ice crystals come together. Generally, a snowflake is really a community of about 200 ice crystals in the shape of a hexagonal prism. As snowflakes fall from the sky at 3-4 miles per hour, they tumble and swirl, affected by local air currents and conditions, floating through clouds that have different temperatures and moisture contents, thus shaping each snowflake in a unique way. So the gentle snowflake is a created community, with each community being a uniquely shaped collection.
Next there is a whole other thing that happens when one snowflake meets another. Here is the lesson of the power of connection all over again, just in larger measure. The snowflake comes together to form this beautiful substance that insulates the ground, including the tree roots during winter from penetrating cold that would otherwise kill the tree. So, one quality of this connection and community is protection. Snowflakes also connect and hold the power of the ‘right of weight’. As a larger interconnected community, that we call ‘snow’, snow can shape the land, rivers, and even wear down rock, and it can do so quietly, slowing, but inexorably. Here are the lessons of the power of patience and persistence. There is also the lesson of what can happen when one sticks together with others of its ilk…massive transformations are possible, even worldwide repercussions. Look at how the icecaps, enormous conglomerates of snowflake communities, help temper the whole planet. This is some serious power, people, all emanating out of what began as a dust mote in a cloud and a vaporous water molecule!
I will mention this one final bit, though it is by no means the last word on this subject. The snowflake teaches us the lesson of the power of sheer beauty of Creation. What other substance do you know that changes the entire landscape into a white wonderland, and does it silently, in the most unassuming way? May my wonder and yours as our eyes set on the tiny, but oh-so-powerful snowflake always remain and may its lessons resound and stay with us.
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SnowflakeEdition #PowerOfCommunity #December #GetOutside #SquirrelRun #kippinitreal
Winter has stopped toying with us and arrived with a firm footstep on our land this morning, bringing a chilly 18 degrees(F) and enough wind so that I felt it biting at my face, though gently considering the power that it could have brought to bear. The clouds dropped down and gave us all a mighty hug, releasing a gentle and lovely snow fall. The snow came as frozen droplets, covering the leaves, grass, stones, and all the landscape in distinct tiny pellets of ice. I have seen many snows, yet this was whole new snow look to me. I wonder what the Inuits would call this? I have heard it said that they have at least 50 names for snow; surely they have a name for this special version of it.
As we pass even more closely to Winter Solstice, the sun lover in me is reluctantly giving into embracing the lengthening darker hours. Though that sun lover in me has been dreading this time of year and goes into a fit of sadness in anticipation of the waning daylight, another part of me finds a strange but beckoning comfort in the darkness, as it brings its own unique blanket of serenity and peace. This is a quiet and soft part of me that stays pretty reclusive most of rest of the year. In these days, she comes to life and prefers either a single tiny sweet bit of candle light or the full cover of darkness altogether. I am able to let go of the want for warm sunrays and instead allow the cold to close in and penetrate. I finally managed to follow the example of the local trees, and be content with the waning sun just the way it is, dropping all that no longer serves for this season and this moment. The seasons provide me with the perfect reflection to the being filled with contrasts that I am, that I suspect we all are. Sat Nam, my dears. Rest well in the soft low candlelight and allow the darkness to surround you in its sweet cloaking caress.
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #December #kippinitreal
What a remarkable autumn we are having here! We’ve had a few days when we were visited by the tips of winter’s long fingers, dropping its chill and icy presence among us. Then just in the last few days we have experienced such lovely balmy warmth – a sweet sigh of what summer remains. Oooooo-ooo-oooooo…. I spent part of my morning in quiet meditation with the trees. What a moment! I sat for over an hour, cuddled in sweet warm breezes, and watched leaves drop and fall away, ever so gently settling on the ground. I felt at one with the trees at least in this moment, feeling their great release, and asked my Higher Power to guide me to releasing whatever it is that I continue to hold, but is no longer serving me. Amidst all of this activity, along the tree branches and trunks I saw a squirrel here and yonder busy gathering the bounty of the season. One squirrel was so set on consuming an acorn that as I walked gently by, he/she remained quietly nibbling away on the branch of a nearby oak tree, not to be moved – certainly not by me anyway. I just love being able to spend time in amongst the trees and their inhabitant critters. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #GoOutside #kippinitreal
The rain and fog rolled in and gave us their great autumnal embrace. Soothing rains, plenty to fill the streams, rivers, and reservoirs, but not so much as to cause soil erosion or flooding. That’s my kind of rain. We had enough, but not too much. A Goldilocks rain, you might say. I saw a few late summer funkia flowers in a nearby garden, along with several quite sizable spider webs with their fill of rain, too. We are experiencing just the right temperatures to spur the lichens and algae into lush growth. Tree trunks around here are turning a shade of green almost as bright as the grass.
I just love the lessons of the trees. They know how to adapt their roots to the changing landscape, they stand tall, yet bend as needed, and they show us all about how to deal with the seasons with such ease in shifting from one to another. They can allow room for community, as witnessed by the communities of lichen (algae and fungus) and various critters with whom they share their space. Model citizens, the trees. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #TreeBeings #September #kippinitreal
We had pretty brisk warm winds here from the south. The tall grasses were just so beautifully waving in the breeze. Clear skies, so blue – the kind I don’t often see here. A rare fair day. It felt like a perfect summery day – not too hot, not too cool, just the right amount of moisture in the air. Sweet and lovely. Birds, bees, crickets and all sorts of other critters were out in force today. The Great Blue Heron tribe and their neighbors the turkey vultures were all out about their business, along with the deer, wild turkeys, red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and of course the Bald Eagles that grace this area. We live in this land of such rich wildlife…especially considering how much of the land is tilled or developed. I am always amazed, really amazed at the ability of life finding a way to persist – no matter what. To wit: the tardigrade…they live everywhere and anywhere, including space(!) and have been through all of the five mass extinctions that we know Earth has endured. They go back over half a billion(!) years as far as we can tell in the fossil record. Who know how old they truly are? Wonders just never cease in nature. That includes us. What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #September #kippinitreal
More on the creepy, crawlies….it’s just what’s up. (This is a report after all.) We had a lovely thunderstorm very early this morning and awoke to a warm, soft day. The trees, grasses, and everything else has had a washing. The streams and rivers are running a bit faster, though the Kansas River last Monday looked to us to be nearly topping its banks. I imagine it has swelled almost to the overflow point by now. After so many years of dry weather, these last two have brought such relief. By far the most persistent and loudest critter in our neck of the woods is the Dog-day Cicada. I hear them all the time, but they tend to be everywhere around me except where I am, so I do not get to see them. I walked outside this morning to take in the day. The air was so warm and moist. For a moment, I thought I had stepped out the door and entered Maui! I looked down on the front stoop and there in front of me was a singular Dog-day Cicada. He/she looked to be warming up for the day. What an interesting, beautiful creature this is! I saw ‘prehistoric’ as I studied its features. What wings, too! This tiny beast is a little over 2 inches long and is not only an expert flyer, but an expert caller/singer. They have incredibly strong ovipositors that can pierce the wood of trees, where they lay their eggs. The hatchlings drop onto the ground and burrow into the soil. They then find their way to a tree root and latch onto it as a food source. They stay there until they grow and metamorphose, find their way up to the surface to fly, call to one another, mate, and begin the cycle all over again. Life in all of its variety and wonder never ceases to amaze me! What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #kippinitreal
A lot of people find spiders to be creepy, scary, and to be avoided at all costs. In many cases this is probably a really good idea: some spiders have a nasty bite, some are poisonous, and then there’s how they tickle us if and when they happen to crawl on us…Also, they are so much smaller than us, it is better for them to steer clear of us, as we tend to be heavy of foot and quick to judge the appearance of any spider at all as a dire threat. Our feet move faster than our sense of compassion…I am here to say that spiders are pretty amazing creatures. They have to make a living after all, just like everyone else. They are THE expert weavers and spinners in the world. Spider silk is one of the strongest natural threads known. Spiders inhabit all sorts of nooks and crannies — please don’t’ get creeped out. They have nothing against you. Seriously. I was walking by a nearby building yesterday and happen to look down into the inside corner of the building below a downspout. There, nestled compactly in the corner, was the web of what I believe is a type of funnel web-building spider. This tiny creature had woven tiny bits of grass, pieces of leaves and whole leaves into quite the spectacular funnel-shaped home. I have seen quite a few spider webs in my time, but this one is one of the most intricate and beautiful that I have ever seen in these parts of the world. I do not think my picture truly does its likeness justice as it just doesn’t show the detailed and marked three dimensionality of this web. I leave you with it anyway. We have issues with spiders. I get it. I say we make peace with the spiders and live in harmony the best we can. (And P.S. We have that notorious brown recluse spider all over the place here. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with them! I still say, “Make peace with the spiders.” They just need to live out in nature, not in my house, thank you. I do my best to safely capture them when I find them in the house and release them back into the outdoors…where they actually belong.) What’s up in your neck of the woods?
#ReportFromTheBack40 #SquirrelRun #EveryoneHasToMakeALiving #kippinitreal