The horse's pasture to the East...

Thursday, April 30, 2015


I love the language of trees. Each of the trees we live with, out here on our little preserve, has it's own language, it's own voice. There are the trees I call the Mother Tree, with an imposing, indomitable presence and size. They're taller, trunks wide and gnarled, bark scared with the rubbing of deer antlers and bob cats scratching to sharpen their claws.

But the Mother Tree is never broken. She always stands tall, a few limbs lost to wind and ice, but that's another parent, Mother Nature, helping to trim her daughter's profile, to keep her straight and to provide room for the smaller trees who will, someday, dominate the forest floor.

There are cedar, an invasive non native tree, who grow in the open fields like weeds and love the edge of the forest. We usually clear the small ones from the fields, to keep the pastures open so the Prairie can grow without interference. But I have to admit I love their persistence. They start as a scrubby, pokey little ball of thorny green and tough little trunks. The winds bow them over but rarely break them. They're the perfect metaphor for the spirit of the people who live here. Nearly all of us came from somewhere else, from places on the other side of the world, except for the Native Americans. And even they have, over the eons, migrated from one part of the continent to another. And every single one of them tough and insistent, fierce and willful. 

There are the locust trees with their thorns, the last of the ancient trees that inhabited this part of the world when Wooly Mammoths walked the Earth. The thorns were so long they protected the trees from the Mammoths when they looked for something to eat at the end of the season, or a scratching post to help them shed a thick winter coat. These were the trees that survived tons of itchy animal seeking places to rub until the tree would fall to the ground. Again, survivors with a tough exterior and a sweet, inner heart.

And then there's the leggy elegance of the sweeping, white barked Sycamore. Their seed is a fuzzy, round ball that falls to the ground from a great height, sometimes hitting me in the head. It's eaten by some of the wildlife or sticks to the their coats, traveling through the forest and landing somewhere just right where they can reach higher than the surrounding trees, for the light.

When the winds blow, as they do almost everyday here in Kansas, you can hear them swaying, humming to the patterns of the wind in their deep, alto voices. Their roots run deep so they rarely fall, but when they do it is a long descent taking smaller trees with them and leaving an opening in the canopy for others to follow behind. The bark of the Sycamore curls off in large sheets, leaving their lovely skin for the forest floor or for artists who wander through looking for something to paint or draw on besides paper and canvas. 

I've always imagined the Sycamores as the dancers of the forest, long legged beauties who move with the wind as their orchestra, wild, large leaves fluttering and turning, catching the light. Their dance is slow, in four four time, elegant and on point.

We're a strange breed, we Kansans; a state of mostly Introverts happy to be left alone, the place in the middle where few people live, passed by on the highway or over when flying from one coast to the other. We're the so called blank in the middle. Most people think we're inhabited by nut cases with extremely conservative political and religious views. Not so. They're just the squeaky wheels who get the attention. Nearly every person I personally know is kind, generous to a fault, showing up to help without comment when a storm blows through and fences are ruined or barns blown down. They are there when a family has someone injured or ill, or someone is lost, bringing food and help without expecting a thank you.

We offer folks help with their ailing horses, giving them a ride to the hospital in Manhattan because we love our horses, cows and other animals who live out here. Most of the people I know are very creative, making do for generations to hold on to their land, adding something to the family home as the ancestors pass through.

We are musicians, artists, story tellers, farmers and cowboys (and girls!). And we all pass down home remedies to each other used to care for ourselves and our animals. And it isn't unusual to have the local large animal Vet to help without asking for pay, or to put off billing because they came from an agricultural community and understand that we live by the whims of the weather patterns and so does our income.

The forest, like our communities, is connected in a thousand, thousand ways too small to count or even notice unless you take the time to look and listen. There are lichens and moss, fungi and small wild flowers, tough prairie grasses and grasses that cover the forest floor. It's an interlocking system that is delicately balanced between the insects and spiders, birds, animals predator and prey, turtles, snakes, and frogs and countless other citizens. And all of them add to the music, the wind and trees groaning, humming, swaying and rustling, crickets chirping (our bringers of good luck) and frogs in chorus.

Our small corner of the world is a reflection of who I wish all of us could be:connected, kind, offering space to others when the time is right, balanced and in sync with each other, dancing to our own rhythm with the wind and weather as our backdrop.

We have our share of poisonous spiders and ticks, nasty little blood suckers who hitch a ride hoping to bloat themselves on the accomplishments of others. And we have poison ivy, a pretty glossy plant that leaves a terrible itching, oozing rash when touched . But even the Rattle Snakes and Copperheads, Brown Recluse Spiders and poison oak has it's place here. Life would be pretty doggone dull if we didn't have problems to solve and grouchy, irritating or even dangerous citizens to keep us on our toes, to teach us how to solve a problem without denigrated another or throwing the much needed balance off.

Today my hat is off and the bow is made to the land, the forest and prairie, the quiet and peace. Today I am giving my love to Mother Nature, Kansas style, and telling her HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! And, today, I am saying thank you for all the time I've spent here. In geographical terms I am barely a blink, but I am a "blink" who has spent every sweet moment that I can observing, learning from and loving the place I call home.

Life is good! I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling at the way things go.

And if you're ever passing through I hope you'll stop by to have a cup of tea and, if you let me know you're coming, I'll make you some chocolate chip cookies too!

Love and Peace...

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