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The hills are greening, flowers bloom; there is birdsong, nest making and gardens waiting for blessing. With the Maiden Earth in ovulation, creatures are enlivened, inclined to entwine! Warm-hearted, we stretch in the sun, walk barefoot in the new grass, bear the spring rains with good cheer and gratefulness. Passions stir-flashes of sweet desire, hot lightning of anger, gusts of giddiness, heartbreaks of grief and fits of unbearable joy. How to meet these relentless tremors? Dance!
In circles, growl and flirt, wail and strut and yip! Exaggerate feelings until laughter or tears claim you—and keep dancing. No matter the furies unleashed in the world, a circle of women dancing out passions is a potent alchemical mandala. Shakers sing it this way: “To turn, turn, will be our delight, til by turning, turning we come round right. “ Weaving in and around one another, we thread our passions in the web. Warp and woof, spokes and runners, take up your strands with clear intent. Weave what you want into being, into Life!
Marian Spadone from Mother Tongue Ink.
On Sunday, we celebrated May Day, an ancient festival that honors the fertility of the Earth. For the last ten years, three committed volunteers have spent hours setting up the May Pole and decorating the farm to make it festive with color for this event. This year, twenty other people joined us on a perfect spring day. They walked around the farm, taking in a feast of the senses. Some smelled the earth; others picked flowers. Several swung in the hammock, lazed in a chair or on the grass, or just chatted with each other as the fragrance of lilacs and the sound of music floated in the air.
“People feel free to do what they want here,” said an old friend as she surveyed the lawn and took a deep, easy breath. “I feel it every time I turn off the main road to come to the farm.”
People were touched and in touch with life. “Is that what an apple tree looks like?” said one guest. “I have never seen one in bloom before!” She was looking two full-sized apple trees, each thirty feet high and thirty feet wide, filled with clusters of white blossoms and abuzz with bees. My father had planted them fifty years ago.
Some stood in front of the lilac, marveling at its profusion of blossoms. Most walked down to the barn to see the cows and the new calf, the Guinea hogs, the Indian Runner ducks, the geese and the white cat in the barn. “Where did she come from?” Several asked. “She looks pregnant!” others noticed. “I want a kitten!” several exclaimed.
Mid-afternoon, we danced around the May Pole as the musicians played a Morris tune. We weaved long strands of pastel ribbons in and out, much as the invisible world of Spirit weaves life into form.
How do we honor the web of life that supports us and connects all things? How can we touch the Earth as a beloved and honor her exuberant fertility and the incredible mystery of creation? How do we value such an experience? How much does connection cost? How much is it worth? What is life without it?
On Wednesday morning, as I opened the door to the cow's stall, the door hit something faun-colored and lumpy on the floor. A new calf had just been born! I lifted her and carried her close to her mother. Then mother and grandmother licked her for an hour or more. They seemed to be licking her into life, calling cow spirit into physical form. “Come on, little one, come on into this Earth! Come on, little one, we are here for you!” They licked and licked. They were strong, insistent, cajoling, comforting. That first day, she stood on wobbly legs and nursed weakly. Each day, she has gained strength and vitality.
That evening, a golden moon rising, I led the frisky young heifer and her mother to the barn. They did not stay. They walked into the main pasture. The little one slipped under the fence and disappeared. Close to dark, I noticed that mother and grandmother were standing at the fence bawling. “Where is our baby? Where is our baby?” they communicated. I saw no calf.
I was exhausted. I searched for the calf along the fence line. I could not find her. So I took the mother, Buttercup, on a lead to find her calf. She let out a long, low moo. “I am here for you, little one. Moooo. I am here for you.” She led me into waist-high poison ivy and into the prickly needles of a cedar tree. I could go no further. Hiding beneath the cedar tree, was our little Daisy. Buttercup licked the young calf. Soon I was guiding the heifer in between my legs as I held the lead of the cow in one hand.
Life is so rich and so worth living at White Rose Farm. I am offering to share it. Come for a visit!
The grass was so green; the ribbons so festive; the flowers so fragrant!
The music floated on the air as we danced around the May Pole
and savored a perfect spring day.
As the vet finished examining the farm's new heifer, Daisy, he commented," You have doubled your herd!" Buttercup had a heifer, and we have named her Daisy. I found her yesterday morning in the barn, probably less than an hour after she was born.
For the next hour, Buttercup and her mother, Brigid, licked this young heifer, coaxing her into life. It is an amazing process! Daisy bonded with Brigid, Buttercup's mom--a cow who spent the winter here. The vet recommended that I separate Brigid--even keeping her from the sight of the new born calf. Brigid paced the fence bawling to get to the calf, while Buttercup, as a first-time mother, warmed slowly to her new offspring.
By the end of the day, Daisy was standing and nursing from her mother. A good thing--because the vet said that if I could not get them to bond, I would have to milk the mom and bottle feed the calf, a process that could easily take two hours every day.
So a new chapter starts at White Rose Farm. It will be filled with both wonder and drudgery, I am sure--and the farm has taken another step toward sustainability. We hope to offer classes on how to milk a cow later in the season.
For now, I celebrate new birth, warm milk, motherhood and green green grass.
At a recent gardening meeting, one backyard gardener asked about planting a garden. He was preparing to dig the soil. Several experienced farmers strongly advised him not to dig, but rather to layer cardboard and mulch over top the soil and plant into it. Research, they said, showed that digging the soil disrupts the microorganisms that create the soil's web of life.
I use mulch and newspaper to cover established grass when I am making new flower beds, but sometimes I pick up a shovel and dig. Perhaps, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there is a time to dig and a time to refrain from digging.
It may depend on our primary purpose for gardening. Are we growing food or making a life for ourselves? World class gardener Alan Chadwick asserted that the garden is for the gardener: we see our reflection in the gardens that we create. Theologian Thomas Berry said that the inner world of man and the outer world of nature go together. What if we are to learn about life by gardening? Why not begin in our own backyard?
Anastasia, in the Ringing Cedars series of books by Vladimir Megre, describes how people touch the Earth with love in their small garden plots in Russia. The Earth, she says, is very large, but exquisitely sensitive to loving touch.
What mother does not rejoice when her children return to her with an urge to connect? To appreciate what she offers? Mothers offer comfort, support, a listening ear, a warm lap, a gentle touch. I have seen women who willingly bear the brunt of rage so that it can be transformed and lifted. Our Earth Mother can take our anger and our raw energy and transform it. Perhaps she suffers most when she is not seen, felt or appreciated for what she offers.
Poet May Sarton wrote a poem focused on Kali, the dark mother in Indian mythology. She ended her poem, “The Invocation to Kali,” with these words, “Help us to be the always hopeful gardeners of the spirit who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, as without light, nothing flowers.”
When I dig in the soil, my innards go down into my own depths, my own darkness, my own confusion. While I am working with what is below the surface in the garden, I unearth some truth hidden within me. Grieving, raging, confused, frustrated,I have always found answers shovel in hand. In the process, I have created beautiful gardens.
So I say to this backyard gardener, “ If you feel called to dig, dig. Dig with love! Dig with rage! Dig with frustration! Dig with confusion! Dig! Dig! Dig! Dig knowing that something new will emerge from your efforts. Feel your energy flow into the land; feel the energy of the Earth flow into you. The soil will be disrupted, it will also be energized by your work. You will be enlivened by that flow and nourished by food coming out of your garden.”
Parents know that when their children take on a new task, it might be painful at first. When my son began playing the cello, the squeaking sound of the strings set my nerves on edge. I endured, though, knowing that sweet music would come with time and practice. The Earth can take the cut of a shovel as long as it is done with a desire to connect, to be real and to engage consciously.
Remember how sweet it is to really connect with another person? It can be that way in the garden too. Make love, make life in the garden! If it is time to dig, dig away! Get down and dirty. It is delicious!
Celebrating May Day!
The farm will open its season with a May Day Celebration on Sunday, May 3 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. This event celebrates spring! It is filled with flowers, fragrance, music, pageantry, and dance.
We make flower garlands, baskets, necklaces and processional staffs. Then we process to the May Pole and weave satin ribbons around the May Pole as musicians play lively tunes.
The event captivated me more than 50 years ago. It still thrills the girl inside me who loves flowers, ribbons, pastel colors, pageantry and spring. This event is one I can especially recommend for elementary school children. Many will carry their memories throughout their lives, as I have. Click here to register ahead of time.
Happy, happy spring!
Sally Voris, White Rose Farm
“There is something inside us
that goes out to meet every living thing,”
wrote Thomas Berry.
We understand the world
through our feelings, I have read.
This morning, I found my pregnant heifer
sitting by the barn door,
her back legs stretched out behind her,
her belly so large
that it sat like a giant ball
covered with curly chestnut hair.
A friend advised yesterday,
“She could come at any time,”
She is getting close!
I felt myself going out to her,
And going inside to remember how I felt
Nine months pregnant
“Deliver me!” I had thought
And then I had birthed my son,
His father standing close by.
On this early spring morning,
I got a brush and stroked her,
She barely moved.
She turned her head gently towards me.
This was not the frisky heifer
That had come to the farm two years ago.
This was one preparing for motherhood.
Any day, any moment.
And so we begin the wait,
The final expectancy.
Will she deliver easily?
Will I be there to help?
Will new life come to the farm?
It is all in question.
Going out to meet her,
my world expanded as I never knew it could.
In the city, we can experience the best of what the mind of man creates: culture. In the country, we can experience what the mind of God creates: Nature. Both are important. How do we nurture both within ourselves? Often we must stretch beyond comfortable limits.
Yesterday friends, opera singers by profession, came to the farm from near Washington DC. The weather forecast called for rain. They came anyway, eager to help with farm chores. As a child, the mother had loved visiting her grandparents' homestead in western North Carolina. When the family visited the farm last fall, the boy had played with my border collie; the girl had swung in the hammock; the father had collected apples from the trees in the front yard. Those apples, though gnarled, were the best any of us had ever tasted.
My father had planted those standard apple trees fifty years ago. After he died, the trees were neglected for many years. Five years ago, a neighbor helped me with the first big pruning, but in any one year, one cannot cut more than a third of a tree without hurting it. Last month, when my friend offered to help me prune those trees, I accepted. He and I could bring the large trees back into good form!
By the time my friends arrived, the rain had stopped. The ground oozed water. Mud clung to our boots. We threw sticks to my border collie. We saw the ducklings, the chickens and the geese. I lifted leaves gently to show them where goose eggs were hidden. We fed alfalfa cubes to the cow. We ate lunch.
Then the father and I went to the apple trees with pruners, saws and lopping shears. He climbed the tall ladder and cut off the large suckers. I lopped off smaller branches. “Let's sing!” I suggested. I sang several rounds I knew. Then he sang songs in German, his native language. He remembered singing those songs to elders, he shared, as part of his work assignment as a conscientious objector in Germany.
Meanwhile, the mother and daughter collected eggs from the hen house and washed them. The son disappeared. Far from being fearful, the mother remembered how she had explored for hours alone as a child. Soon he returned with a question: “How many cats do you have on the farm?” He had found a white cat in the barn. When he petted it, it curled its back in delight, he exclaimed. Next, he walked to a low part of the yard and pretended to get his boots stuck in the thick, sticky mud.
Then we all went to the woodlot. The father had brought a chain saw to cut a large downed tree into chunks. We walked across the forest floor, the ground still mostly frozen, though some areas were getting swampy. We smelled the verdant leaf mold. Birds sang and flitted in the tops of the trees. The creek flowed strongly with muddy water. We made a log bridge and walked across it; the mother swung her daughter across the creek. Could we feel the energy of the sap rising in the trees around us?
The father sawed; I hauled the logs across the creek. The son waded into the creek in his tall boots. Mother and daughter walked hand-in-hand into the deep woods. Soon we were whooping and calling to each other. The son yipped to the dog down the road; the dog yipped back.
We returned to the house, the children cold; their clothes wet and mud-soaked. The mother pulled out the dry clothes she had packed for them. The father looked at the blobs of mocha-colored clay splattered on the back of their mini-van. It had begun to drizzle. He hoped the rain would wash the mud off of his vehicle. We waved goodbye and they drove away.
They have invited me to visit them, and I will. I invite you to come visit the farm! The mind of God awaits.
Early this week, as I did the morning chores, I saw a young goose move quickly off of a spot close to the barn. I knew from that behavior that she was making a nest. New life was coming. I could feel it!
Theologian Thomas Berry said that there is something in us that goes out to meet every living thing. I met her and felt joy! All winter, my five geese spent the night together behind the barn. I spent most days inside writing and reading. Now, this goose was creating a nest. She is the smallest of the three that survived from last year's hatch. With a light-grey spot around one eye, she is endearing the way those dogs that have a spot around one eye are.
Exactly what changes when a goose begins to lay eggs? She gets plumper, lower to the ground and more demure. She carries herself as if she has something precious inside. She glows, as pregnant women do. One can read about it, but when one sees this goose firsthand, one feels the expectancy.
I examined the spot where she had been. She had made a deep crater of leaves, but the nest had no eggs. Later, as I forked spent hay from the cow's stall, I saw something lustrous and white. It was a long, narrow egg—probably her first. It had a streak of yellow-orange on one side, a long, dark narrow streak on the other. What were these streaks? I don't know. I was intrigued and disgusted. The next morning, one rounded full-sized egg lay nestled deep in the nest.
Yesterday, a thin sheet of ice covered the concrete behind the barn. I walked through the barn rather than risk the shorter walk across the ice. I poured water for the cows into two black tubs, each fifteen inches across and six inches deep. As I gave the cows a large flake of hay, Pappa Goose and the young goose stood on opposite sides of one tub. He brought his neck forward, dipped his head into the shallow water, preened his neck feathers and waggled his tail. She mirrored his neck movements ten or fifteen times. Then she climbed into the tub, filling it and splashing water over its sides. He mounted her and thrust himself forward. Within seconds, he trumpeted. They both ruffled their feathers and left the tub.
Now snow is falling again. The temperatures will drop to close to zero degrees Fahrenheit tonight. Will her eggs freeze? Will they maintain their fertility? Will she set on them through the night? Last year, a young goose sat on eggs for nearly a month. None of them hatched, though, because she had not been a consistent setter. What will happen this year? I don't know.
I do know that this goose has thrilled me with her presence more than any book, e-mail or work that I have done this season. She moves me; she delights me; she engages me. As I have gone to the library this week, I noticed images of an eagle displayed on a giant screen there. That eagle is nesting on top of a building in Pennsylvania, a camera trained to transmit its every move. Those images give me information but not intimacy. I am involved with my goose; I can only observe the eagle.
A friend has asked me how she can connect with Nature in her own back yard. Find some living thing that draws your heart to it and attend to it regularly, I suggest. Care for it. Bond with it. Treat it as if it matters. It does—to you and to Nature. As a farmer, I attend to the goose, I provide food and water, but I don't control her. Will she set? Will her eggs hatch? I watch and wait, ever hopeful, not knowing what the outcome will be.
I do know spring is coming.
“A father and mother who are actually creating a Space of Love for their children are more spiritual than the most celebrated wise men who only talk about spirituality. Let the spirit of each human being spring up from the ground as a beautiful flower, a tree with fragrant fruit...” Vladimir Megre
These words from the Ringing Cedars of Russia series sparked a deep resonance in me. A friend gave me, Anastasia, the first book in the series. In it, Megre describes meeting Anastasia on a trading expedition into the Siberian taiga. A recluse, she hold the memory of an ancient civilization. In the succeeding books, she shares with him; he shares with us. His encounter transforms his life.
The vibrancy of her images call for us to create a world of peace and harmony by remembering we are children of God. The Earth has been placed in our care; the image of a garden deep in our psyche. Megre advocates that people create a “kin's domain”--what we would call a homestead--where children are born and raised, where elders are buried when they die--a place of abundance and beauty.
“Imagine God looking down on you from above right now. And He sees someone driving a tram, another one of His children constructing buildings, another standing in a store and selling things behind a counter. These aren't the professions God created... He created a marvelous world and gave it in stewardship to His children. Take care of it and use it! But to do that, you must understand this world. Understand what the Moon is, what the herb known as yarrow is...” writes Megre.
He continues, “If we really listen to our hearts, together, we ought to go from simply talking about spirituality to its material embodiment. One [homestead] is but a tiny dot on the face of our planet Earth, but millions of these dots will transform the whole planet into a flourishing garden. Trillions of flower petals, along with the happy smiles of children and oldsters will tell the Universe that the people of the Earth are ready for a grand co-creation.”
What if White Rose Farm focused on helping people experience a lively homestead and learn skills of heart and hand so that they could create their own Space of Love in which to raise their families?
Anastasia says, “Fruits grown with love can give their grace only to those who themselves have instilled love in them, or to those to whom the growers give them of their own free will.”
I know this is true: I have experienced it. Food is not a commodity: it is a gift from God. How can we create loving homes when we feed our families food that is thoughtlessly or negligently grown—whether it is organic or not?
I am very grateful that my parents created A Space of Love for me. I want to share it with others. I cannot sell life without demeaning the sacred—no one can—but I can share it. I can share my knowledge. I can share my space. Together we can create a world of beauty, harmony and love.
It starts with the seed of an idea and the willingness to nurture that seed. Something, someone, some energy is drawn to that seed. Then the dance begins: the dance with life. That is our most important work—to invite people into the dance of life. I remember the words to a song I wrote years ago, “ We can all weave, we can all spin, we can all dare to let others in, by telling our stories, sharing our songs, together we bring ourselves home.”
Home, a Space of Love, may we find it and nurture it this spring...and forever.