Friday, May 20, 2011


I've been wondering this week where inspiration comes from for people: writers, teachers, athletes, performers, students, for any of us. Yesterday, I was reminded that I need only to put on the tennis shoes and go for a walk with Lucy to find spiritual, personal, and light-hearted inspiration. As we walked casually along the dirt road, the old grandfather tree in the field north of us set me to thinking about "story." I took pictures and pondered mind full of memories about the field, the birds, the long runs with our husky, Woofer, the holding hand walks with Jack, the hide-n-go-seek games with Lucy, the winter walk with our grandson Isaac, and the delightful surprises that nature gives us.

The landscape of the field changed this spring with a "controlled" burn. I didn't try to stop it, but I certainly thought about running head-long across the field to ask the farmer, "Why, why are you killing our birds, the deer, the wild cats, the opossum and raccoons?" But I didn't. Last year a farmer with a tractor showed up in the field and began plowing the deep prairie grasses and pulling up saplings. With my faithful Lucy at my side I ran into the field that day to approach the tractor, which suddenly became extremely large as it approached me! What in the world was I thinking? the old man stopped, Lucy let him have it with protective barks as he walked toward me, scrawling. I asked first, "What are you doing?" His reply was simple and forceful, "Plowing the field for the government! It's CRP land that has to be turned over and all the trees removed." I actually tried to argue and plead my case for the wild animals. It did no good. He walked back too the two story tractor and started his engine. I had no effect, but luckily the rains came in downpours last spring giving CPR to the remaining prairie grasses.

It's been over a month since the acreage burned. The ashes, that didn't blow into our window sills, and under the tiny cracks in our doors, still blacken the land. But recovery and resuscitation comes in many surprising ways. The grasses are growing again in sharp contrast to the black/barren landscape. The coveys of trees and bushes stand frozen in time, not weaving with the wind like they once did. The grandfather tree in the far corner is scarred, bent, and broken from years of winds, rains, storms, and now stands blackened and
Grandfather tree like a statue in the wind.
crippled. One day, I'll stand at the field's edge and watch as the tree falters in a storm and falls to the ground. That tree knows many of my secrets, and I think those of passing children, too. For when I first came to the field there was a circle of logs around the foot of the tree where people had gathered.

Lucy let me know that the field mice survived the fires, but not so a cat. The birds are gone for now, but perhaps they'll return when the grasses grow high and deep again. Listening is not the same when the land is flat and barren of whispering grasses. I heard only a light crackling of limbs that day, no fluttering of quail in my face, no brushing of leaves, no pheasants screaming, no road runners chattering. I'm waiting on the killdeer birds to find new lands here for their babies, for the kingbirds and red-winged black birds to return, for the sunflower seeds to drift and settle and sprout. I can wait because there is always something out there, living, and changing. I don't own this land, but I love this land and all it provides. Mother Nature's healing effect on the land heals me, too, and offers me inspiration. Chief Seattle was right, "We are part of the earth and it is part of us."

Footnote: After I wrote this story I remembered a children's book that told the story so much better than I. What I found in my basement was a shelf of books dealing with nature. I must have kept all of the books that touched me deeply, as nature does. And so I'd suggest one of the best readings is Brother Eagle, Sister Sky (the words of Chief Seattle) illustrated by Susan Jeffers.


  1. Thank you Letty. I am getting this book for several children I love.

  2. Ah, government regs, I had forgotten about them. I loved seeing the photo of that tree. I used to play on/around that tree nearly 50 years ago...enjoyed your discourse