By Al King
One of the situations that seems to be part of agricultural ventures, is crop damage due to insects. Those of us who are attempting to use more natural agricultural systems are always looking for natural ways to reduce crop loss. Some species of birds have diets that consist almost entirely of insects and spiders. The question then becomes how to attract the insect eating birds to our agricultural areas.
Western Bluebirds are one of the species of birds whose diets are primarily insects and spiders. They are cavity nesters, using a hollow in a tree for example. In order to increase the numbers of bluebirds, one can increase the opportunities for nesting by providing more cavities for them to nest in. This can be accomplished by providing nest boxes. Those who have studied bluebird nesting have come up with specific dimensions, entrance hole size, and recommendations for placement and orientation of the nest boxes. Nest boxes that conform to these recommendations, optimize the chance of the birds using them and successfully rearing young birds.
Some years ago, I was approached by a gentleman who wanted to place bluebird nest boxes around our agricultural fields. He felt passionate about the fact that increasing the bluebird population would reduce the insect populations, and consequently reduce the need for other insect control measures.
We welcomed his offer and he placed a number of nest boxes, which he had made. He monitored the success of the blue bird nesting and subsequent maturation of the young birds. He later moved away, but left the nest boxes. I saw this program as beneficial to the property as well as an opportunity to experience this wonderful aspect of the natural world, so I took over the annual cleaning and maintenance of the nest boxes.
At present, we have eight active nest boxes at the sanctuary. They are cleaned and repaired each March. In April and May the bluebirds are courting, scouting for nesting opportunities, laying eggs, brooding and caring for their young. Observing these beautiful birds throughout the year is a joy. Knowing that I have had a hand in increasing their nesting opportunities is also a joy.
by Ischa Beharry
Looking at the stunning fall colors unfolding on its branches, I was drawn, after the Hong Sau Meditation during our recent Silent Retreat, to connect with a particular tree outside the Sunburst Temple.
Holding a beautiful leaf in my hand, the delicate Divine artistry so intricately displayed on this leaf was outstanding! Arrayed upon its borders was a slight tinge of the most remarkable reddish hue. “How do you feel about losing your lovely foliage, which will leave you so unclothed in the midst of the oncoming winter rains and the inevitable cold, I curiously inquired of the tree?
Into my consciousness flowed the following reply, filled with utmost love and compassion:
“I simply go with the natural order of things. Fall is a time when Nature withdraws inwardly, conserving its energy for the harsh winter conditions that always follow. We trees do not resist the Divine Order of things —we simply allow its unfolding through us. We simply are— one hundred percent a tree, just as we’ve been created to be. And, yes, we are conscious beings even as you are; however, we do not resist our ‘beingness.”’
Upon reflection, and at that very moment, my own inner voice intervened:
“Model this wise tree. Resist not or complain about life, the weather, the seasons…. Embrace it all fully and you, too, will continue to feel the unbroken inner peace that you’ve been so blessed to enjoy.
Amazing Nature, you are indeed Spirit’s playground – a repository of the greatest wisdom, beauty, joy, strength and courage, yet humble beyond compare! O how I adore you!
by Sean Fennell
A somewhat feral cat was being relocated to Sunburst Sanctuary. It would act as a important deterrent to rodent expansion in the up-canyon shop area. I wanted to help this cat know that he had actually arrived at his new home.
He was staying in an enclosure for a few weeks. This is necessary with cats (and some dogs), to keep them from simply running away, maybe back to their previous home. Each day I gave him food and water and visited with him while. I would try to pet him, but he would always move away from me.
After the allotted confinement time passed, I went to his enclosure as usual in the evening, talking to him as I normally did. I wanted to assure him that everything would be okay. I opened the enclosure and, to my surprise, he came right to me, rubbing against my legs. I stooped down and he leaned into my open hands, letting me pet him for the first time.
This cat and I found that everything is and will continue to be quite okay here.
By Ischa Lea
A year ago, with great sadness in my heart, I looked at the almost 100-year-old Pippin Apple tree at the end of our driveway and said to her, “I’m so sorry that all your beautiful flowers have been blown away during this extremely windy spring and all your efforts to treat us with your delicious apples have been lost.” As if to make up for that loss, her lovely branches were miraculously adorned with hundreds of apples this year!
She’s been of great inspiration to me, sharing a secret bond, for as I would walk or drive past her, sending a little blessing her way, I could feel the reciprocal energy of a gentle hug coming from her. How grateful I am that she both blesses and graces the entrance at the end of our driveway.
Long overdue for a pruning, how often I would wish that someone with that knowledge came forth to take good care of her. Her energy is wonderful! The cows love her shady branches and often indulge in her treats. And the birds and insects too! To me, she is the Great Grandmother Spirit of our beautiful Sanctuary, providing shelter, food, wisdom, inspiration, and beauty and comfort.Sadly, as I looked outside one morning recently, I was heart-broken to see my beautiful apple tree, so laden with larger, luscious fruits that their weight split her trunk almost in half! I cried that day, and still do when I look upon her glorious presence so suddenly destroyed!
Will she survive? Will her nourishing apples ever get to fully ripen? Is she saying a final goodbye, having given her all to produce countless bountiful harvests despite the harsh conditions of many severe droughts and not having been watered except during the few months of minimal rainfall each year?
Oh beautiful tree, you’ve taught me so many lessons these past two years that we’ve been neighbors. You inspired me to hang on and be strong when I was quite ill and weak; you inspired me to stand back and just allow life to flow through me when I had not the wisdom to otherwise practice; you taught me that resilience comes from within, that sacred inner drive to simply be. Furthermore, you showed me how, despite the lack of human care for many years, you yet thrived, living among the oaks and wildlife for almost one hundred years so free!
I cannot selfishly ask you to stay if it’s nearing your time to say goodbye for that would be wrong; however, while you yet shine in glory, laden with the fruits of your joyful, unconditional giving, I wish to say, “Thank you for being The Tree That Never Gives Up; The Tree That Taught Me How To Simply Be!”
Only time will tell whether how much longer you shall be,
An icon of beauty, decked yearly in spring flowers sweet;
But whether for another year, nay dozens more as friends we meet,
Magnificent friend and teacher you always shall be!
By Dawn King, Sunburst
A young woman from Australia flew to California on a whim and hiked the beautiful 211 mile John Muir Trail in California’s high Sierras. Now she was hooked on solo hiking and decided to take on the Pacific Crest Trail, a much more daunting trek. Two other solo hikers that season lost their lives in this pursuit. Our Aussie girl met plenty of challenges, with swollen rivers, glaciers and snow, which she’d never seen before.
Even when we call it “vacation,” extended recreation can easily turn to “wreckreation.” My own experiences have born this out; and we often hear of the weekend sports person who’s now a recovering invalid.
“Work hard; play harder.” It’s a great motto, but can be our undoing. Coming home from activity-filled vacations with my husband, I usually feel like a wreck, and it takes me a week or more to fully recover from our non-stop hiking, camping, rock scrambling, etc. But I wouldn’t want to miss the beauty and adventure of it, maybe even the challenges.
After thinking I’d created a new word, I found it listed at the Internet’s wiktionary: Noun: wreckreation Recreation that wrecks or harms the environment. For example, running off-road vehicles and mountain bikes through ecologically sensitive areas, running boats with large wakes in narrow watercourses so as to cause bank erosion, climbing in areas where raptors nest, or simply hiking in areas that disturb existing flora, fauna and archaeological resources.
We owe our Mother Earth some conscious care, just as we need to respect our God-given bodies, minds and spirits. Actually, I was thinking wreckreation might be applied to over-indulgence in “recreational” beverages, or other substances that wreak havoc on one’s normal ability to function, i.e. one’s personal environment.
So what’s the purpose of recreation anyway? The word’s roots mean “renewal.” Each day the sun rises and renews our daytime activities, after (what should be) the restfulness of night. Life has a rhythm, an ebb and flow. Sunburst’s founder, Norm Paulsen used to say that even the Creator fluctuates between
“a movement and a rest.”
As a microcosm of the macrocosm, or a chip off the old block of the Divine Creator, we each require a movement and a rest. Re-creation or renewal is vital to our wellbeing. We need a balance of exercise and rest physically, mentally and spiritually, so we don’t become a wreck.
Spiritually, and mentally, the best rest is found when we connect directly with the Divine. This can happen in deep meditation, or sometimes spontaneously in reverie, possibly when awed by the beauty of nature.
My husband, Al once met a woman who was fifty years old and on a road trip, having left Detroit for the very first time in her life. She had never before been face to face with a mountain or a forest, or seen the ocean. Hers was a whole new life, a true recreation and renewal of her realm of experiences. She was very excited about it all.
Let us pray for a wonderful renewal of spirit for all humanity. It is our birthright to realize and reaffirm our divinity as sons and daughters of a Creator who loves us, each and every one so very, very much.