A summer walk on the prairie

Lynne Smith, OSB Living in Community 4 Comments

At our recent staff retreat day, I went out for a walk in the prairie. Over the past two years we have been redesigning some of the trails on the property to follow the contours and interest points of the land. On Tuesday, I decided to follow a new trail that begins north of the orchard on the top of the hill.

I crossed the gravel road and entered the path through an opening between two evergreen trees that leads into a meadow. The old path wrapped around the outside of the meadow. But this new path takes the walker through the middle of the meadow and along a row of oak trees. It felt like I was entering a new land. I saw this area from a new perspective I hadn’t seen before. I thought, “Sometimes it helps to see my life from a new perspective like this path.”

The trail through the meadow led me into the pine grove. The sisters planted these trees 50 years ago and carried water to the seedlings until they were well established. The grove was nurtured with tender loving care and now stands as a sheltering place. The trees are tall overhead and form a quiet, cathedral-like space under their branches. 

Coming out of the pine grove, the path connects with one of the paths through the woods. I thought, “The new path connects with the old.” Life is like that too. We take new paths that often emerge from the old ways. New learning is connected with the old wisdom we have gained through the years. The new builds on the old. Then I noticed that even though I was on a path I have walked many times in my years here, the surroundings looked different. I was walking through an area of the woods that had been cleared of non-native trees to create a space for oak savanna to come back. There was much more light visible overhead with the canopy cleared out and I could see the shapes of the old oaks standing boldly against the sky. It’s good to shed some new light on our lives periodically through reading, conversation, a change in activities. With some of the underbrush cleared away, the values that are most important in our lives stand out.

I continued through the woods and came out onto a trail through the Wisdom prairie that I have been using this past year. It was abloom with foxglove and white wild indigo. Last year’s dried stems still stand in the field and the combination of the old plants and the new was beautiful. It reminded me that the new springs forth from the old.

Learn more about our nature trails and download a map of the new trails

Comments 4

  1. Dear Sister Lynn; I felt like I was right there beside you on this beautiful walk of the new, and the old, trails. We were not in a hurry, we did not hear the interruption of a cell phone, there was the peace that comes from time among the trees. I smiled at hearing about the Sisters lovingly carrying water to the pine saplings. I know the joy and amazement at seeing such a vulnerable young twig with roots become a full grown tree! I remember seeing the first bird recognize my birch group as a real, though very small, tree. So I can imagine the joy and even laughter as the Sisters nurtured those pines. And I found myself many times as I read shaking my head Yes as you mused about how the new rests on the old. It is a blessing to have a history isn’t it. We then have a way to learn and a direction in which to grow. I appreciate how you Teach. As a teacher I always felt it was wonderful having a student by my side, rather than my having to be in front. I enjoyed walking next to you as I read A summer walk on the prairie. Thank you. Deborah (Oblate class of 2017).

  2. Such lovely reflections and insights, Lynne. I cannot respond any more eloquently or appropriately than Deborah Nelson has, above, but I am always grateful for your blog posts! Ann

  3. Thanks for the walk Lynn! I took the walk with in my imagination. As we baptist preachers often say, “with my sanctified mind,” lol!

    Right now I can imagine myself underneath the pines in natures sanctuary.


  4. Thank you, Deborah, Ann and Joe for your comments. I’m so glad to share the beauty and peace of the monastery grounds. It has been fun to discover new places here through these new trails. I hope you will have a chance to walk the trails for yourselves this summer.

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