Paying Attention

First off; About 7:45 this morning I saw the Red Squirrel again, sprinting across the yard and up the old pear tree. Then when I went out to the woodshed to get some firewood, I noticed a fox in the upper pasture. Ki* was the darkest red I’ve seen, almost no white. Gorgeous! Ki trotted out to the behind the Oak and then rolled around in the dried grass, then ambled off into the south tree-break. Just at the edge of the pasture and the beginning of the tree-break, ki stopped, maybe to mark the spot with scent. Ki did not appear to be hunting. Then, true to form, a deer walked cautiously across the top of the pasture. All before 8:00 AM!

Now, the good news: While neuroscientists have shown that we, humans have a propensity to pay more attention to and remember the negative things that happen over our lifespan and on a daily basis, if we can stop and pay attention to the good things- for just 15 seconds- that will embed them in your memory.

“Neuroscience can now demonstrate the brain indeed has a negative bias; the brain prefers to constellate around fearful, negative, or problematic situations. In fact, when a loving, positive, or unproblematic thing comes your way, you have to savor it consciously for at least fifteen seconds before it can harbor and store itself in your “implicit memory;” otherwise it doesn’t stick. We must indeed savor the good in order to significantly change our regular attitudes and moods. And we need to strictly monitor all the “Velcro” negative thoughts”.
(from Richard Rohr’s daily meditation, today)

The bad news is that our attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to a mere 8 seconds! (less than a goldfish at 9 seconds). This was reported in a study done by Microsoft that I read via DailyGood (yesterday).

More good news: there are ways to expend your attention span! Here are some:
1. drink more water
2. exercise
3. avoid the use of electronic devices as much a you can

The above 3 are also from the DailyGood yesterday, 2/17/16.

From my personal experience during this first week of Lent; I am finding that my fast from using FB is having good results, and I am hoping to have a very different relationship with social media after Easter. It is said that in order to break a habit or create a new one, one must do it, or not do it for 21 days.

Anyone interested in joining me in fasting from FB (or twitter, or texting, or using these kinds of things while “multi-tasking”/working) for the rest of Lent, or just the next 21 days?

blessings, Amy

*ki is the replacement for he/she/it (for living things) recommended by Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass as well as in her article in YES! magazine a few months back. It is from a Native American word, and the plural is kin!



“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
Mary Oliver

There is a lovely little chipmunk that flits under my feet occasionally  (if I’m still enough) while sitting on the porch. They are so shy otherwise that it always brings an involuntary smile to me face. So when I catch even a glimpse of something that could be one, I stop whatever I’m doing and pay attention. This morning before I was quite awake, I caught a glimpse of something small and fast out the dinning room window that looks out into the porch. I could feel the smile on my lips starting, as I turned to see better. Then my mouth fell open when what I saw was a Red Squirrel! It had a black walnut in its mouth and was headed for the tree around the corner. I gasped and turned to see it whisk up the pine tree where all the bird feeders hang.

What a gorgeous little creature! It was bigger than Chipmunk but only about half the size of the Grey Squirrels that I thought were the only kind we had around here. It was so bright and fast that a firecracker came to mind. I had never seen a Red Squirrel before!

As if that wasn’t enough to fill my day with amazement…

A few minutes later I was out on the porch filling up the recycling can to take down to the end of our drive since today is recycling day and I had neglected to put it out last night. As usual, I was facing southeast, looking out over the big pasture. Along came the fox, trotting out from the west side woods toward the sentinel Oak. I stopped and stood still to watch. When ki* was near the Oak, ki stopped and looked toward the house, then went on across the pasture into the east side woods. Lovely.

No sooner had the fox disappeared into the woods when farther up the pasture, away from the house, a deer bounds across from east to west! Then another and another, until I counted 7! A beautiful sight! (And all this before 8:30 AM. Thank goodness I didn’t stay in bed scrolling through FB, as I have been known to do!)

*“ki” is a word that has been recommended to replace “it” for living beings that are not human, by Robin Wall Kimmerer in this article for YES! magazine;
The plural for” ki” is “kin”.  I like this so much that I think we should replace he/she/it and them, with ki and kin, especially now as we struggle to find language for our transgender and gender queer relations.



A Quaker’s Lent

I am coming to understand Lent and the practice of “fasting” in a new way. That first year, (5-6 years ago) it was a great help to me to fast from wine consumption and coffee. I had gotten into a rut- a cycle of drinking to alleviate feelings of unbearable burden, and then needing caffeine to be able to make it through the day- all the while “keeping up appearances”. Breaking the silence on that- at least to myself and a few others was important.

This year I am also abstaining from wine, mostly for health reasons, but also to support someone else. That, however,  doesn’t seem to get at what’s being asked of me, or what my deepest, truest self is asking of me. Its not so much about self-denial or in that old, mostly useless, language, “mortification of the body”. I’m beginning to understand that Lent is an opportunity to let something go for a period of time (or forever?) in the hope that the letting go will change my relationship to it, perhaps, in the long run. AND that the space created by this absence will, hopefully, open up new space for relationship to G!d, and/or for what I am called to do in my life/in the world.

One of my first thoughts was to”fast” from white privilege. How does one give up privilege that is conferred upon one without ones’ consent? Is it really without my consent? Could I give up my consent? Since I’ll be attending the White Privilege Conference in April, perhaps it makes sense to examine this then, with the help of others.

My second thought was to fast from FB. I feel the resistance, even as I say this to you all. It seems that I do have some addictive energy here! But, but… I’ll miss important things my friends are sharing… if I don’t respond, they won’t like me anymore!… and people are so appreciative of my farm posts; I really don’t want to disappoint!… and so it goes, 4 days into Lent and I am still waffling… I do, however, feel “convicted” as the early Quakers used to say. It is perfectly clear to me that the amount of time I spend on FB has nothing to do with maintaining closeness with G!d, or with fulfilling my calling, such as it is. It is also clear to me that this would be a good experiment- even if I fail at it some of the time.

So here goes: for the rest of Lent I will fast from FB. I will start by turning the FB notifications on my iPhone.2016-02-11 10.20.15

Welcome to The Outlaw Abbey

2016-01-29 17.08.25We are an Earth Sanctuary as well as a Center for Renewal and Regeneration. Just outside Philadelphia on Back Forty Farm, we are the stewards of 10 acres of woodland and 10 acres of pasture, plus and old farmhouse, barn and kitchen garden. This land was originally part of the territory held sacred and lived on by the Leni Lanape Nation. During colonization it became part of the Cheyney estate and farm, which in the late 1800’s deeded land to an organization that founded the first Historic Black College,  now known as Cheyney University.  Back Forty Farm has been in my family since the 1950’s.

We share this land with numerous species of birds such as Pileated Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Northern Flickers, Carolina Wrens, Bluebirds and Barred Owls year round and Hummingbirds, Scarlett Tanagers, Orioles and more for the summer breeding season. We also feel blessed to share this land with deer, fox, Chipmunks, squirrels, turtles and possibly a Bobcat. The woods are full of ramps and berries, some mushrooms and a little watercress, as well as other wild edibles we are learning to recognize.

Our “church” consists of the woods and fields, and our style of worship is Quaker. We have an intention of creating a sweat lodge, having asked a local Lenape leader about the appropriateness of non-native people doing so, and receiving positive answer.