Prairie Oaks Institute

cultivating the earth, rejuvenating the spirit

Prairie Restoration Project: Prep, planting, progressing

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Diann Korbel of the Scott County SWCD assisted with the prairie project

Work restoring native prairie grasses and plantings continues at Prairie Oaks Institute in Belle Plaine. The work has been done in collaboration with the Scott County Soil & Water Conservation District and the City of Belle Plaine.

The work is consistent with the Prairie Oaks mission of conservation and sustainability, but it’s also in line with our vision: “To be a catalyst of rejuvenation for people and the planet.” The prairie restoration project has brought renewed life to the space along W. South St. in Belle Plaine’s southwestern corner. And with the number of increasing walkers along the roadway due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an ideal time to promote our space, community and your place as a part of it.

The Scott County Soil & Water Conservation District’s “Plotmaster”

We’re hoping that this project will provide a space and native grasses and flowers that will give bees and migrating monarchs nourishment, helping them, and us, flourish. The project is also expected to include educational spots throughout, explaining the migration of monarchs and the need to better take care of our bees and planet.

We’ll keep you update during these unprecedented times. In time, we’re hoping to provide a short trail system within Prairie Oaks property for your ongoing walking/hiking adventures, as well as the potential for a native park place in conjunction with city officials and the Belle Plaine system.

If you’re interested in the project, let us know, be it as a volunteer, financial contributor or even as a board member.

Scott County SWCD staff member Diann Korbel consults with Steve Johnson, Prairie Oaks Site Committee chair and landscape specialist.

Today, the birds are still singing freely

“Time for the Singing of Birds” by Dr. Chris Johnson, Prairie Oaks Institute co-founder and President (May 6, 2020)

I saw on the news the other night a piece about how the natural world seems to be enjoying some respite, as if the planet has asked us humans to sit quietly for a time.  The air and water are cleaner, and it seems that bird song has changed:  at least among some species in some locations, birds are singing more loudly and with an expanded vocal range.  Without the usual noise and speed and crush of people to inhibit them, birds are finding and lifting their voices.  They’re exulting in the space that our forced hiatus is offering.  They’re singing, piping, warbling, cawing, chirping, whistling, or trilling with greater gusto and, if you will, with deeper authenticity.

Dr. Chris Johnson

In his baccalaureate address at Spelman College in May 1980 the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman said, “There is in you something that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. Nobody like you has ever been born and no one like you will ever be born again – you are the only one….You are the only you that has ever lived…and if you cannot hear the sound of the genuine in you, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls…. The sound of the genuine is flowing through you.  Don’t be deceived and thrown off by all the noises that are a part even of your dreams [and] your ambitions that you don’t hear the sound of the genuine in you…. Cultivate the discipline of listening to the sound of the genuine in yourself.”

And what of your own “voice” in these times?  To be sure, for many people the change, grief, and anxiety wrought by the pandemic has meant a loss of voice and agency, a laryngitis of soul, a time of lament, a cry for help.  All of that is real, and deserves to be heeded.  This may be a time to listen for your true voice – whether it expresses raw suffering, deep questions, or simple joys.  This may be a time to listen for your most authentic self, to listen for your deepest sense of meaning and purpose to (re-)emerge with greater clarity and “high fidelity.”

In these strange and changing times, where even the birds can sing more freely:  What does “the genuine” sound like, to you?  How do you know it when you hear it in yourself, and in others?  What seems to prevent you from voicing or hearing the sound of the genuine in yourself, and in others?  What is the song that needs to come into the world in and through you?

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