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Blessings to the Llamas' Apple Grove
Hannah-Leigh Bull, Llama Deara Ranch: October 2002

 ...They came slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under
the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes
and even
nibbled some
damp tassels of weeds. This
is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be.
This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
one of them--I swear it!--
would have come to my arms,
But the other
stamped sharp hoof in the
pine needles like
the tap of sanity,
and they went off together through
the trees. When I woke
I was alone,
I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you swim outward,
so this is how you pray.

Mary Oliver from Five A.M. in the Pinewoods

In early May of 2001, Llama Deara Ranch welcomed roughly 35 women to a gathering of people interested in permaculture, renewability, and community development. It was a glorious spring day, pleasantly warm and sunny, with soothing breezes as opposed to the strong winds that are the rule of spring in New Mexico. Pockets of conversation developed in the adobe kitchen, in the portal, and on the volunteer grass in front of the main casita, against a backdrop of the fiery orange and red roses and Oriental poppies of the phoenix-like garden above the llamas, providing the entire land with good fortune.

Permaculture is short for permanent culture-a way of life that provides for renewable communities integrating plant, animal, and human needs in harmony with each other and with nature. In a nutshell, four key ethics guide the practice of permaculture:

  • Care for the Earth
  • Care for people
  • Conserve resources
  • Reinvest surplus time and energy back into the community

At permaculture gatherings, the host generally shows people around the property to share what she has been doing to promote these ethics. Often our projects revolve around agriculture, given that renewable communities are possible only with a sustainable system of food production and animal husbandry. My sensitively spirited llama friends were main attractions of the day, followed by the straw bale-lined, raised vegetable garden and water collection systems. Other women shared what they were doing in their lives, gardens, and stewardships and provided insights related to the challenges and joys of this piece of the Earth. After communing around the delectable food that everyone contributed and viewing photos from various Australian permaculture sites, we headed for the apple grove that has become the heart center of the llamas. Even when the large pasture is open to the llamas, they eventually gravitate back to the apple grove to rest.

Apple groves can be home to possibly the most fantastic creature found in the faerie realm--the unicorn. The unicorn is a symbol of magic, enchantment, power, and mystery. It is no wonder that llamas have often been associated with the unicorn, and the splendor and harmony of an apple grove provides them a comforting abode.

Six months before, my sister and I had formally blessed the living structures and the bosque, or riparian forest, but as of the Women's Gathering, I had not really dedicated the apple grove, although I had learned that apart from my protecting the tree bark, the apple grove would remain the domain of the great tree spirit that already inhabited it, and that the llamas would be its welcomed long-term guests.

By the time we made it down to the apple grove, our numbers had reduced to a handful of women, and we decided to do a prayer stick. The stick itself was made out of old apple tree clippings, with three branches forming two forks or gateways into other realms. To construct the prayer stick, we chose rich rainbow yarn in earthly colors. While wrapping the yarn around the stick, each woman shared her blessings for the Earth and its inhabitants, Llama Deara Ranch and its llamas, and the interconnectedness of men, women, children, and all living things. One of the women had brought her conch shell and transported us all into another state of consciousness as she played it; another woman read the Mary Oliver poem quoted above; to decorate the stick in celebration of the Earth, Spring, Rebirth, and the harmonious loafing haven for my llama family, we added bells to better hear our inner messages, a crystal egg to mark the new beginning for us all, and burning sage to honor what is greater than our individual selves.

The llamas stood by from the start, intrigued by the music and prayers, and at peace with the women who had come to join them in their grove. In these moments where we may not actively be focused on community, we create the most profound sense of community, and innocently and genuinely further the principles of caring for the Earth and its creatures. These moments remind me that there is still time to hear the tap of sanity from the hooves of our furry companions, from the spirit who inhabits our groves and souls, from the Earth itself.

Hannah-Leigh Bull
Director, Llama Deara Ranch
May 2001

Llama Deara Ranch   P.O. Box 305   Medanales, NM 87548   phone: 505 685-9416   email: [email protected]
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