spiritual retreat center education

Anam Cara- News from Borderlands Ranch.

Periodically I have mailed out newletters containing updates on progress at the ranch, visiting groups, and thoughts. Here are some reprints of my "Musings" writings, for your enjoyment. Also, read a sampling of thoughts from visitors of Borderlands. These comments come from our guest book and labyrinth journal.


Musings From Linda, February 2005

“Frugality is both an art and a gift.” (From October 25 in Blessings of the Daily by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette) This statement caught my eyes and my heart in my daily readings this morning. I did the morning ‘walkabout’ with Grady and Spooky, checking on the open gate (did the horses get out overnight – what was all that barking for anyway??) noticing the frosty grass blades and the slippery bridge over the dry creek (two years now with no water in the upper creek – the western drought is real!) Brought my frosty breath back indoors to a hot cup of coffee and my morning reading and prayers. I thought of how the gift in frugality has been seen over the years as Borderlands has grown and developed on the proverbial shoestring.. During that time my work in pilgrimage has been enhanced and supported by The Pilgrimage Project in the Diocese of Washington funded by the Ruth T. Soper Fund of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC. This grant was supported physically by both Grace Episcopal Church, Silver Spring MD, and Church of Our Saviour, Silver Spring, MD, congregations in the Maryland suburbs of the Washington, DC diocese. Most recently I have been blessed by my association with Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Rapid City, SD.

During this time it has helped to look only at the steps immediately in front of me as I have walked this path of faith and honed my calling to this land. Our Creator takes care of the “long range plans,” so to speak. And I have to be available to listen, really listen, for what to do and where to go next and how to take those steps responsibly. Perhaps that is some of the gift of frugality turning into the art of frugality. My daughter tells me I can look into a fairly desperate refrigerator and turn its contents into a wonderful, fulfilling soup – the art of frugality?? If this is so, this is a gift from my grandmother, Hilda Mikkelson, who lived most of the years of the last century and raised a family during the depression years farming 80 acres in the southeast corner of South Dakota. She definitely knew how to make ‘stone soup’ and perfected that to an art. My father, Harry Thomson, a full blood Scotsman, has clearly passed on his share of squeaky Scottish frugality to me as well. I have memorialized the death of these two important people in my life this past year giving thanks for all their gifts to me – both frugal and not so.

For several months Tim Fadness, a local transplant from Minnesota, has been lending his hands to the art of frugality as he strives to tear down old structures and fencing and restore or remake many new things from the fragments. An eight stall three-sided barn near the round pen is getting a face-lift in time to be used for Grady’s Program next summer. Another small barn has been stripped down and new windows, flooring and a deck added to be used for a bunkhouse. A chicken coop and pen have been added to the tack barn and the three chicks, Tic, Tac and Toe are now producing beautiful brown eggs for our enjoyment. The horse barn has been completely cleared out of extraneous stuff, new gates and other repairs done. The interior corrals have been torn down – those that hadn’t already fallen down - and out and repaired and working gates added. To have a set of gates that all open and close without “cussin’” is truly a gift! Thanks, Tim, for your precise and caring stewardship of this place. (In his “spare” time Tim often led pilgrimage groups up to the top of Harney Peak – an avid outdoorsman, he is also a rockclimber, bicyclist and backpacker.) All this added to the facelifts of paint and oil the main building and the Guest Cottage received this spring from my son-in-law, Alex Ayala, and his crew, Heidi and Karen, makes Borderlands looking “pretty spiffy” as my grandma used to say. Passive solar is great until it comes to painting the windows – slightly less than 50 windows between the two buildings! Thanks Alex, Heidi and Karen! (And while they were painting I was enjoying my two new grandbaby twins, Rosalinda and Marco.)

Well, the day has turned into a cold drizzle probably snow by nightfall, a pot of my infamous soup is on the stove and a fire built in the woodstove. Thank you for being part of the Borderlands Circle of Family and Friends! We’re going to celebrate all of you next July 1-4 with a big gathering and reunion here at the ranch. And many blessings to you and yours as we move into the long winter rest and reclaiming of who we are in grateful Thanksgiving and the celebration of the Holy in the midst of humble surroundings. Linda

(From Anam Cara -News from Borderlands, January, 1999

Mid-November I witnessed the fantastic meteor showers in the black night sky above Borderlands. It was an experience of awe and wonder and I thought of a cause for celebration each time a ball of light soared across the sky. Foremost on my heart and mind is the fact that Borderlands Education and Spiritual Center has passed its first birthday! Please rejoice with me as we begin our second year of building a ministry and fellowship of reconciliation here in the heart of the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota while at the same time I begin my second decade as a priest in the Episcopal Church.

Continuing to strive toward defining and refining our mission, we are open daily to what is brought before us as challenge, as obstacle, as gift and as grace. Coming to this point I am reminded of those who have gone before me and have mentored me to bring me to this ministry of reconciliation.

Hearing the meaning and depth of the word reconciliation first came from Bishop Edmund Browning, the 24th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, whose ministry exuded the spirit of reconciliation in action. Building on that concept was Bishop John Walker, VI Bishop of Washington who ordained me to the diaconate and priesthood prior to his untimely death in 1989. The marker on his crypt in Washington National Cathedral says, "John T. Walker, 1925-1989, VI Bishop of Washington, Caring Pastor and Teacher, Reconciler of Men and Women of All Races and Creeds." Life didn't give me enough time to sit at his feet but his caring, warm and reconciling way of living made a significant impression upon me and upon the ministry given to me to carry out.

During that same period of time I was blessed to know Verna Dozier, often called the "Lay Bishop of Washington", a teacher extraordinaire who walked among the poor and the wealthy, the black and the white, with the same loving intent of reconciliation. And I can still hear her repeat the abiding words she lived by each day, "I know that my Redeemer liveth." Many people, especially women and people of color, feel blessed to have been guided by her teaching the gospel with clarity and poignancy and by her words of support and encouragement along the way.

Journeying back to my home in South Dakota thirteen years ago I met Noah Brokenleg who was to adopt me in 1996 in the Lakota way as his daughter and give me the Lakota name, Icimaniwin, "Journeying Woman". Priest, pastor and reconciler, Noah's heart and spirit reached out to all people and, in so doing, made each person feel specially known to him, and through him, to the Great Spirit. Over the years of our relationship we sat for hours telling stories and talking about cultural and spiritual reconciliation. We grieved at how our ancestors were so frightened of one another and how, out of that fear, walls of hatred, confusion and retaliation have been built among the people of South Dakota. The honor of being his daughter humbles me and calls me each day to remember why I was "brought home" in the first place. His spirit is a guiding force here at Borderlands and through his niece, Charlene LaPointe, he has left me a teacher, friend and sister reconciler.

Journeying, whether physically or interiorly, is a way of life for those on the spiritual path -and, aptly named, I am journeying back to Washington this winter. Invited back to Grace Church, Silver Spring, MD, to work with Janice Robinson, whose reconciling spirit exudes joy, vibrancy and love, I will have the opportunity to further my experience in the work of reconciliation. One specific piece I will be doing is refining the plans for a Dakota Pilgrimage that can be used as part of the curriculum, Journey to Adulthood, which many Episcopal churches are incorporating into their Christian formation curriculum for youth.

The new presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, has pointed out that we need to name the destructive forces in our lives and try to convert hostility and mistrust with openness. "If we are going to talk about reconciliation, then we must live that way." Living the work of reconciliation is living the work of peace -not a peace that is the absence of conflict, but peace that works for justice and recognizes that conflict can be a constructive force that forges deeper, more meaningful relationships of trust, accountability and mutuality. May the Reconciling Spirit of our Creator birth in each of us a hunger for peace and a passion for justice.

Peace, Linda

(Anam Cara -News From Borderlands 2001)

I am often asked by pilgrims to Borderlands how long it will take to go somewhere from Borderlands. "How long will it take to get to Bear Butte? How long will it take to get to the Shrine to Crazy Horse?" And I am often asked how long it will take to walk the paths of the slate labyrinth lying across the creek from the main house in the shadow of the tall spruce tree. I always smile, because the real answer is that it will take as long as it will take. We will be done when we are done. It is like asking how long will I live? Some times we aren't able to live our lives -truly live freely and abundantly -because we are too intent on calculating every minute detail of our lives.

If one walks a fairly normal stride, it will take about twenty minutes to walk into the center of the labyrinth. If one is walking with an operational weed-whacker, however, it could take up to twelve hours. I will let you know the exact calculation when I have completed "whacking" the entire space. It is a constant challenge to keep the prairie grasses from taking over the stones so lovingly placed in each circuit of the labyrinth. But it was one of my goals that by the end of September it will be trimmed down -the entire labyrinth at one time, that is.

Walking with a weed whacker is also a spiritual experience -seeing the grasses fly away from each stone, revealing each one in its true glory, is remarkable. Each stone is so individual, some round, some jagged, some pointed, some large, some narrow, some tiny and a few glistening quartz ones sneaked in among the slate. Some have different colors of mosses growing on them; some have designs. Along the way there is rhubarb and chives growing, left from the former garden plots. There is also the ever-present thistle making its way across the field. And the mole, the ever-present messenger of the earth, continues to stir up the soil in various places.

Weed whacking is a lot like the spiritual work that we are called to do in our lives:
- helping to get rid of that which hides our spirits in order to reveal the creation we were designed to be by the Great Spirit, Wakantanka, our Creator God;
- standing firm against that which threatens to overcome us;
- discerning that which should remain in our lives and that which needs to be removed;
- accepting the uninvited surprises with joy;
- and listening, always listening to the messengers that come into our lives and the wisdom that they bring.

And like whacking the labyrinth, this spiritual work is a constant throughout our lives. It is not a one-time zap experience. The work calls us to do whatever is necessary to shine forth with all the gifts, talents and skills that God gave to us to use for the betterment of our community, Mother Earth.

Stones are instrumental in the spirituality of many cultures. Stones have marked spiritual places or sites where people have touched the spiritual universe. In the Celtic world, stones mark holy wells and other spiritual sites. Stones are used in the Lakota sweat lodge ceremony as representative of the ancient ones, of the creation, Grandmother Earth, the source of all life. Black Elk says that the stones are also representative of the indestructible and ever-lasting nature of Wakantanka, God. And in the Bible, we are called to be living stones, stones upon which the community of God is built.

Stones will be central to the work at Borderlands in the summer of 2002. For about a hundred years a structure stood along the drive from the road -a structure with three stacked stone walls built into the side of the hill; three doors forming the fourth wall. It was possibly the first home for the homestead family in the late 1800s; later a carriage house and equipment barn. It is being readied now to become a seasonal Chapel for Borderlands Center.

An adult pilgrimage group from Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, IN, will spearhead a restoration project early June that will include restacking the stone walls fallen in by torrents of rain several summers ago and tightening the infrastructure. Next, new decking and shingles will be the order of the day, but first things first. Others are invited to join in this restoration effort -a wonderful way to experiment with Benedict's Rule of Life -work, study and pray -and I'm sure there will be some play as well.

When this work is completed, a special ceremony of dedication will take place rejoicing in the creation of this Chapel space and of the labyrinth and sweat lodge, too. Stones stacked into protective walls enclosing prayer space; stones, laid end to end to create paths of prayer and mystical reflection, and stones, the ancient ones calling us to honor Grandmother Earth, the source of all life. Stones to remind us to always be living stones, to be the community God has called us to be -a community of love, a community of justice and a community of peace.

Peace, Linda

Home : About : Calendar : Programs : Photos : Links : Contact : News : Comments : B and B
Labyrinth : Lakota Benedictine Experience : Equine Programs : St. Paul Street Productions
Preserve the Prairie

© 2012 Boderlands Educational and Spiritual Center