Updated: Mar 28
By Beth Norcross
A few days ago, late in the work day, I found myself in a particularly foul humor. I had made the mistake of glancing at the news headlines – a winter storm, blamed on climate change, had crippled the South; more partisan rancor had stalled activity on important Congressional legislation; a new Cold war seemed inevitable in Europe. While the temperature hovered in the teens, the sun was setting, and the wind was fierce, I thought a walk in the winter woods might lift my spirits. My husband was supportive of my departure. I bundled up and took off into the woods, my head down against the cold.
Not too long into my trek, I heard the raucous hooting of an owl, which snapped me to attention. While I couldn’t spot him, I knew he was close. And then farther away, I heard the tell-tale response of the female Barred Owl: “who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you.” A mating ritual? In mid-February? It hardly seemed the season for love.
But in fact, this indeed is the season for love for the Barred Owl, Great-horned Owl and many hawks and eagles, who typically mate, nest and give birth in this harshest of seasons. I listened, and the call and response continued. After these owls mate, these two love-birds will settle down, build a nest, lay eggs and eventually produce two to four off-spring sometime in early March. While most animals have the good sense to wait farther into spring to produce and nurture young, these owls take advantage of the early start to the season and the vulnerability of their prey -- voles and other small rodents who have been worn down by the long winter.
And if the rodent populations are experiencing a down-cycle, the parents will adapt and feed their young insects or worms or anything else they can get their talons on. The parents, it seems, put their trust, their faith if you will, in the natural order of things. Despite evidence to the contrary in the midst of this harsh season, the owls seem to know that sustenance will be provided. This cold, challenging time is exactly the right time for their young offspring to begin their lives.
As I walked, I pondered this strange process. Is there a lesson here for us that is worth exploring? In the midst of this figurative and literal winter in which we find ourselves, could it indeed be a time of gestation and birth? Can we summon the resilience to meet these challenges and the courage to adapt as we need to, as our owl brothers and sisters do?
Over the next few months, through our online and in-person programs as well as our social media, we will explore Hope and Resilience -- what nature can teach us about practicing resilience, in particular spiritual resilience, and holding hope for new birth in the midst of these times. The challenges before us have been well-documented -- the existential threat of climate change, social and economic inequities, destabilizing migrations, a polarized populace, the rise of autocracies around the globe, just to name a few. We will explore how nature might guide us in letting go of old expectations in these times and instead live into hope for a new collective realignment and indeed, transformation.
As we consider what hope means for us now and how we might practice resilience, I am indebted to Sam Chase and the Kripalu Institute for having offered that the first step in practicing resilience is showing up. Showing up has resonance as we reflect on spiritual resilience as well. Showing up as --
Being fully present to this moment both individually and as a community
Being open to really seeing, grieving, and then accepting the hard realities of these times
Learning to acknowledge, accept and manage the strong emotions that come up — fear, anxiety, guilt, anger, sadness, loss, joy, etc.
Reaching deep within ourselves to realize our own "resilience potential,” both individually and as a community
Being willing to empty ourselves fully so that we might be guided by Spirit/Presence/Deep Knowing in this moment
And preparing ourselves for new birth, along with the attendant adjustments and sacrifices that might entail
As I walked along that wintry path and listened to the owls in the throes of romance, I found myself feeling a little better. There was indeed life forming beyond my sight, our sight. I thought of my own two new granddaughters -- and tens of thousands of other babies -- who were born this past year in the midst of a crippling pandemic. These new births -- each one a statement of faith or hope in something, perhaps yet unnamed, unimagined, and yet still very real.
Join us as we explore what nature can teach us about practicing resilience and holding hope, even in such times. We look forward to the possibilities new insights bring and sharing this journey together.