Hope on Silent Wings
I am walking up a snow covered trail at the Otter Brook Farm land in Peterborough, a string of families behind me. We are heading to the meadow, wandering our way in darkness lit only by the cold glitter of winter constellations. I hear the snow crunching as the group crests into the field. We are hoping to hear owl voices echoing through the night air.
I can feel the group being so quiet, holding their breath, barely moving, patient to hear just a slight sound, a faraway deep hoot. We try calling, a plaintive “who-cooks-for-you.” I see their faces full of anticipation, straining to hear a response. Children nestled tight against parent and grandparent, eyes wide, bright like those stars up above.
But there is no owl, just the bark of a faraway dog.
We are resilient this late winter night, even joyful. We are out in the cold, under brilliant stars, sharing the hope of an adventure. Our walk back is playful.
I know these families won’t give up. many of them have been here before. They will try again, at another time, in their own wild places. They will lift up their ears and open their hearts to hear whatever is out there to be heard. These parents, grandparents, and children are standouts. to come out on a cold winter night, bundled up, to breathe frigid air and walk through deep snow, just in hopes of hearing an owl.
Hope. That is what I have to have. Hope that these families will keep connecting to each other and to nature. Hope that families who have never gone out into the natural world will venture out together someday soon. Hope that children will spread their roots down into the ground, taste the wildness of this earth, and grow into adults who carry compassion for the natural world somewhere big within their hearts.
How do we cultivate this hope? This is the question that resonates with me, like the deep low grumble of a Great Horned Owl. I am a believer in transcendent experiences in the natural world, moments when you are stilled completely. moments when a piece of you is claimed and it moves right into the core of your heart, your being. But I’m beginning to believe that these moments don’t to need to be big. How often are we struck by lightning, after all?
How about cultivating this hope in small, quiet moments? Slowing down, and paying attention to all of our senses. remembering how the smell of wild grapes in the fall can fill you up, so aromatic that each breath is like a drink. Or how every child I know will lay back their head, open wide their mouth, and taste the first floating snowflakes of the season. Or how it feels to slide into the silky, cool waters of Nubanusit lake on a hot summer day.
Or how about the silent hope that comes when just the thought of an owl’s call drifting through a winter night can fill your very soul?