“Wisdom begins only when one takes things as they are . . . So it is a healing attitude when one can agree with the facts as they are . . . only then can we thrive.” C.G. Jung, Visions, Notes from the Seminar given in 1930-34, Vol. I
As a long-time student and teacher, my body and mind are fine-tuned to sync with an academic calendar and a relentless clock. Even now, years since I taught my last college class, I feel compelled to produce something of practical value throughout fall, winter, and spring.
But summer. Ahh, summer. Summer has always been my time to combine my passion for writing with the meaning I find in nature. Something about that combination is deeply satisfying to my soul.
This year we arrived at our cabin in the North Carolina Smokies later than usual. Our cabin near the top of a valley is nestled in thickly forested mountains. We have neighbors, but they’re rarely in sight.
This is a kinder, gentler world than the one we inhabit nine months of the year. Here Nature rules and we relax. I’ve needed this so much that I’ve neglected my blog and much else for the last three weeks. My husband, though still hard at work most days via the internet, is also affected by Nature’s restorative influence. We take time every day to rock on the porch and enjoy the cool breezes, lively birds, and beautiful view.
It occurs to me that part of the appeal of this place is nostalgia. I was raised as a city girl in Tampa, Florida. But I spent my summers at my grandparents’ rural Michigan farmhouse on the edge of a small town for many years. I treasure my memories from that time. The people across the street had 20 acres filled with Holstein cows, sheep, grain, and a silo. Most of the time I roamed freely outdoors.
Grandma and Grandpa kept chickens and let me collect the eggs. I’d take them to the family-owned fresh food market down the dirt road behind their house and spend my pennies on orange Dreamcicles. Or I’d walk to the drugstore on Main Street where I’d buy a pad of paper to write on. Sometimes I’d write stories or letters on the front porch swing. Other times, in my room with the window open at night so I could hear the eerie hoot of the owl in the nearby tree, the rustle of windswept leaves, or the patter of rain.
The summer I was ten, I covered 30 pages of a yellow legal pad with the beginning of a novel. Then I got my first case of writer’s block. Realizing I had no idea what I wanted to say, I tore it in half and dumped it in the kitchen trash can. Later that day Grandpa came to me with the pieces in his hands.
With tender gentleness he said, “I found this in the trash. Are you sure you want to throw it away?”
“Yes!” I said. “It’s awful.” He seemed sad as he turned away and disposed of it. I’ve always wished I hadn’t asked him to do that. I’d love to read it now.
Our place in the mountains satisfies the same need to write in close proximity to nature. This summer we’ve been gifted with a wren’s nest in what used to be a flower box on the wall of our porch. The day after we arrived I stood on a chair to peek in but the nest was empty. The very next day a loud and feisty little Carolina wren spent the day fluttering back and forth between the nest, the porch railing, and the surrounding landscape. Always cheeping loudly. Always with a spider or grasshopper or worm in his beak. Was he calling the female or was she already in there? We couldn’t tell, but the next day, we heard her answering “cheep cheep” from inside the nest. When I peeked in, the startled female scrunched back in alarm. She was warming some eggs. This continued daily for the next two weeks.
Then one day we heard faint baby bird cheeps whenever Mama or Daddy called to announce the arrival of treats. The eggs had hatched! More time passed. Last Saturday evening we were enjoying a glass of wine on the porch when one of the babies hopped up to the ledge of the planter and stood transfixed by the view of the big world around its tiny home. Soon it was joined by a second. Then a third. Moments later, while the parents called loudly from the branches of a buckeye tree, the first one jumped off and landed on the floor beside a flower pot. Here’s the rest of their saga in pictures.
Although the same drama plays out each summer throughout the world, to us it felt like a miracle to witness it. But when I inspected the nest after they left, my awe turned into sorrow. There was a fourth egg that didn’t hatch. Nature isn’t always kind and gentle. Some of her ways horrify us. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about that. Sharing this story in writing is my way of coping with the facts as they are. Only then can I heal and thrive.
A shout out to my friend Elaine Mansfield who inspires me with her stories about nature.
Art Credit: J. Bauer. Quote image by Petra Glimmdall
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.