A Lesson Learned from Mother Nature

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“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.

The first one out of the nest.

 

Where’d our sister go?

 

The one who didn’t make it.

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.

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Comments

14 Responses

  1. Thank you so much Jeanie for sharing your wonderful ‘Earthsong’, or as it’s known in the poet’s house, ‘the love between flower and bee’ song! More stories to flutter around the library of my heart. I especially loved the one of you, Grandpa and your first novel! Whatever the combination, Mother Nature’s interconnectedness (in a myriad of ways) is always teaching us how to find more of the balance I seek between heaven and earth.

    The task of a lifetime I realise, because even though we’ve seen something happen hundreds of times (the sighting of newly fledged birds), Mother Nature makes it so that we see it again and again and again with ever fresh eyes, as if it’s the very first time. Her mystery and magick keep us on the right path by opening the eyes of our hearts. Yay! To a shout out for Elaine and her beautiful nature writing! Love and light, Deborah.

    1. ‘The love between flower and bee’ song! I love it. Your thoughts about how Mother Nature keeps helping us see things through fresh eyes reminds me that `Flower and song’ was the ancient Mexican Aztecs’ metaphor for poetry. I imagine you already knew that. It’s fascinating how closely nature is related to our most rapturous and vitally alive moments and how only poetry can fully capture those moments. How odd that I’ve never thought of this before, (unfortunately, I’ve never had a class or course in poetry)–or any kind of right-brained imagining for that matter), but I guess it’s impossible to be a poet without having a close relationship to nature because nature is life and poetry is about life! Thank you for your comment. Thinking about this connection helps me imagine new possibilities for my own writing. Much love, Jeanie

      1. Mother Nature unwraps the Truth of the world doesn’t She, alongside the Truth of ourselves. Well, that’s how I’m finding my relationship with Her. Let me explain myself a little more as I know I can talk in riddles … each time I enter the poetic landscape of a woodland, a meadow or climb a mountain, the same woodland, meadow and mountain enters me. That’s the interconnectedness I’m talking about. Ah, thank you for reminding me of the Aztecs’ ‘Flower and Song’ metaphor for poetry! I love the way you encourage me to turn my metaphorical telescope around and find another way of looking and making sense of what I’m seeing. Love and light, Deborah.

        1. Yes, she does. That’s a great way of explaining the interconnection we’re talking about. I feel that way too. I’ve always been very sensitive to the feelings of others and also to my surroundings. But I’m not always conscious of what I’m feeling or why I feel that way. I just know that I’m very attracted to certain landscapes that move me deeply. I think this is a big problem for many INFJ’s. We have the emotions but lack the words. I guess I write to find the words that resonate in order to understand myself better. For me, writing is always therapeutic, but not necessarily poetic.

  2. Jeane, your memories are truly precious, and I appreciate you sharing them with us… I, too, love summer because of the warmth it brings. It’s a season that allows us to shed heavy clothing, enjoy the outdoors, nature, and feel free. You were fortunate to have such a wonderful childhood experience, which is truly rare and valuable. Thank you again, and I might mention that the image at the top is made by a Jungian and adorable friend of mine, Petra Glimmdall.
    Sincerely, Aladin

    1. Dear Aladin, your association of summer with warmth also applies to the heart, I think. It’s as if the heart softens and opens like a blossom when it’s exposed to the warmth of light and love. Perhaps this is why so many of my favorite memories are related to summer. Because they warm my heart! Thank you for your thoughtful comment. And thank you so much for letting me know that the image I used for this was made by Petra Glimmdall. Is she the artist who painted it, or the one who put the image with the quote? I saw the name J. Bauer at the bottom left and wasn’t sure if that was the artist or not. Whichever way it is, I’ve added your friend’s name as the art credit! Many thanks and much love, Jeanie

      1. Heartfelt thanks, my lovely teacher. The painting is from J. Bauer and Petra use them for the quotes. Have a wonderful time, blessings 🤗❤️🙏

  3. This is so lovely Jeanie thank you. A blessing to be in tune with nature and her rhthyms and appreciations of all she offers. The most generous gift is one of attentive listening – and being still, observing. Love, susan

  4. Thank you, Susan. Especially for your description of the most generous gift! I love it. We’re doing that here in the mountains.
    Jeanie

  5. I love this conversation and the wisdom of letting Nature lead the way. I’ve struggled with acceptance of life as it is this spring since with hearing loss and Meniere’s Disease, my body feels disoriented and ungrounded with the wild weather. Then, the Monarchs didn’t arrive in early June as usual and I felt abandoned by my beautiful summer companions (and my writing project). I was not doing well with accepting things as they are. Add to that the sudden death of a friend and sister quester since the 1970s just two days ago with no obvious trauma or illness. Just gone with absolute finality.

    Then on a walk today, I saw one orange Monarch butterfly in my field and felt found, at least for a few minutes as he hurried to his destination. I slowly made my way back home and the skies unloaded another thunderstorm on the garden and flowers. Now I’m inside trying to accept what is. Your post is a big help. My Mourning Dove mama lets the water drip from the roof on her head and I can’t tell if her two eggs have hatched or not. Down the hill, the Bluebird Mama is probably lying in her nest like a comforter over her six eggs which is what she did during recent flooding rains. They are wise and accepting while I try to tell the sky to stop raining.

    (In researching Monarch information, I looked hard for stories or mythology from Mexico. I didn’t find much and what I found was Aztec and not Michoacán where the Monarchs winter. The pre-Spanish Monarch stories are lost, but there’s still a yearly celebration of the Day of the Dead in the Monarch area and now all over the world, celebrated with orange marigolds. With gratitude to you for this post and to Deborah for her reflections on orange in my dreams. With gratitude for wise friends.)

    1. I’m so sorry about the lack of monarchs this year and the death of your friend. And dear Willow’s passing on only a few months ago. That’s a lot to take in. It truly is hard to accept some facts as they are, especially when they’re painful, or when they disappoint our expectations. I’m trying to learn these lessons too. And am grateful for the help of friends along the way! Much love, Jeanie

  6. Jeanne, having had the privilege MANY YEARS AGO of visiting your beloved cabin, I so enjoyed this special story of the birds. All of nature is beautiful and special! Thanks for sharing this!
    Love, Donna

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