I make friends with all manner of birds, animals and insects. Even bees, who often catch a ride on my pants as I hike up the big hill in the meadow. It always makes me feel special somehow--to have a bee gently land on me. I rarely feel worthy of that kind of contact, but feel happy at how even the smallest of creatures issue their faith and trust in who I am.
A year ago today, I was doing some winter hiking in Utah. Yes, it was cold--28-degrees below freezing, in fact. But there is natural beauty there like I've never seen. And, the inn where I was staying in the little mountainside town had the most marvelous jetted tub. Though I was only there for two days before heading even farther north to take in the wonder of Bryce Canyon, I took two baths a day--mostly to warm up after my hikes, but really, I just couldn't resist the tub.
On this day last year during my trek through the mountainous landscape of Utah, I saw a magnificent bald eagle. She appeared suddenly, flying circles above my head. Luckily, my camera was out and I caught a few pics before she disappeared. People wonder how I get to have so many encounters with wildlife during my hikes. It's about patience. And, being able to stand still for long, long periods of time. That's a photog trick--you often have to wait out people, or animals, or time itself, just to get the perfect shot. Even though hiking implies movement, I tend to hike to a certain place, then, start taking pics before moving on.
It's in those moments in Nature that I'll sometimes see rays of light appear just after my eye catches a set of silvery wings....
While in Boston recently, I was paying my respects to family at a nearby cemetery and as I hiked from my great-grandmother, Rebecca's, grave to visit her children, I came across all these feathers strewn between the rows. It made me think of the peregrine, tearing the feathers out of a crow she'd caught as I stood in amazement below:
She was on a high branch. Black downy feathers were scattered beneath. Took me a minute to realize what was happening as more feathers floated gently down all around me. What struck me was how each had been plucked out by the root. The plumes I found by the graves in Boston were pulled out in much the same way. Peripheral movement to the left caught my eye. It was a golden eagle. They began returning to New England in the last five years or so with sightings on Cape Cod, nearby New Hampshire, and of course, the Berkshires. This was a rare sighting and I knew it. Always feels like a message from the other side when something like that happens--but in truth, it happens to me all the time simply because I'm outdoors as much as humanly possible. Still, it was a special moment, one I wanted to share with all of you as we spread our wings in 2020, soaring into the second decade of the twenty-first century.
I was hiking up the big hill when I took the picture. There's no trail there--just a deer path. It was muddy from recent snow-melt. Before hitting the meadow, big paws with long nails running at a good clip by the looks of it, were imprinted in the muddy path. Maybe my wolf was back, too? After adjusting my course a tad, I checked my phone for the time. In that moment, it was as if a voice whispered, "Turn around." When I did, I saw silver-tipped wings out of the corner of my eye before these glorious beams of light hit the very spot where the wings had been.
My life may sound magical at times, but if you read my work here, as well as on Psychology Today, you know it isn't. Despite the pain and hardships I've had to face, I never lost faith...in myself.
Miracles happen when we buy that plane ticket. They happen when we decide to stop working for a few hours to enjoy a rare day of sunshine in the middle of winter. Even remembering those who came before us can offer opportunities to witness miracles. Everyday miracles, like seeing a golden eagle in winter in New England, or having a peregrine buzz your head in greeting, or, hiking in frigid temps and watching a bald eagle circle on the thermals overhead.
It's hard to not feel connected to something bigger than yourself when you have the courage to put down technology and feed your soul. You can still finish whatever it is you need to finish. But remembering to fully participate in the life that's thriving all around you is the very best reminder we have to stop surviving and start thriving ourselves.
May the year ahead find you with a courageous heart, open to travel and adventure, and, open to love. There are 363 days left in 2020--I don't know about you, but I plan to live each and every one to the very fullest.
Post-script: Please check out my latest for Psychology Today on new research that connects stress to depression--but not in the way you might think! Editors loved it so much, they promoted it to the front page...enjoy: