Tonight the moon is new. The night sky is dark, save for starlight glimmering between growing clouds brought by warmer south winds. Outside my window, two barred owls — likely mates — call to each other. It is their nesting season, or about to be.
I wonder, do they call to check in with each other? Has one found dinner and now calls the other to share in the feast? One voice is deep, like the lower register of a pipe organ. The other is higher, but still resonant, echoing through the new moon darkness. I love their voices, and rejoice in the fact that their species has shared our land with us through the 3+ decades we’ve been here. I pray their kind will always be able to live here beside a beaver-built wetland full of tasty owl meals and other, much larger, wildlife.
I’m told that new moons are ideal times to set intentions, to articulate immediate goals, and perhaps some that will take more than one moon cycle to attain. For me, tonight’s new moon is about seeking ways to embrace change, rather than resist it. I like to think I’ve been getting better at this, rolling with the punches, so to speak. But recent events challenge good intentions.
Current events are undeniably difficult to face. Sickness, death, violence, profound anger, and alarmingly bitter hatred hold many hearts hostage. Surrounded by pain, the reflex to go backwards is hard to resist — back in time, to a moment before events started weighing us down, stone upon stone, until even breathing becomes impossible for hundreds of thousands of us. But I know — we know — only one direction is an option: forward.
My guidepost to embracing change is the Green World. Snakes, like the beautiful ring-necked snake above, shed their skins to reveal their new, better selves. Caterpillars spin cocoons to shelter their transformation into butterflies. Just this past week, Nature sent me a reminder, when my friend and garden helper, Beth, discovered a bright green chrysalis of a Black Swallowtail butterfly suddenly exposed as lingering scarlet leaves on a blueberry bush finally began to drop in deference to winter temperatures.
Gardeners know all about embracing change. In fact, we actively encourage it. In my greenhouse right now are flats full of seedlings. I had set them outside in a sheltered spot to stratify — the process of prolonged cold exposure that some seeds require before germinating. Late fall warm spells that arrived after early cold caused some seeds to awaken early. So, embracing the change, I hustled these flats into the greenhouse to shelter them from returning cold. Now, tiny new plants greet me when I step into that warm, humid space on a winter’s morning.
Perhaps we gardeners can help others struggling to embrace change by sharing our green worlds with them. Do you know a neighbor or a friend who is too much alone these days? Perhaps you could help them plan a small garden to plant this spring. Maybe you know someone who loves to cook and would love potted herbs for her kitchen. Is there someone you could invite on a socially distant walk through a botanical garden or a park on one of the warm winter days we enjoy in the southeastern US?
Many non-gardeners walk through the outdoors unaware of their surroundings. Persuade them to caress tree bark and note the textures, listen to chattering finches and chickadees, admire emerald green moss and soft gray lichens adorning boulders. Nature heals by pulling us out of ourselves, reminding us of the beautiful, vibrant life that surrounds us.
For me, a key to embracing change is remembering to seek out beauty every day. Weather permitting, I am outside even on the coldest winter days to fill bird feeders, check on the greenhouse, admire the ivory bark of sycamores against a backdrop of deep blue winter skies. And every winter morning, I rise early, in the hope that the eastern horizon will be painted by a vivid sunrise. I keep my camera handy, because the color fades almost as fast as it appears.
Standing on my back deck in the frosty air, I wait for creek water to catch sky fire, then try to capture the color in my camera as the rattling call of pileated woodpeckers blends with the muttering of mallards on the beaver pond, and Canada geese rise into the air honking loud enough to out-shout the woodpeckers.
On this new moon night, I hope many of my readers will set new intentions that will help guide them forward through whatever comes. Let your love of gardening and the natural world help lead you. And please consider sharing the beauty with someone whose heart needs lifting. Working together, we can transform all lives.