Thursday, January 14, 2010

Raven Raindrops

This morning, I was feeling extra cabin-feverish, but didn't have the time to go on a full on hike before heading off to work.  Instead of shrugging my shoulders and pushing the urge out of my mind, I decided that rather than starting the car and heading back inside until it warmed up, I would take a short walk down the road in front of my cabin.

I headed toward Pike's Peak, crunching through the snow.  Enormous black ravens circled over my head ominously.  They squawked, "CAAW! CAAW!" an ugly sound, I thought, from an ugly bird.  So much for my peaceful three-minute hike.  I reached a patch of sunlight and stood facing it, absorbing the warmth.  "CAAW!  CAAW!"  I tried to block the sounds out of my mind.  But then, I heard another sound.  It was familiar, yet not quite something I'd heard before.  It came from above me, like a raindrop, the dripping sound of water into a small pool, but amplified.  I scanned the trees.  It was the raven.

Amazed, I listened.  There it was again.  "Ker-PLOP!"  It was incredible. 

I have since searched the National Geographic and Audubon Society websites and the only scientific proof I can find regarding the capability for a Raven to produce this sound is that ravens can vocalize "a sharp, metallic tock."  Ravens, I learned, are able to learn sounds--even the human voice.  I suspect that this particular vocalist must have had an affinity for the sound of raindrops.

My point is that a short, three minute hike truly fed me.  I was inspired by this species of bird I'd so erroneously dismissed before.  I was in a better mood on my drive to work.  And it only took three minutes.

It's something that any of us could do, really, with the kids before loading them into the car or on our own down the street in front of the house (there's plenty of nature to be found in a subdivision, too!).  Too often we get into the mentality of all-or-nothing: if we were to commit to hiking once a week, it'd have to be a substantial distance to a substantial vista in order to be worth the trouble.  Not true.  Creating a small habit that only last for three minutes, one morning per week is absolutely better than not doing it at all.  The secret is approaching it with an attitude of openness, of wonder.  This attitude is something we can practice every day, in any climate, even in the mundane moments of driving the kids to school or walking outside instead of sitting in the break room for lunch.

So I would pose a challenge to all of us: Take three minutes out of one weekday to engage with the outdoors in some small way.  Give it the opportunity to become a habit.  Who knows what wonders you'll find singing just outside your window!


  1. What an insightful little exercise. You seem to bring a wealth of enlightenment to some of the most mundane things.

  2. Loved the challenge of an activity that takes so little time but created a desire to learn more about the creatures of nature!

  3. Thanks for the comments! It truly makes a difference, just taking a sliver of the day to cultivate awareness.

    Another simple exercise that helps engage the kids when we're cruising along in the car: "Whoa, check out that hawk!" or "Look at the clouds today," or "How many trees/rocks/birds/deer can we count?" Tiny observations such as these don't take much energy or time and encourage connection and awareness, even on the drive to school.