Looking outside for symbols of hope (Outdoor Diary)

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Episode 378

The changing of seasons is the perfect time to look around for signs of changing life outside.

But what if instead of just seeing the signs, you looked at them as encouragement for your day? What if you saw them as symbols of hope that you can take with you or find whenever you need a little push through your day?

What would you choose?
How would it help you?

Learn about my chosen symbol in this episode of Humans Outside. Listen now!

Some of the good stuff:

[:35] Signs of spring and easter

[1:19] Here’s where I see new life in nature

[1:58] Excuse me winter, please leave permanently

[2:21] Here’s some personal symbols I see

[2:48] Why I look to the birds

[4:12] And why you should find your own symbols

Connect with this episode:

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

I’ve been thinking about signs and wonders.

OK, that’s a little dramatic. But it’s also true. The changing of seasons, coming of spring and Easter holiday always get me in a watching for new life kind of mood.

As a Christian and person of faith that’s strongly tied to the Easter holiday, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a victory over death and actual, for real new life — not just symbolic. And whether you’re a person of faith or not, you don’t have to look far during spring to see that kind of thing all around you.

My yard has new life poking up from the ground, even as there are several inches of snow cradling the green daffodil shoots this morning. The cottonwood trees have started their annual push towards turning green, this magical new life business that starts from the ground and climbs up the trunk of the tree, with a tinge of green creeping into the bark, as if the whole thing was soaking in green food dye.

And high up on my tree friends — these trees which border my yard and I watch from my hot tub — there are little bud nubbins popping out, even as the sky remains gray in the temperatures falling well below freezing over night.

These are signs and wonders of change.

All new life gives me hope that winter is making its exit and spring is here. Winter is like an annoying guest that keeps saying they’re leaving town, but then stops by for just one more visit before actually heading out. And then their flight gets delayed, so back they come. They really are leaving. But only sort of. Someone else has already move in, yet back they come to say hi.

Please go home, winter. Spring has taken over your accommodations, thank you.

During the Easter Sunday sermon, the pastor suggested we look for something that can daily remind us of the new life and hope of resurrection, and it got me thinking about what I see outside that has become symbolic to me over time.

Is there one thing or type of thing I see daily that makes me feel inspired? Secure? Safe? Renewed? Joyful? Is there one sign of hope that I find on repeat? And can I teach myself to feel hope more often because of it?

After mulling for a little, I realized that for me this sign is birds.

I am not a birder. I don’t put out bird feed regularly, and I have very little knowledge of the birds that I see as far as species or the difference between call and birdsong. I think “Bird Note” on NPR is a fun little segment, but that’s about as far as my interest goes in learning more.

I do, however, love seeing and hearing birds because of the hope and encouragement they bring. When I see a bald eagle soar across my path, I feel like hey, this incredible thing is happening right in front of you and everything is going to be OK.

When I see a raven Im reminded that in traditional stories they are portrayed as tricksters, and I marvel at how intelligent and weird these huge birds are.

When I see the tiny birds flit around all winter, I am filled with awe because I cannot fathom how it is these tiny little things arent frozen solid even as I sit there in my 17 layers of puffy warm clothes.

Birds remind me that in a world of chaos, even the smallest creature is OK. The Bible talks about how God takes care of the sparrow, and if He considers these little birds, He’s not going to forget about the humans. Even if you don’t believe in that force like I do, I think there’s something universal in seeing a bird and understanding that there is hope. If they are making it, so can I. If they are working together in their flocks, so can we.

Maybe birds aren’t your thing or your symbol. That’s OK. But I encourage you to find one — a tree, a plant, the movement of water, the stirring of the air, the strength of a mountain, the rolling of a field — find a visible outdoor sign of encouragement and hope.

And when the going gets tough, look for it.

I had quite a few encounters with birds this week — a large flock in the woods, an eagle overhead in my yard and an entire congregation in front yard of what I think are chickadees but really I have no idea because I dont do bird species. None of them photographed well, so you can’t really see pictures of that on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. But you can see lots of other examples of my outdoor time, and I want to see yours too. Tag it with #humansoutside365.

And until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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