Column: Rewilding under a plaster moon


For the Valley News

Published: 02-20-2023 5:00 PM

February has been an icy month, a challenge for those who count on skiing the powder and harder on those already unsteady on their feet. Perhaps this February’s full moon should be called the “plaster moon” for all those broken bones.

This morning, as the little brown dogs and I trekked out onto the fields on grainy corn snow, streaks of yellow came from the sky, vertical columns of light descended from clouds in the east. The morning’s rain showers were moving down the valley and the sun was breaking through gaps, yet for a moment I found myself in beams of holiness and blessings in a Renaissance painting. The beauty of that moment reminded me of a cartoon the Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön recalls of a guy saying, “Whoa, what’s that?” as he experiences a sudden moment of being present.

I doubt I am the only one who struggles daily with shutting down the voices of worry and sadness. The dogs tell me every morning about how important our visit with the Ompompanoosuc is, and how I should try a little harder to see the world as a dog.

The birds call to me and say, “Hey listen to us, we are your guides to rewilding.” The flute solos of Carolina wrens who seem to have come from the south to stay, touch me deeply. “Sweeta, sweeta, sweeta” comes from the treetops as the tufted titmouse says spring is coming. The tufted bird that I grew up hearing every morning in Missouri has followed me to Vermont. Cardinals decorate the yard with splashes of orange and red and — as if we didn’t notice for ourselves — sing, “pretty bird, pretty bird,” from big, seed-cracking beaks.

On warm afternoons, I hang out the laundry turning my face to the sun — how good that feels. The dogs growl and I see a mink, as black as night running along the frozen riverbank then diving under the water.

Thirty or 40 goldfinches in a hurry dart across the sky in their undulating, cheeping way to a little grove of maple and ash across the river.

Beauty is everywhere, even in icy February, it just takes a little more imagination. I think of Billy Collins’ poem, Aimless Love, about falling in love with everything he encounters, even the bar of soap. I sometimes wonder how we drifted away from our wildness. Was it when we became farmers needing to control nature, or when we started writing down our stories? Or was it when Aristotle told us we have a soul and are different from all other living things? David Hinton, in his book, Wild Mind, Wild Earth, addresses these very questions.

I hope a lifetime of wanderings may help me realize that I am just one more being of value, no different from any other living thing.

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Micki Colbeck is a naturalist and writer. You can reach her at