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Listening for Hope in the Darkness

The hooting sound started that first bitter, cold week in January, 2021.

I was lying in bed early one morning, just before the first hint of dawn when I heard it.

"Hoo hoo hooooo......" It was a cooing sound, almost like singing.

As I lay in bed listening to the soothing sound, I wondered if there might an owl somewhere in the trees around our house. We've lived here a long time, and I couldn’t remember there ever being an owl in the neighborhood. But then again, everything about that year had been unexpected. And we were all dealing with the isolation and fear of an unexpected pandemic. Wondering if it would ever end, and if it did, what our “new world” look like?

The anxiety of what was ahead haunted our days and kept me awake at night.

And that night was no different. I was staring at the ceiling worrying when that hooting started. And for the first time in a long time, that soft cooing sound helped me fall into a deep restful sleep.


We went a few nights without hearing that sound, and I'd forgotten all about that owl when we heard it again, just after dinner a few nights later. "Hoo hoo hoooo...."

And I felt a sense of calm and peace at hearing the familiar sound.

"I think that might be an owl," my husband said, "but that doesn’t seem possible, it’s too cold out there for any living thing to survive."

He was right. Here in New England, we were in the grips of what seemed like an endlessly long, cold winter. It was the time of year when things are still and quiet and lifeless. Nothing can grow, or change.... or so it seemed.

But the "Hoo hoo hooting" started again at bedtime and continued well past midnight. Then it started again just before dawn.

When we got up in the morning there were a bunch of emails in my inbox with "owl" in the subject line. It turned out our whole neighborhood was listening to the hooting.

We all had questions for each other. And the online conversation was off and running. One neighbor wrote that research suggested it was probably a great horned owl. One neighbor reported that she had actually seen an owl. Another neighbor was sure he'd seen two owls. Someone else wrote that owls had been spotted locally. And then someone wrote and explained that because the baby owls need extra time with their parents to develop, the great horned owls lay their eggs earlier than other raptors.

The owls brought our neighborhood together in those dark days. They offered us a sense of fun, hope, and connection when we felt alone.

And so now I know that owls lay their eggs in the depth and dark of winter. And now I know that, when things are frozen, and nothing seems to be growing – the owls come along and remind us all of the promise that yes, spring is coming! It's not that far away, and there will soon be new life to celebrate.


The owls came bearing gifts that cold winter season. They brought our neighborhood together in those dark, scary days of the pandemic. They offered us a sense of fun, hope and connection when we were all feeling alone and afraid.

They reminded us that hope and joy come in unexpected ways – in the natural cycle of being an owl, and the power and blessings of being a part of a community. They invited us to look past our usual routine to find the sense of wonder and awe in this incredible world around us. We can’t change what happens to us. The only thing we can do is listen for the owls in our lives.


To find your own sense of calm, to take care of yourself, and to quell your anxiety, please read my "anxiety handbook," Calm & Sense: A Woman's Guide to Living Anxiety-Free.


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