On the last day of 2012 I headed out with my backpack to spend a quiet night with the earth to give gratitude for the year past and to set intention for the year coming. Temperatures were slightly above freezing. There was a light drizzle. Darkness fell at 5 p.m. and daylight rose about 7 a.m. The last creature I heard before total darkness and the first one at daybreak was the tiny golden-crowned kinglet. “Teez, teez, teez,” is their high-pitched call note.
How do they get through 14 hour nights at freezing temperatures? I had a warm sleeping bag, a good ground pad, and a superlative tent. This little, secretive creature is barely larger than a hummingbird. Scientists still have not figured out exactly how these birds survive—Do they go into torpor and lower body temperatures overnight? Do they huddle with others of their kind? Do they feed later and earlier in the day than other birds? You can read more about what a lone researcher in Vermont has spent decades trying to figure out: http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2012/12/winter-and-the-golden-crowned-kinglet.html
My island home is only about 15 miles from my little solo spot. Every day sitings of golden-crowned kinglets and extensive vistas of mountains and sea are found in both places. I am reminded again that the secret to a calmer, more centered life at home is to attend to both the small and large wonders that hold my life in place. There is no substitute for time spent outdoors.