Skip to main content

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature,” Rachel Carson wrote. “The assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” I have never felt this so strongly as I do now, waiting for the sun to warm my back. The bottom may drop out of my life, what I trusted may fall away completely, leaving me astonished and shaken. But still, sticky leaves emerge from bud scales that curl off the tree as the sun crosses the sky. Darkness pools and drains away, and the curve of the new moon points to the place the sun will rise again. There is wild comfort in the cycles and the intersecting circles, the rotations and revolutions, the growing and ebbing of this beautiful and strangely trustworthy world. –Kathleen Dean Moore

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about solace and how to find it and the healing that so often follows in the midst of grief and sadness. There have been deaths in my community, some the natural conclusion of a long life, some the result of tragic accidents, and some the end of a life that gradually faded away as an illness shouted louder than anything else when it had run its course.

The events in my community in the last few weeks and the resulting thoughts to look for solace makes me think of a time last year, a few days after my grandfather passed away. He was in his mid-90s, so his passing wasn’t completely unexpected, but of course, any transition to death brings with it a time of grief.

I took the afternoon off from work the day I got the call that he’d died to walk in the woods, and I hiked to the top of a large rocky outcropping by the river. It was late summer, and the air was heavy with misty humidity. Emotionally, I was experiencing a sense of sadness stemming from empathy for my father, in losing his father, and flashbacks to my grandmother’s passing 10 years prior and the sense of loss that I imagine my grandfather must have felt in the days and years that followed as he learned to live alone after 60 years of partnership. These heavy feelings were contrasted by the sounds of the woods breathing, the birds chirping, the winds gently rustling the leaves and little creatures skittering about the forest floor. There was life, growth and the pulse of creation present at every turn.

I sat down on a huge rocky platform at the crest of the trail and let myself feel the sadness that so often accompanies a loss of life, regardless the nature of the death. After a while a butterfly landed on the rock in front of me and fluttered around for a bit; landing, and then flying, and then landing again, but never leaving my general area. Then another one joined in and they kept fluttering around each other and me in a way that I just can’t describe with words very well. I had this distinct knowing that these butterflies were somehow my grandparents, somehow symbols of their souls, reunited after 10 years apart in a bodily sense. Their presence was incredibly calming and brought such comfort to a time of gentle grief. They reminded me of the way that life energy can persist even when a physical body passes away — even when a veil of sadness lays overhead. I remember feeling so grateful to those butterflies for finding me and for not leaving right away when they did. I sat with them for a good 15-20 minutes on that rock, and after I thanked them, they moved on, and I went back to my hike.

The earth holds every possibility inside it, and the mystery of transformation, one thing into another. This is the wildest comfort. ~Kathleen Dean Moore


Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr is the author of 12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life (due out in January 2021) as well as four other works of non-fiction. A commitment to cultivating ways of being that are life-giving and sustainable for people, communities and the planet provides the foundation for her work. She lives in Minnesota with her family where they tend a large vegetable garden, explore nature and do their best to live simply. Despite working for an app-based tech start up, she plans to put off getting a smartphone as long as possible. Learn more about her work at