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Squirrel nests and nets
BookShelf: Books by women about comfort zones
Sally Howell Johnson recommends these books by women about comfort zones:

The Second Half of Life: Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom by Angeles Arrien
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Why I Wake Early, actually anything by Mary Oliver
An Altar in the World and Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor
We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness by Alice Walker

When the trees are bare, stripped of their leaves by the winter wind, I become aware of the squirrel nests that dot the branches. All along our street the nests perch precariously high in the trees. The nests are not visible when the trees are full of leaves. But when the leaves are gone, there they are- resting between branches once full of green life, their cocoon of leaves and twigs and who knows what else forming a home, a place to rest, to give birth, and grow.

I can't imagine what a squirrel thinks, but from a human perspective it seems to me that building a nest closer to the center of the tree makes more sense. It would certainly be much safer. I find myself thinking: Why does the nest need to be so high, out on such a thin limb? And yet, I know I have certainly built many "homes" in some very difficult and dangerous places.

As humans we often choose to rest and grow in places where there is great opportunity and yet great peril. It is the choice of adventurers and seekers to go to the edge, to seek the opportunity to grow in a variety of new ways. Perhaps it is the practice of going back and forth to their nests that allows squirrels to run across the telephone lines with the skill of an acrobat, never falling, always making a straight shot from point A to point B. An admirable ability for both human and squirrel.

Where we build our nests can instill courage and daring or invite us to leap with faith. I once had a card hanging on my office door that read "Leap ... and the net will appear." This card first came to me during a time when I found myself perched in one of those precarious places, teetering on a very frightening and dangerous limb, just after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The card had a colorful drawing of a woman floating between two trees. Though in midair, the woman's demeanor was one of power and confidence. It was what I wanted to be, how I wanted to live into this 'leap,' which I had not chosen but had chosen me.


During that time when I felt as if I were praying for the safety of that net, which would hold me if I fell, I would return to my own nest. A nest made up of a close circle of family and friends who loved me and fed my confidence and hope. And an even wider circle of women I knew and those I had never met who told me of their own walk with this disease. More than 17 years later, I continue to be grateful for the ability to leap. And also to return to the comfort of this nest.

Sally Howell Johnson is the author of "Barefoot Zone: Walking the Spiritual Path" and blogs at Pause.hennepinchurch.org.

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