Cultivating Optimism During Difficult Times

Nature is Magnificently Creative and Inspiring

Wow!  Jersey Tiger Moths in Petaloudes, Greece.

Wow! Jersey tiger moths in Petaloudes, Greece.

If you are not familiar with Bing, it’s a wonderful search engine that presents a different, stunning photograph on their landing page every day. The images are always wonderful, guaranteed to delight and inspire. Today’s image was the incredible photograph of Jersey tiger moths above. Talk about nature as an inspiration for visual art!  Thanks to Bing, my favorite search engine (or, as they like to call themselves, a “decision engine”), I discovered the bowerbird. More importantly, I discovered bowerbirds’ highly artistic nests.


I was drawn to the lichen within this amazingly tiny nest.

I was drawn to the lichen within this amazingly tiny nest.


Spring is in the air, and along with the pollen clogging my inundated lungs, it delivers the music of optimism to my soul each morning as I walk Ziggy, my ever-faithful companion. The cacophony of bird songs around the ‘hood fills me with awe, wonder and delight as I watch these industrious birds — their beaks filled with straw, bits of paper and plastic scraps — flutter back and forth, creating their nests. As a bird’s nest aficionado, I have been collecting abandoned ones for some time now, eventually using them in my sculptural series as a symbol for new beginnings, fresh starts. Isn’t that what spring is all about? Creating spaces and cultivating optimism to make way for growth.




“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” – Camille Pissarro

Patrick Dougherty's sculpture

Patrick Dougherty’s sculpture


But back to the bowerbird. At first glance, I thought the featured image was a remarkable sculpture by noteworthy artist Patrick Dougherty — but no! It was an incredibly sculptural nest created by an Australian bowerbird in its annual pursuit to attract the opposite sex.





“Art takes nature as its model.” – Aristotle

This Bower Bird Loves Bluse

This bowerbird loves blue.

Every spring, “Mr. Bower” carefully constructs his nest, piece by piece, with focused attention towards beauty and craftsmanship. The nest must be not only visually alluring but also built to withstand the elements. It must be strong and protective. After this attentive construction, he thoughtfully collects and places a variety of brightly colored objects around this edifice. These objects can include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even what we would consider “trash” — discarded plastic items, coins, nails, rifle shells, pieces of glass. The hours he spends arranging his personal, highly individual collection around the newly built nest is reminiscent of many of our creative practices.


“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe


Sometimes our interior lives are not quite speech-ready, but we need a symbolic place to hold the inexpressible ideas and unidentifiable emotions we might feel. It is difficult to honor the space between what is no longer and what is yet to be. Creativity can help us hold this space just as a nest is shaped to hold eggs.

Cultivating Optimism with Healing Icons

The imaginative, creative springtime nest-building ritual of the bowerbird has inspired our upcoming Saturday retreat, Cultivating Optimism During Difficult Times, where we will explore the meaning of this ancient, universal symbolic ritual of nest-building by creating a visual symbol — a healing icon — to represent a home for the cultivation of hope and renewal. Be sure to check our Inspiration pinboard next month to see how the bowerbird has inspired us!

In the meantime, why not tell us how you go about cultivating optimism? What inspires you?


  1. Linda DeLeonardis on April 15, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    The changing of the seasons promotes feelings of optimism inside of me. Although spring and autumn are my favorites, winter and summer bring forth new chances to unload the old and to experience the new. Finding hope requires energy and each season can renew the habit of happiness.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on April 18, 2015 at 1:49 am

      Thank you Linda for your thoughtful comments. As we share our insights, we assist others in their journey.

  2. Cathy Pike on April 16, 2015 at 2:07 am

    I cultivate optimism by remembering my blessings. Blessings of how a way was made when there was no way. Blessings of protection when destruction was inevitable. It is trusting in the substance of things not seen. I am inspired by the evidence of my Creator and the security in His constant presence, knowing He holds my future in the hollow of His hands.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on April 18, 2015 at 1:51 am

      Trusting in the substance of things not seen…beautiful Cathy.

  3. Bud Pike on April 17, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    Yes, I am glad that yesterday is gone and I am excited to see a new day. It is the coming of the unknown yet the excitement of new and better things. The past you have no more control over, tomorrow is yet to come. So I make the best of today, to experience the moment, to enjoy the important things in life, to endure the unlikable, and to love the ones close me. No one knows what tomorrow will bring so enjoy today.

  4. Heidi Darr-Hope on April 18, 2015 at 1:54 am

    The coming of the unknown is the most difficult place to be, the waiting place where we can “practice” living in the Now. Thank you Bud for your encouraging, lovely thoughts.

  5. Erin Mahar on April 29, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    What a beautiful thing. The meaning behind it of hope in difficult times. It could apply to everyone. We all need hope, and this meaningful, physical example, something we can touch and meditate on as a reminder is such a lovely thing.
    I wished I lived in South Carolina, so I could take part in these beautiful projects.
    I would also be so much closer to my amazing, beautiful friend that inspires me to keep reaching for myself.
    What a wonderful place.

    • Heidi Darr-Hope on May 27, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Erin, Thank you for your thoughtful remarks and yes our work does reach beyond the cancer community as it holds a universal human message. Our on-line series, Courageous Creating, will be open to the general population so stay tuned. We hope to launch this by the end of the year.

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