By Beth Heller
This April, our blog will provide a record of life in Green Bay from street level. To be completely honest, this focus partially arises from the fact that I was recently gifted a Fitbit and have been out and about more in the name of logging steps. But more importantly, it’s because this increased on-the-ground activity has demonstrated the impact that getting outside can have on well-being. Well-being, an aspirational model for optimal living, suggests there are many, many practices that lead to feeling truly well. Well-being arises when we not only care for our physical and mental health, but discover a sense of purpose supporting the health of our community as a whole…which leads to our first snapshot.
Some of My Neighbors Are Not Human
I would never have discovered the new family on the block if I hadn’t come up 3000 steps short of my goal on a recent Friday at dusk. So on went the sneakers (and sadly the gloves, scarf, and mittens) and out I went for an impromptu walk at a time that I am usually cooking dinner.
While pacing the blocks of my neighborhood with the sole intention of taking a few thousand strides as quickly as possible, I overheard crazy conversation: a low “ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo” followed after a few minutes by a higher, but similar, call. The sounds followed me around the neighborhood, from block to block, call and response style. Finally, near the end of my walk, I bent down to tie my shoe and a loud hoot sounded just above me. Looking up I saw an enormous great horned owl perched in the tree just above my head. Serene and majestic, this male owl listened as his mate called to him from the large group of fir trees nearby.
This one chance owl encounter prompted an owl obsession that has lasted several weeks, prompted many more walks at dusk and caused me to expand my concept of “neighbors” to an entirely new species. Owls, it seems, love tall dense groups of pine. They mate for life and raise young together. Most interestingly, great horned owls are highly sedentary, meaning they often remain in the same small territory for their entire lives. In addition, they are long-lived for birds, averaging 13 years of age but can live to the age of 30. Odds are this particular pair of owls has lived in this neighborhood longer than we have!
My husband and kids are now in on the owl walks and with observation and sleuthing we have identified the group of trees that hide the nest of this feathered family. This street level safari has brought our family together, and more than once we have struck up conversations with folks we meet on the sidewalk, collecting “owl news.” If our suspicions prove correct, this new family will soon have a couple owlets that they will feed and nurture throughout the summer months, and will fledge in the Fall.
One of the goals of Live54218’s new community initiative, The GROW Project, is to inspire the Greater Green Bay community to re-define our idea of being “healthy,” and expand it to include the activities and traditions that give us joy and connect us to a greater sense of community. Owl walking is one of those things that my family stumbled upon that may, even though it burns less calories that 45 minutes on the elliptical, create a sense of connection and feeling of discovery that takes us just as far in our aspiration to be truly well.
Has a walk ever helped you discover new neighbors, feathered or not, in your neck of the woods? Share your well-being walking story with us!