Last week I wrote about my idyllic childhood, much of what I spent outdoors. It turns out a famous naturalist and I share some of the same childhood experiences (I’ve included four) as well as a desire to cultivate hope. As a child, this nature lover, Jane Goodall, and her sister collected London snails, painted numbers on their backs, and held snail races. I used to spend hours catching turtles in the pond near my country home in Racine. I would name each one, paint their names on their backs, and then have turtle races. Jane and her sister made a secret hideout under thick bushes where they ate treats and held secret meetings. My sister, a friend, and I formed a secret club, The Black Beetles, and would let others join if they passed the initiation—sitting on a thistle. Jane speaks about watching the magnificent orchestration of a murmuration of starlings. She was filled with awe at the agility of these birds. How do they fly in a flock of several thousand without touching? They’re so close to one another, they swoop and turn together almost as one. I, too, have seen this display in nature (it’s also available on YouTube) and been filled with wonder. Humans don’t understand how or why the birds form these patterns, but knowing they can do it contributes to cultivating hope. Born in 1934, Jane loved horses and riding and once had the chance to take part in a fox hunt. She enjoyed the challenge of getting her horse to clear high jumps and the excitement of the chase. Hours later, though, when the hunters circled the exhausted, frightened fox, she was horrified when the dogs tore it to shreds. She never forgave herself for participating. I, too, participated in a fox hunt. Held in Madison, I borrowed a horse known for its ability to jump and joined Bev Gaedke for an exciting afternoon. My “fox,” however, wasn’t an animal, but a woman dressed in a furry red cap who enjoyed the chase. Over the course of forty years, we had made improvements. It’s that simple fact, that we can learn and change, that gives people like me and Jane Goodall hope for the future. At 90 years old, Jane is still working to improve the world. This month we’re celebrating women in history, and she has earned time in the spotlight. Jane is considered the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees. She spent 60 years studying the social and family relationships of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania. She witnessed many human-like behaviors, including fighting with weapons. I’ve enjoyed learning more about Jane Goodall and believe you will too. Douglas Abrams’ book, The Book of Hope, shares many quotes and interesting stories about her life. You might wonder how, with the state of the world and how we’ve abused our environment, she can be hopeful. “Partly,” she says in the book, “because I’m obstinate. I just won’t give in. But it’s also partly because we cannot accurately predict what the future might bring. We simply can’t. No one can know how it will all turn out.” Jane cites four main reasons for hope: the power of youth, the amazing human intellect, the indomitable human spirit, and the resilience of nature. We feel hopeful when we look at our grandchildren and other youth and try to imagine what incredible, inventive solutions they’ll find for problems. We’re also optimistic when we consider our intellect, all those great minds who sent astronauts to the moon and created amazing tools like the internet. We renew our sense of hope when we witness the indomitable human spirit every day in poverty-stricken or war-torn countries like Ukraine. And we’re encouraged when we see the resilience of nature, including the 9/11 survivor tree. This month’s Reader’s Digest had an article about Jane in which she talked about being in New York during 9/11 and learning about the survivor tree, a Callery pear. It had been crushed by two blocks of cement. Half of its trunk was charred black, with roots that were broken, yet one of its branches showed green growth. A young woman dug it up and cared for it in a nursery. It thrived and is now planted in the 9/11 Memorial & Museum as a symbol of the resilience of nature. The young woman took action and saved the tree. Jane believes it’s important for all of us to take action and realize that we can make a difference. This will encourage others to take action, and then we realize we are not alone and our cumulative actions truly make an even greater difference. This is how we can cultivate hope. And as we spread the light, we will all feel more hopeful.
4 Replies to “Cultivate Hope”
I’m a fan of Jane Goodall! Thank you for highlighting her in one of your posts.
Sue, If you’re a Jane Goodall fan, I think you’d enjoy “The Book of Hope.” It will make you admire her even more.
I have been a fan of hers for a long time.
I had only a vague idea of what she’s accomplished, but now have a deep resect for her. I found a quote that I love. She said, “So many older people I know spend a great deal of time focused on their aches and pains, but those who seemed healthiest and happiests were those who focused on something beyond their own troubles. I hope I can remember that.