Earlier this summer I was on our back deck when I heard a strange sound—a hoarse, plaintive, high-pitched whistling noise I’d never heard before.

Click here to hear what I heard.

It was dark, so I couldn’t investigate what kind of animal was making the sound. A week or two later, I heard it again while on a hike with my husband on a sunny afternoon near the Chattahoochee River, but it came from the far side of some wetlands, so again there was no good way to get a clear view.

I wondered who made the sound for a few weeks. I’d hear it now and then, but only at night, and it was too soft to record well. Still, I carried the question with me.

Finally, one night I got a decent recording and uploaded it to a bird sound identification group. I wasn’t even sure it was a bird, but figured someone in the group could let me know if it wasn’t.

Soon I got my answer: the sound was the classic call of a baby barred owl.

The very next day, I heard the sound while on an afternoon walk through a nearby forest. It was the loudest I’d ever heard it, so I wandered over, guessing the bird would be too high in the canopy for me to see. But after only a few steps, I saw the beautiful juvenile barred owl sitting on a low branch, making his sweet call.

And the very next evening, I heard the sound while locking up my chickens in the golden light of a setting sun. I walked toward the source and got to see another baby owl just across the creek in a small red cedar. Filled with gratitude, I watched her for several minutes, entranced by her concentric brown-and-white rings, fluffy, fuzzy feathers, and large, dark eyes.

Carrying questions is a powerful practice.

So is being curious, and acknowledging mystery. Intuition can’t reveal to us what we don’t want to know, or what we think we already do.

In my experience, intuition arrives more easily when I’m not afraid to ask questions I don’t know the answers to—about the world around me, the world within me, my next steps, or anything else. It helps to be curious—not feeling the pressure to have it figured out, but remaining open, receptive, and aware. And to welcome mystery—to acknowledge that there are things in this world I will never know or understand (and that that’s a good thing).

It isn’t easy in our culture, which insists that not having all the answers is a sign of weakness, and that mysteries are just problems waiting to be solved. But that’s exactly why these three keys to intuition—questions, curiosity, and mystery—are so essential. They open us to new types of knowledge and knowing, giving us the power to not only transform ourselves, but also the world.

Find Your Own Intuitive Nature

For this practice, allow 3-5 of your own sacred questions to arise. Don’t force them—just notice what you really want to know.

Your questions might be big or small, simple or complex, about the natural world around you or your own dreams and next steps. If you don’t know where to begin to look for answers, all the better.

Once you have your questions, simply follow your curiosity wherever it leads—through the woods; to articles and videos; into your own thoughts, feelings, and dreams, etc.

I find it helpful to remember the four stages of the creative process, which go back and forth between the left and right brain, between doing and not doing:

  1. Saturation (careful observation, researching in field guides and apps, asking others for input);
  2. Incubation (letting go of actively seeking, following my body wherever it wants to go, and paying attention to my senses in the present moment);
  3. Illumination (the coveted a-ha!); and
  4. Verification (seeing the owls make their calls for myself, basking in awe and gratitude).

Most importantly, don’t worry about finding an answer. Some answers take a long time to reveal themselves, and others aren’t meant to be known. Regardless, when I follow my curiosity and keep holding the question, I always find something valuable in the process.

I would love to know what this is like for you! I’ve created a special group on Facebook so we can receive each other’s stories about developing our intuition in nature. Please go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/180860054978770/ and share your experiences there.

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A sensitive young woman rediscovers the hidden gifts of her forgotten inner nature.

Read the previous installment of A Wild Hunch: Ideas for Reclaiming Our Natural, Intuitive Wisdom in the Natural World

Milky Way photo by Denis Degioanni on Unsplash

Baby barred owl photo by Matthew Paulson under a Creative Commons license

Juvenile barred owl recording by Bob McGuire from the Macaulay Library.