Alternative Wheel: Other seasonal cycle stories

When this column started, it was all about exploring different ways of thinking about the wheel of the year, reflecting on aspects of the natural world to provide Pagans alternatives to the usual solar stories. It's still very much an alternative wheel, but there's a developing emphasis on what we can celebrate as the seasons turn. Faced with environmental crisis, and an uncertain future, celebration is a powerful soul restoring antidote that will help us all keep going, stay hopeful and dream up better ways of being.

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The season of second chances

We tend to think of nesting birds and cute fledglings as a spring thing. In practice, right now many birds are raising second clutches as we move into the summer. Some will raise three, even. This is the season of second chances.

The survival rate for cute, fluffy chicks isn’t great. A momma duck can start out with a dozen tiny bundles of fluff and be lucky to raise one viable duck to adulthood. The problem for chicks is that they are mouthfuls of protein with no scope to defend themselves or escape. They come into the world at just the point in the year when everything predatory is looking for neat bundles of protein to post into the mouths of their own cute and hungry young things.

And so there are second clutches, and second chances. If the first clutch doesn’t make it at all, perhaps a bird or two in the second clutch will. It’s a hedging of bets, too – clutches raised early in the year get a head start on being ready for the winter, but run the risk of being struck by a late cold snap. A clutch raised now will find plenty of food and be pretty sure of warm conditions. The later in the year a clutch comes, the less chance there is of surviving the next winter. I’ve seen moorhen chicks born so late in the year that their only possible destiny was to become a meal for someone else.

Second chances are good and necessary things. In human life as in the rest of nature, we seldom get everything right first time round. We certainly don’t get optimal outcomes at the first try. Life requires second chances. It’s important to remember that while some things will be a one shot deal, second chances are also a thing. For the chick who ends up in a pike on day two of life, there are no personal second chances. For the adult ducks, there can be a chance to try again.

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Nimue Brown is the author of Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors. Pagan Dreaming, When a Pagan Prays and Spirituality without Structure. She also writes the graphic novel series Hopeless Maine, and other speculative fiction. OBOD trained, but a tad feral, she is particularly interested in Bardic Druidry and green living.

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