Cultivating Deep Respect for Nature and Learning to Listen
Why Frozen 2 is a poignant message for these times
It is the middle of the night and—as it often does here at the mouth of the St. Vrain Canyon—the wind is shifting and whirling through the trees in fat bursts and sudden gusts, keeping me awake. The sounds of wild movement are at once playful and frightening, one moment tossing the neighbor’s wind chimes in metallic song, and the next flinging construction debris and trash can lids against garage doors with clangs and scrapes.
Even tucked into the safety of my bed, and with the window only slightly cracked, I can sense the different currents of air tumbling around the house. The icy and brisk winter current sweeping down from the snowy peaks mixes with the gentler, warmer whisper of spring—a tender prelude to the softening of the earth and the emergence of the first fragile shoots of green piercing through the soil. It has been a long, cold Winter, and I am ready for Spring.
While I lie here awake, listening to the rising and falling windsong and the swaying trees, another melody plays over and over in my mind. It is the secret siren song from Frozen 2. Yes. If you have seen the movie, you know the one.
It is on repeat, looping through my thoughts over and over. The siren song draws Elsa from the comfort and confinement of her castle and out into the open night, into a powerful dance with the raw elements of nature, pulling her into her power. And it pulls at my thoughts, ceaselessly drawing me Into the Unknown.
As the mother of a Frozen-loving six-year-old, I have watched the new Disney mega-hit many times since its digital release a few weeks ago, and not just because my daughter has asked to see it again and again and again. In all honesty, I am truly impressed with this epic narrative and consider it to be one of the finest pieces of animated storytelling that our world has ever seen. It is not merely the spectacular artwork or the powerful musical score—it is the deeply relevant and resonant theme of respect for the natural world, and of bridging conflict with a love so powerful that it can ripple across generations and cultures to unite us in our shared humanness, and in our deep, inextricable connection to the earth.
Elsa cannot deny the power that churns inside of her. Even though she wishes to remain in the comfort and safety of her castle walls, she cannot help but emerge into the night when the secret siren calls. She cannot resist the impulse to awaken the spirits of the enchanted forest and draw herself and her people into a quest for the truth. Giving in to the call that draws her north, she steps into her power with a fierceness, wisdom, and grace that viewers experience as deeply liberating, enticing, and wildly authentic.
Anna, on the other hand, is the steady voice of reason and concern—the non-magical counterpart to her sister’s untethered compulsion. Anna is clumsy, unsophisticated, messy, anxious, and utterly charming. Grounded in reason, she holds down the plot line and balances out the majesty and mystery of Elsa’s raw and untamed power.
It is in working together, each using her own unique strength, that the two sisters bridge the divide that has separated the people of Arendelle from the Northuldra and from living in harmony with the spirits of Earth. Anna and Elsa remain rooted in love throughout the story, never allowing themselves to be tempted into acting out of fear or from a lust for power. It is with a deep respect for nature that they ultimately break down the barriers that have kept their people from connecting with each other for more than a generation.
Movies like this are once-in-a-lifetime and have the power to capture the essence of the human spirit as it expresses itself within the context of these times. They can move us to sing out loud, don the costumes of the protagonists, spend hundreds of dollars on dolls and games, and invite imagination and hours of play. Historically, films that portray protagonists and villains with supernatural powers speak to the deepest fears and hidden (or not so hidden) needs of the times in which they are created. The development of the Marvel comics series and the Superman and Wonder Woman characters, for example, coincided with a time when people felt truly helpless in the face of catastrophe and world war, when ordinary human strength was not enough to fight the battles and massive challenges that faced us.
Frozen 2 is such a movie and is quite relevant to these times. Our earth and climate are crying out and forcing us to listen. The planet and the spirits of nature do not allow us to stay hidden in our comfortable homes surrounded by luxury. As we witnessed here in Lyons during the 2013 flood, nature has the power to rip the walls from our houses in an instant, and to send us stumbling out into the streets and town park where we unite as a community and create solutions together.
Joanna Macy, earth elder, has called this the time of the Great Turning. One of our key responsibilities and one of the most effective ways we can influence the unfolding of events is to teach our children a deep love and respect for nature—to practice reciprocity with the earth and to create relationships with its bounty that move beyond sustainability and can replenish and repair what has been lost.
In Frozen 2, Yelana, the wise Northuldra leader states:
we only trust Nature. When Nature speaks, we listen.
We are fortunate enough, here in Lyons, to experience Nature speaking all around us. When the wind howls like it is tonight, many of us are forced awake, lying restlessly in bed with our thoughts, songs on repeat in our heads, and the rattling of window panes.
Can we learn how to hear what Nature wants us to know? How can we best care for this devastated planet? How can we reconnect our hearts to the heart of the Earth that cries out in the night, through rushing waters, intemperate winter warmth, air quality warnings, ravaging cancers, food allergies, depression, anxiety, and ever-rising rates of teen suicide?
If we can truly get quiet, perhaps we can hear it.
We can learn to listen in a new way, and to understand what is needed. We must let our children play outside with dirt and rocks and sticks. We must let them build forts and catch butterflies and snails and spend long hours of unrestricted time in the parks and forests that so graciously hold our small community together. We must let them watch Frozen 2 over and over and over again, and to sing out Elsa’s songs at the tops of their lungs. We can teach them to love the land, to plant seeds, and to help them grow.
I sustain my hope for the planet’s and humanity’s future in the sparkling sunlight that twinkles in my daughter’s eyes as she belts “show yourself…step into your power” from the top of a rock at the river’s edge.
We must come together and release our fear, relinquish control of each moment of these children’s lives, and learn to listen to the siren song that rides on the back of the wild mountain wind. We can let our bodies and our children truly love what we are meant to truly love: a home on the land, reciprocity with Nature, and a deep respect for the environment and for our interconnectedness as humans walking upon this precious earth.