Bear Pause: Natalie Owens-Pike '07

Natalie Owens Pike Bear Pause

Natalie Owens-Pike ʼ07 is a canoe enthusiast, connector of people and second-career grad student. She recently moved to New Haven with her husband, Alex, and would love to connect with Blake Bears in the area. 

Q: If you had one extra hour of free time a day, how would you spend it?
A: If I had an extra hour a day, I would spend it outside! I walk outside in the park by my house almost every day, and in Minneapolis, I would have floating picnic dinner in a friend’s canoe on Cedar Lake at least once a week in the summer. My husband, Alex, and I just moved to New Haven, and we love being close to rivers and the ocean, but we’re still on the lookout for a canoe out here. If there are any Connecticut Blake Bears with a canoe hook up, let me know. 

Q: If your life were a book, what would it be titled? 
A: “Don’t NOP it til you try it!” 

Q: What teacher inspired you the most? How?
A: As a former teacher this question is so hard to answer. So many of my Blake colleagues inspired me! The entire English department is so creative and thoughtful, and I loved learning from them as a student and colleague. I was lucky to co-teach a sophomore American lit class with Marie Michael years ago, and it was so fun to learn from each other and with our students. My experience as a teaching fellow with LearningWorks and so many of my Blake teachers taught me about the importance of joy in the classroom: Steve Kaback taught me to love physics and see myself as a scientist; Scott Hollander made me a stronger writer and asker of questions; and Robyn Runyon always pushed me to do my best. 

Q: Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
A: At LearningWorks, everyone is encouraged to know that “it’s cool to be you,” and we would often ask people to introduce themselves by sharing their “inner weird,” a quirk or habit not many people know. One of mine is I hate walking on sidewalk grates that open up—something about being suspended above the ground while you’re supposed to be on the ground just doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t trust it. I’m not trying to trust fall in the city streets! I also only wear socks with patterns or fun animals on them. No plain socks. 

Q: What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
A: I love this question! Live music is one thing I miss most about pre-pandemic life, and it will be a very special day when we can go to a packed live show again, safely. I got to see Charles Bradley at First Avenue a few years ago before he died. He was an amazing funk and soul performer. He would do multiple costume changes and give out roses to fans in the front row. Bon Iver at Rock the Garden was also really special—you can’t beat a beautiful Minneapolis night outside, and he had this chorus of about six different saxophones lined up behind him. It was amazing. Maggie Rogers and Sylvan Esso were both incredible, playing to a packed house at First Ave. Everything is better live. 

Q: What book has influenced you greatly? How?
A: I love to read and this is such a tough question to answer! Two of my favorites are books I’ve re-read because they’re both wonderful and change with you over time. “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, who I was thrilled to meet and hear speak at Blake when she was Blake’s Philip Otis Environmental Author. I always come back to “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. I first read Hurston’s book as a sophomore at Blake, again at Macalester College studying American studies and English lit, and returned to it with my own students when I taught in the English department at Blake. I love that it’s the story of a woman’s life that she narrates about herself, reflecting on how she has lived so far and who she is becoming. If you haven’t read it, or read it lately, pick it up. It’s a book that grows with you. 

Q: What’s a surprising thing about you?
A: I’m a lefty! 

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I love to write letters to friends, and I save a lot of them. This is a tradition I got into in college while I was a trail guide at YMCA Camp Menogyn. Letters were the best way to stay in touch. We didn’t have cell service, barely had email and would be out on trail for a week or weeks at a time. One of my friends says letters are like a journal that writes back, and I like to think of them as a record of where we’ve been and where we’re going. 

Q: What is something you learned in the last week?
A: I just finished finals of my first year in graduate school—I’m getting a master’s in divinity at Yale Divinity School—so my brain is full of what I’ve learned this past semester. My last final was Biblical Hebrew, so lots of conjugation charts and biblical noun flashcards. I’ve learned that it’s very difficult to learn a new language in your 30s, especially one with an alphabet that was new to me, but it’s very satisfying.

Q: What is one goal you'd like to accomplish during your lifetime?
A: Building inclusive and interdependent communities is what drives my learning in grad school now, and my goal is to help foster mutual thriving across income, racial identity and religious belonging. Right now I’m studying how to build these communities through churches, and my goal is to create faith communities that sustain and challenge people to build a more equitable world.