Joseph and I started taking walks in the evening and I began posting online about the various fauna we encounter. From the way people have responded to these posts, you’d think that we lived way out in the country in some mystical forest land. What I don’t post about is the sidewalk, the street, the cars, the houses or the cell phone tower off in the distance. We don’t live in a big city, but our walks are through the typical neighborhoods in our area with typical residential stuff. My neighborhood and my surroundings are not more magical than anyone else’s. What we choose to notice on these walks is all about our perspective.
I love to watch nature specials on tv and often forget that I don’t have to travel to a far off land to observe the natural behaviors of animals. Witnessing the habits, interactions and mysterious languages of “common” animals is really no different than studying the rare and elusive creatures of the jungle. Each kind of animal we encounter on our walks has created its own culture right in our backyard and it’s usually a million times more interesting than any tv show or my own personal petty dramas. I’ve begun to see that within just our neighborhood all of these animals have extraordinarily complex societies existing side by side with our own. It’s like a parallel universe that’s invisible only if I’m not paying attention. As soon as I stop and look and listen and notice, the veil falls and I’m privy to another cosmos. Once I adjust my perception, I realize that all of the animals existing beside me are always acutely aware of me and my presence even though I may not be able to see them. It’s become a form of meditation, which I regularly have a difficult time with. I do it anyway, but I, like many others, often have trouble turning it all off and tuning out the minutia of my mind. Our evening walks give me the opportunity to step outside the sphere of myself – my thoughts, my emotions, my physical body. I’m able to tune out the extraneous bits and tune in to a different reality.
We’ve seen all kinds of creatures – Birds, Squirrels, Cats, Frogs, Toads, Lizards, Foxes, Opossums, Raccoons, Bats, a female Io Moth, a Millipede and a Golden Silk Orb-Weaver Spider. When we come quietly upon them we’re amazed that they usually just continue on as if we weren’t even there. Having the opportunity to just simply observe has opened up my soul to their messages. The Squirrels, as bothersome as they can be, show me the importance of gathering. They teach me to think ahead about what I will need for the future; how to keep my energy in reserve for whatever is to come; how to constantly clean out what I don’t need anymore and to only keep what’s useful.
The Frogs remind me of the power of spiritual cleansing. It’s said that Frog’s “ribbet” is what calls the thunder and the rain. When I hear them, I remember the benefits of spiritual bathing, in the physical sense, and spiritual/auric cleansing, in the esoteric sense. Frog teaches me that it’s not good or healthy to walk around with energetic residue from the world and the value of a clean and clear slate.
The Foxes are stealthy and impart their wisdom of camouflage. They observe the world around them undetected and are aware of my presence long before I’m aware of theirs. These wildest of the neighborhood animals have adapted (good or bad) to living with us people. I’ve seen them walking along the very same sidewalk that I’m on in complete silence. The only thing giving them away is a quick reflection of light in their eyes. Fox encourages and reassures me that my practices of quiet observation will pay off.
The Opossums show me the usefulness of diversion as strategy. They are always prepared for the unexpected and use their strange techniques to avoid danger. Opossum points out that it doesn’t matter if I look stupid or weird to others, as long as I am safe and happy.
The Bats come out at dusk, darting and flitting between the trees. In many Mesoamerican cultures, Bat embodies the concept of “shamanistic death” – a metaphorical rebirth. Bat’s cave plays the role of the dark grave in the shamanic rituals, a place deep in the heart of the Earth. Some believe that the act of hanging upside down enables Bat to transform his old ways into a new self to be reborn. Bat demonstrates to me how important and essential it is to experience the fundamental act of connecting with our Great Mother. The only way to change and make progress on my path is to look within and to send my soul deep into the heart of the Earth.
The Spiders seem ancient and tell the story of the world. In some cultures, they are even seen as the creators of the universe. They are the weavers and stir the ancient knowledge within me which understands that I am capable of weaving my own path. If my web is tangled or damaged, Spider is there to remind me that I am the creator of my own world; that it’s within my power to untangle and repair my web.
I’m constantly in awe that night after night we get to witness the animal bounty of the Earth in our very ordinary surroundings. It’s a reminder that our homes and cities have been built around and on top of land that was once wild and untamed. Somehow, though, these creatures adapt. Over time many have been driven away and some are gone forever, but it’s astonishing how many remain. They find a way to make their homes among us and even despite us. The small and simple action of going for a walk has shifted my perspective on the world at large, as well as the microcosmic bubble that is my life. My appreciation for my own existence has grown exponentially and I’ve gained a more complete understanding of my place and how I fit in to the world. Now when I meditate, I replay these walks in my head and they guide me to a place of peace and stillness. When something troubles or frustrates me, an animal that I’ve observed on a walk suddenly appears in my mind and prods me to listen to it. So go for a walk! Breathe some fresh air! Open your eyes, mind and heart! Pay attention to the community of living beings coexisting in our world because they have so much to say and so many lessons to teach.
*Photos Public Domain, unless otherwise noted.