Learning from the Animals

Observing the wildlife on our property has given me useful metaphors for the people around me.hawkside

There are the squirrels, nervous, noisy little critters, always rushing frantically about, collecting and saving. They work tirelessly to store food so that they won’t starve in the winter. But they are so busy storing and hiding, that in the Spring trees grow from the loot they have buried and forgotten.

From the squirrels, I have learned to be prepared, but not to get so preoccupied with preparing for tomorrow, that I forget to LIVE today.

There are the rabbits. We only see them if we sneak up quietly and unexpectedly just before sundown. They live in such fear of predators, that they never come out to see the sun. Once, we rescued a group of bunnies from under our burn pile. We had to place them back very close to their den, without touching them at all, so the mother wouldn’t be too scared to come back for them.

Can you imagine being so scared of something,  that you are willing to abandon your children? I cannot.

We have huge murders of crows (yes, a flock of crows is actually called a murder) that swoop in, blacken the sky and lay like a huge dark blanket over the treetops. They make a horrible racket, and it seems like they are each so busy fussing and complaining and gossiping, and none of them hears the other speaking. They fuss and squawk and then, altogether, move on to the trees across the highway, only to repeat themselves yet again.

The crows are dark and their sound is never pleasant or joyful.  I have also noticed that they can be found most often filling the trees in our town cemetery. Now if that’s not symbolism, I don’t know what is!

Of course, there are the ever-present mosquitoes, ready to make a meal of our flesh anytime we set foot outside. There are the cicadas chanting their song of heat all summer long. And there are two great owls who launch into deep conversation in the woods next to the house every night.

There are also conversations between my dog and several dogs in distant neighborhoods. The fact that they’ve never met in person doesn’t seem to matter to them, and they seem quite content to carry on this chat with strangers.

Maybe dogs would understand the value of Facebook more than I do?

But then there is the hawk. He sits quietly at the very top of the tallest tree. He swoops gracefully in large circles above the pasture. When he spots his prey, he sweeps in quickly, no warning, no noise, no commotion, and his great talons gather his dinner with split second precision, and he is gone as quick as he came.

The rabbits, the squirrels, the lizards are all busy in their own tiny microcosms, unaware of the larger world around them. But the hawk has a different perspective. From his perch, he sees how it all connects. He sees the cause and effect. He sees the pattern in the land, the storm on the horizon, the cows stampeding on the other side of the woods. He sees where the stream comes from and he sees where it goes.

The hawk is wise and strong. But he is also quiet and he doesn’t call attention to himself. He doesn’t make grand announcements, he doesn’t need the protection of a flock. Most days, life continues down here on the farm and we are not even aware of his presence. But he knows we are here. He sees everything. And he knows what it all means.

When life gets overwhelming, I find myself tempted to respond as a pragmatic squirrel, or a frightened rabbit, or to just join the gossip and useless complaining of the crows. These are the times I must be reminded to climb that tree, shut my mouth, and look at the bigger picture.

This life requires the wisdom and the perspective of the Hawk.

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