Our ancestors took note when the wild creatures of this earth engaged us, or acted in ways deemed unusual or out of character. They understood this as a sign, an invitation, medicine or a message from the universe or whatever Gods they called upon. It was at the root of their divinatory systems.
Is it me, or is the conversation between all living things and humanity becoming clearer, more intense, louder, more eloquent? Might the natural world be engaging us more, giving us another chance? What is your experience, it feels important for us to share these things at this time?
I've been sensing this for some months: swallows returning to my home patch after 6 years of absence, hearing stories from colleagues and co-collaborators of other miraculous returns: river frogs and leopards to parts of Botswana where they had been absent for years due to urban developments. And then, last weekend, this little pheasant chick and his/her brother or sister came scuttling headlong out of the long grass and to my feet at a campsite on the Lizard.
I wouldn’t usually pick up fledgelings, but mum was nowhere to be seen or heard and there was a fine fox in the area that we’d seen ranging. Pheasants also can’t count and regularly mislay chicks, which is why these little buddies are actually pretty self sufficient in terms of feeding from day one. These however, seemed very young, possibly new hatchlings, kept warm despite the hen's absence due to the hot weather. They were shivering with cold and clambered over my feet, tweeping loudly. After a while of pondering what best to do and hoping for some sign that mum might be nearby, we took them in, warmed them up, drip fed them water and a little food. I’ve looked after injured and cat-caught baby birds before, they’re delicate little things.
Miraculously, after a warm nest in the van overnight, they were bright eyed and still chirping at dawn, and after a little more water and food, we set them into the thick undergrowth of the field hedge-line. One scuttled away, the other followed me back to the van twice. After a gentle talking to and some stroking (which they revelled in), I popped him / her back in the hedge and turned away.
I wept, for the sheer wild, fragile beauty of contact, for the courageous trust of a tiny, wild creature in humankind.
After all pheasants have particularly good reasons not to trust us humans). And for the courage of these little mites to brave a great big dog (who after initial excitement, was very gentle with them) and two human giants in their quest for life; and for the necessity of giving them back to the wild and dangers inherent in nature’s lore.
I was still deep in the heart-sway of this, when I landed in Embercombe for 5 days of co-leading a new intake of Contemporary Animism Apprentices into the depth of connection with all life. Embercombe has been rewilding for some years, and it feels magnificently teeming with life. In the very first few hours, a beautiful adult male pheasant bolted out of the tall grass in front of me and scuttled ahead of me up the path. Coincidence or conversation? This was the first of many encounters with pheasant, deer, badgers, foxes, wrens and a myriad of creatures that was to follow. We made space for them to engage us, through vigil and ceremony and time sitting and listening deeply to all that is.
There's a poem called 'A Challenge' by my dear friend, William Ayot that I love, in which he poses the question beautifully:
...."And when at last the tired sun
Issued from the earth like a molten copper head,
did you notice the hawk that flew at you,
rose in a way that made everything sacred,
stooped in a way that made the day blaze?"
Our ancestors took note when the creatures of this earth engaged us, or acted in ways deemed unusual or out of character. They understood this as a sign, an invitation, medicine or a message from the universe or whatever Gods they called upon. I can't help thinking it's time we remembered how to listen.
It's not a listening with the ears, it is not a conversation in words, but I believe it's getting louder and clearer....and it is exquisitely poetic and eloquent.
What do you think? I'd love to hear about your encounters, your experience of the conversation with all things.