The Full Story: If the first two paragraphs sound familiar because you've read them previously, skip to ***.
It was President's Day and I was in that waking up place with so much on my mind. My head was filled with pressured energy and generic thoughts of needing to get up and write, not getting to or wanting to but having to finish the backlog of stories in piles, bags, folders and flash drives. Over the weekend I told a friend that at times I feel like a story machine turning out stories on an assembly line. My words feel flat and lifeless when I'm really the one feeling flat and lifeless.
Yet this particular morning something unexpected arrived. My head was empty yet filled. Suddenly I knew in that deep-down-hard-to-explain-inside way that I am loved. I knew if I never put out another story, I will still be loved because this love is based in being. There is nothing, nadda, zip, zilch I have to do to be loved.
I walked downstairs in bliss and poured a cup of coffee. Then as I sat down I took a breath or more accurately a breath took me. This wasn't part of a prayer or meditation. This breath came through me and suddenly I experienced an amazing sense of spaciousness internally and externally.
*** For many this particular day was a holiday. Being self-employed, I hadn't intended to take the day off yet my clients cancelled except for one. I called her to reschedule, something I'm unaccustomed to doing. (This person later told me it was perfect I called. She had intended to reschedule.)
The day stretched before me. The stories I wanted to work on did call my name in a want to not have to way, yet it felt best to begin by walking my neighborhood as I do most weekdays.
I headed out with my recorder in hand but detoured to check on the garlic. Planted on winter's solstice just over two months ago, several cloves have already sent up green shoots.
I scanned the bed then picked up a fallen tree limb that would become fire wood along with several other twigs. Then I gasped. One of the twigs had was covered in fur. I had picked up a rabbit's leg. In the small tucked in area of the front yard, brown and white rabbit fur was scattered about the grass. This sign of coyotes return to our street took my breath
The day prior while in the country I was thinking how I hadn't seen a rabbit in our yard there all winter. I quietly wondered where they were then a lucky rabbits foot from childhood crossed my mind. The thought of the scores of rabbits killed for those supposed good luck charms now makes me cringe. Later that night as we pulled onto the street to head back into Nashville a rabbit crossed in front of us. I felt such joy.
Meanwhile back in Nashville, I stood in the yard that morning thinking it was no accident I held the remains of a rabbit after one had crossed my mind's radar and my literal path the day prior. I held the fur and leg and acknowledged the rabbit's life here on my street. I thanked it for coming to Earth. Then I asked that its kin come and take its spirit home. I burned sage in the area before laying the remains in a fern covered corner of our yard.
As I walked around the house, I noticed the stone rabbit by my door. A thought flashed through my mind: Is this why we fill our homes with animal statuary, lampshades and fabrics with animal motifs? Is it easier to fill our homes than feel our insides? Similarly is it easier to cheer on the Bears, Bengals, Cardinals, Gators, Wildcats, Timberwolves, Bulls and Lions than hold the inner experience of tension and grief regarding how animals are treated?
I paused then noticed the squirrel sunning at the opening to its house. The house was intended for the area screech owls yet the squirrels moved in as soon as we placed the house on the hack berry by the dogwood outside my office window. It's not uncommon for a squirrel to peer from the little round door while another suns on the roof. This one hung half-way from its home's opening. I stopped and said, "Hello" then wondered if I had found squirrel parts instead of rabbit. I looked at the squirrel and said, "You look sad. Was that your mate that died?"
An hour later a thought crossed my mind, 'What if the sunning squirrel is dead?'
I went back out and talked to it. It didn't move. Then I came in and banged on the window. Still no movement. I ran a rake up the side of the tree. Nothing happened.
I knew I was getting a do-over.
Last year on one particular bliss-filled morning after having found the spring's first lady bug, I walked around the corner of the house and found a little bundle of bright yellow feathers under the dogwood. I sat briefly sat speechless under the tree certain a neighboring cat had dined on a beautiful, migrating songbird. Tears welled up from my heavy heart, but I had things to do. I busied myself and moved on through the day.
The next morning I rounded the same corner and found yet again a pile of feathers. This time bright red cardinal feathers were scattered beneath the dogwood. This time I allowed myself time to feel a bit more but not fully what I needed. It was a work day. I had things to do.
Finding the dead squirrel and rabbit moments apart, I knew I was getting a do-over related to coming upon those feathers months prior when I stopped myself from being with my experience.
It was no accident that I walked outside filled with the bliss of unconditional love and spaciousness, only to come upon two dead animals in my postage stamp size yard. Could I, a lover of animals domestic and wild, be in my heart rather than resort to busyness? I had no excuses. On this day, the only appointment I had was with myself.
I came inside and sat on the futon where the dead squirrel high up on the tree was visible in the window. I hugged myself and shouted, "Sometimes it hurts too much to live." Tears rolled down my face and as I cried my sorrow eventually became joy. This time I practiced what I teach. When we stay in the flow of our emotions they pass through us and in their passing they shift. My tears of sadness became tears of happiness. It was perfect this dear squirrel die in its home in front of my window where I would be certain to see it. This was beautiful. I stood looking out the window demanding this dear animal's kin come take its spirit home. Tears flowed through me again and just like moments before sorrow became joy.
I experienced something for which I didn't have a word. is there a word for the mix of joy/sadness/pain/happiness/sorrow in moments like this? I don't know it if it does but this is what burst from my being. I could feel it nudging, stretching walls within me, internal boundaries I didn't even know existed. Ah, if anything the word was grace.
I gratefully got a ladder and taped a small box to the backside of a hoe. At first I climbed the ladder alone but with the breeze and unsteady ground I asked a neighbor to help me. Clare, who loves animals too, gets it. She not only steadied the ladder but had empathy for the squirrel and me then said, "If the squirrel had to die, I can't think of a better place."
I dug a small hole in our garden. Digging in the dirt reminded me of gravediggers, the men who do not receive the credit they deserve for the sacred work they do (nor the money I suspect). I buried the squirrel under a little tree in fern-filled corner. Fern fronds became its bed and a sprig of lavender marked its place.
As night approached I walked outside to the dogwood. I've witnessed so much life and death around this one small tree. It is a metaphor for Earth this place where if we are paying attention we experience the beautiful, many layered gifts of Life.
I stood by the tree and there peering from the little round door looking back at me was a squirrel. I talked to it and shared silence. Then I went in and turned on my office light. I lit a candle and sat there hoping my presence and the light inside would be a comfort to the squirrel spending its first night alone. Its presence reminded me of my human kin who have spent first nights alone. I lit the candle for those who have known companionship only to have someone leave or die. I prayed they would feel the warm presence of love in their life.
I sat in that room for quite awhile as the candle burned uncertain if I was keeping the squirrel company or the squirrel was keeping me company.
The next day as I looked out the window squirrel peered back at me from its door then ran up the tree. To my surprise, another peered out then scampered away behind it.
Can you feel the joy this duo brought me?
I share this story because I am a teller of stories. More importantly I live stories. I had no idea that the energy delivering Love and the breath giving me spaciousness early that morning would be part of delivering this gift. Remember how I wrote if we could throw away our clocks and time keeping machines, the world as we know it would come to a stop revealing the world as it really is?
Thanks to the squirrel and rabbit as well as my clients cancelling, I was shown the world as it really is. I experienced how we're built to live graced fully with a heart made to hold hurt and joy side by side.
Ordinary animals, like squirrels and rabbits often taken for granted, are my everyday angels and allies. Encounters with Nature over the recent years have turned the Light on inside me. When I am awake and aware and my heart and mind open, these interactions provide the fuel that keeps the Light on.
They remind me even in their dying that I am Love for Love allowed me to lay them to rest, thanked them for joining us here and asked them to continuing coming to us again and again.
We are here to live story. We are built to be livers of story for there is a magic in the mundane and an extraordinariness in the ordinary. What story is trying to be lived through YOU? What characters arrive as allies and angels in disguise in what you think of as your common life? What messages surround you through Nature, those you love, someone you call a stranger or someone you're yet to meet?
Imagine the Shift to finding and living the greater story in your life! It may be just outside the door in your yard, up a tree or along the sidewalk of this journey called Life!
-Dawn, The Good News Muse 28 February 2013