By Deb Avery
The ravens are calling again outside my open window.
The lyrical, mystical part of my mind tells me they are wondering where I am, for it’s been a couple of days since I’ve been able to be up and about, much less outside, due to illness.
Perhaps they’ve missed me?
We can never fully appreciate the intelligence of the animals, plants and trees that live here with us. But for me, I have seen and felt enough to know this: communion is not only possible—nor is it only restricted to those with a PhD in animal or plant behavior—it is available to all who simply pay attention and open their hearts and minds.
The ravens I mentioned earlier showed up in the Spring of this year. A group of six, they hang out and eat the leftover cornbread, dry dog food and some fruits and other bits of food that does not get eaten by myself or my family. I have water out for them, though they much prefer the little stream that flows about 50 yards or so behind my house.
These ravens are juveniles. They are lacking somewhat in the grace, wisdom and discernment of their elders. They are very similar to a typical group of teens; loud, a little obnoxious and hungry all the time. Yet, there is something scared about them as well.
They won’t let me get close—even when bearing treats.
Trusting doesn’t come easy for them at this stage in their lives. Yet every morning they wake me outside my window with a few of their loud calls. And they circle around the backyard using a different call when they are looking for food.
One day, I called back, at least as best as I can with my human voice box. And they flew closer and answered back. When I go for walks they circle overhead and follow along in the trees that line the roadway. And we converse back and forth like old friends.
Perhaps they are wondering about this strange creature that walks on the ground but never flies. This creature who shares treats and talks with them almost daily. We’ve become accustomed to each other, the ravens and I.
Although they are intriguing and newly come to my little back yard surrounded by trees, they are far from the only inhabitants who share these wooded two acres with me. It is very common to open my back door and find deer, squirrels, rabbits, racoons, lizards or toads either on the porch or just on the other side. As a matter of fact, I have to be careful in my actions not to over-welcome them. I mean, there has to be some boundaries.
I remember a couple of years back when a huge wolf spider made her home less than a foot away from the back door. She kept the insects from damaging the little garden below the porch railings and knew I meant her no harm. I told her she was welcomed and she seemed quite happy with the arrangement.
But, in a little more than a week’s time, I had a problem. There were by then, seven huge wolf spiders hanging in webs on my porch—two of them on my swing. Of course they never meant to harm me, but this little sanctuary was becoming a bit too much (not to mention that no one would sit on the porch swing with me). So, reluctantly, I gently swept the webs away and told them to find somewhere else to build their homes.
I did however, leave the original spider and web. She had been a good guest until her wild friends had shown up. Strangely, the others never returned after being asked to leave. And to this day I’ve only had the one that builds her web and funnel next to the small garden. This year she built much lower and those going in and out the door were not immediately terrorized.
Over the years I’ve had many animal, tree and plant friends. Most have been happy experiences just hanging out, co-existing and enjoying life. But as in all our lives, there have been tragedies as well. Such is life. But over-all, my life has been greatly enhanced by the joy of fellow beings.
On days when the wind calls my name and the earth seeps into my soul through my hands in her soil, I totally, completely feel the oneness of all.
There is an old story of a man in India who walked miles to the market to purchase rice and beans. The walk back is long and tiring and he simply went to bed that night without dinner because he was so tired. The next morning he opened the package of beans to find several ants inside. Shaking his head, he retied the package, grabbed some water and an old piece of bread and began the walk back to the market.
Once there he returned the beans and carefully this time, made sure there were no ants in the ones he took home. And that night after his return, he feasted on beans and rice and slept soundly because he felt in his heart that he had done the right thing.
Now you may be thinking, why on earth didn’t he just wash the beans and cook them anyway. Right? But you see, he wasn’t upset because of the ants had contaminated his beans. No, his concern ran deeper than that. He was upset because he knew the ants were a long, long way from their home and their tribe and that they would never be able to find their way back.
Such empathy might seem a little silly in this day and time. But what if, in this crazy mixed up world of ours, we could find the empathy that this man felt for the tiny ants, in our own fellow human beings?
Wouldn’t it be nice to feel the resonance of kindness permeating this world instead of contempt? Empathy instead of apathy? And what about feeling joy all around us instead of despair? And is it really so far-fetched to extend our empathy out further to include all living beings?
I think not. For I believe that the world resonates with our thoughts, feelings and most definitely with our actions and deeds.
“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join me—and the world can live as one.” John Lennon
Editor: Dana Gornall