Before I left home of South Carolina to pursue my career of working with animals, I would have considered myself a deeply spiritual person, and very much connected with the spirituality of Native Americans. I was also connected to the spiritual essence of animals. I read tons of books on the subject, and was convinced that nature was full of magic. Part of my belief stemmed from my time studying Native American medicine wheel, and how they revered animals in their culture as guides. Part of it was the result of my obsession with the King Arthur legend, and Celtic folklore of fairies and magic. Combining the two to create a spiritual experience helped me through man tough times. One of the books I kept from those times was written by the late Ted Andrews, called “Animal Speak”. I loved this book because it referred to all kinds of animals that we encounter in different ways as being messengers. It spoke of becoming receptive of those messages from our animal kin.
I don’t know why I kept the book all this time. After college, and after leaving Florida, I put a lot of my spirituality “behind” me. Not that I thought I had outgrown it, but I focused on my relationship with the animals I was caring for, not looking for their messages. I mean, if I’m encountering an owl everyday, should I look at the lore surrounding owls, or chalk it up to the fact that I WORK with owls? And my whole attitude towards dolphins completely changed after working with the species for six years. The magic of the lessons animals can bestow on us became somewhat lost.
Interestingly, I came across a presentation done by Ted Andrews on audio, and I was intrigued by what I could find relevant from his presentation. After all, I’m studying to become a Naturalist and Interpretive Guide. The worst it could do would enhance my knowledge of animal behavior and interpretation. Or so I thought. I didn’t think it would remind me of what I had lost in my career of “growing up”.
I found certain coincidences and assumptions from Mr. Andrews to create skepticism in his claims of animals as messengers and teachers for a spirit. He claimed that seeing a hawk soar and circle above, catching the thermals in the air, was a sign that police were using radar, and he would be extra cautious. But that claim invokes the idea that the hawk soars when police are nearby, and I’m pretty sure that hawks have been using thermal updrafts for millenia longer than police have had radar. Maybe I missed the point of his example, but it was almost enough to create a layer of skepticism. So, when he proclaimed the daddy long-legs as the most venomous spider on earth, I nearly wrecked my car in aggravation. It’s the most common myth perpetuated about the poor animal, but it’s not true. And the fact that someone reportedly connected with all these animals on a spiritual level should have 1) done the research to understand the truth about the animals he is talking about, and 2) should have known from the get-go.
At this point I started to question myself. What happened to me? I used to look for the connection with all life in all my interactions. I used to take the thrill of being close and personal with some of the most incredible animals on earth. But sometime between Florida and moving to Washington, I lost that connection. O worked with elephants without once thinking of the significance of their presence. I didn’t see the magic anymore. Which is incredibly disappointing for me. I love the idea of magic. Magic is what enthralled me about “Harry Potter”. I use magic references all the time in conservation. I remember relating the thought that the rhino horn may hold deep magic, but it is only magical to the rhino, and to steal the rhino horn is to leech the magic that the animal holds. Kill the rhino, kill the magic the rhino horn holds.
I often refer to the woods as a place of magic. The trees that sustain so much life: food, shelter, the freaking AIR WE BREATHE! And I love the idea of the forest having protectors. I always imagined those protectors were fairies, magical beings to protect a magical entity. Today, I realize (whether fairies are real or not), that we cannot depend on other beings for the protection of something as important as our natural resources. They are OUR responsibility. This idea, of the forests and the magic within them being needing our protection is the basis for a new project I’m forming, Forest Fairy Locks. I want to sell the hair accessories I use and make to fund conservation efforts to protect our trees and our earth. The proceeds will go towards the AAZK and Polar Bears International initiative “Trees for You and Me”. But to me, it’s more than just conservation. It’s more than fitness. This is getting back to my roots.
I used to be connected to the magic of nature. I want to return to that spiritual place. To regularly be reminded of the essence that resides in the trees, and to hear the messages of the animals I encounter. I know they have important lessons to share with me, if I will only slow down enough to learn them.