This Storm

animal spirit homestead story

I’d almost forgotten how deliciously ferocious our weather can be. Trees, power-lines, sides of hills will all likely come down today. While I do not welcome the suffering, I love feeling Mother Earth flex her muscles. Its as if the gentle voice of nature suddenly rolls into a roar – rushing to an explosive cataclysmic crescendo. Her presence will not be denied!
This is the first big storm we’ve had in our neck of the woods in a couple of years. Its one of those storms where the rain comes down so hard and thick it creates a dense fog up to your knees as it pounds down – vapors wrap you, soaking your legs. Rivers suddenly appear whipped up by tree-tearing wind blasts – sweeping away the unlucky, then vanish.

     Spirits wake up at this time as well, faces that were once slumbering in trees and bushes begin to chatter and cackle, delighting in the powerful energy. Perhaps some are even taking some pleasure in the failures of modern technology to resist Mother Earths power – top of the food chain indeed!
     I’ve been visiting a small glen in the hills around our house lately, spending time with the spirits there, opening the door to the Tuath De Danann wider. I’m still learning what is best to share and what is best to keep private. There does seem to be a protocol with some of these spirits, they can see directly into our hearts, know where we’re coming from.
     I found a spirited place near that glen to lay to rest a dog Terry spotted by a stream not far from our house. The stream was drought dry for the last few years until a week ago when a rush of water breathed life into its leaf buried body. The dog was laying at the waters edge, looking just like a fox, were its tail not smaller and its teeth lacking needle sharpness. It had been killed painfully, angrily, and thrown from the small bridge.
     There is such grace in working with the spirits around an animals suffering in this way. Its physical pain has clearly ended, we work to ensure no spiritual suffering continues. This is the place where the power of love and unity can create lasting peace, where the anger that created this tragedy loses its impact. She was given to the earth beneath a blooming manzanita bush, the cord taken from around her neck where it had strangled her so painfully, wet fragrant soil weighing her down.
     Tadg came and helped me gather her up, he understood that it is important to keep dead animals away from our waters, especially with big rains on their way. He kept wanting to know why someone would do that to a dog, do that to a family member. I had to keep telling him I didn’t understand it either, its not really something the human heart was made for. He usually joins me for our burials when its one of our animals, he didn’t want to be a part of this one.
     I’m one of those people animals know to reach out to at times. Whether its finding lost animals, rescuing them from storm drains (that was exciting), or being tapped to provide a burial, they seem to know I’ll try to help out if I can and probably not fumble it too badly.
You know when they’ve chosen you, because you’re probably able to see how they (even in captivity) manage to find a way to exercise their own choice with respect to life and death. Sometimes they initiate their own death right in front of you, knowing you will finish what they’ve started. What a tragic gift, like a beautiful bouquet of flowers at a funeral. Somehow its just part of who you are, they know they can rely on you.PopcornDancing
There’s a key to working with them, I think its more than just caring about animals (so many of us care so deeply for the animals in our lives). Its about not being so afraid of the suffering and death, that you can’t still love through it all. Thats what they need from us, not a life without suffering, but a life with compassion throughout the suffering. Thats also what the spirits need from us, if they’re to work through us: a willingness to open our hearts even with the suffering of the world raining down upon us.
     I think for me that understanding stems from being sick when I was a kid. I was THAT kid, the one always missing school because of one sickness or another. I would miss anywhere between 1/4 to 1/3 of a school year down with strep throat or stomach flu’s. My companions were our two family dogs Pixie & Popcorn. We’d huddle together by the heater vent if it was winter, in front of the TV if Mom would let us watch.
They healed me, kept me going when everything hurt so much I really wanted to die. They understood the animal of me when nobody else seemed to. They taught me a compassion that was genuine, that included no pitty. They expect no less from their allies. I was able to return the favor when it was Popcorns time to go. Her spinal fluid had dried up, her back bent – I was the only one that could move her without causing incredible pain. She died peacefully in my Mothers arms as all our dogs and cats did.
I think the spirits of nature look kindly on us when we reach out to our animal kin to support them in their lives and deaths. I think the Tuath De Danann take it as an indication that we have not forgotten our own souls, that we still can feel the nobility that spirit imparts. Thats at the heart of this work with animals, the transcendent compassion available to us all through our kinship with all the beings we share this planet with.
It is so stunningly green here right now. Its been two years since the grasses grew this freely, its flying out of the ground like screaming joy! That stream is running brown, hysterical with potency, its trees are being fed like they haven’t for years. It is time for the thirst of the living to be quenched, its time to thank the spirits for all of this incredible abundance. This rain does not wash away sorrow, but it brings with it such hope and fertility. The earth renews itself, it renews us without minimizing the grief that life also imparts.
My dear friend Lora Jansson has written about this kind of renewal in her story about healing with Asian Moon Bears in her article The Radical Teaching That Changed Everything: Love From The Moon Bears. There are some things only the animals seem to be able to teach us, these things are essential if we’re really to become fully human. Lora has even developed coursework to help us all work with the animals to fully receive that wisdom –  Shamanism and Animals: Companion Animals 101. I hope you’ll consider checking out her work, it is life changing.

Here’s wishing you powerful abundant weather and the love and wisdom of an animal family to surround and hold you!

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