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  • Writer's pictureNancy Willbern, PhD

My Teacher

  (This post was originally published on June 1, 2018)

          I have recently been re-listening to the audible version of Soul Craft by Dr. Bill Plotkin. I highly recommend it if you are interested in exploring the world of the Feminine or finding out more about your Soul’s calling. There is so much in it, but one of the things talked about a lot is how much we can learn from Nature. Whether the insights come as strictly our projections or as some form of literal communion among living things, I couldn’t tell you but I am fascinated with the experience regardless of its real source.

          One day last week, I was listening to a chapter which suggests going out into nature and in essence being open to simply observing what you notice, what catches your attention. See if you can set your rational mind aside for a little while and just be there in it, with it and watch. So, that is what I did. I went out on my back porch and sat down at the table which gives a full view of the wild woods that lie just beyond our fence line. I was going to be open and just wait and watch to see what Nature might bring me - a sign, a gift, an insight. “Maybe a painted bunting or a yellow butterfly, maybe an unusual chirp from a courting bird....” I clearly did not completely set aside my very active brain.

          As soon as I sat down at the table, I saw a little black rock squirrel eating bird seed that had fallen from the feeder above. I was so excited! I love those rock squirrels. They are very different from their more extroverted tree squirrel cousins. They are timid and careful. They won’t come up into the yard if Dave and I are out there. And they sure won’t come up when TBone, our Golden Retriever is anywhere near. I sat there, feeling so happy, so gifted by this little cherished friend. I watched as he nibbled on the sunflower seeds, meticulously disposing of their shells. I sat and watched and then so did TBone who had come out with me. He spotted him as soon as I did, raised up quietly on all fours and stealthily moved onto point. I saw this and immediately said, “No, TBone,” he’s our friend,” which is the typical language I use whenever we encounter a deer or rabbit on one of our walks. “No, TBone,” I said again as he strengthened his pose. In complete disregard of my warning, TBone charged. The little rock squirrel was caught completely off-guard. And although he scampered towards the fence, TBone was too quick, grabbed him into his teeth and began to shake the little defenseless creature as I ran down the steps, screaming at TBone, “NO! NO!” I grabbed his collar and yelled out, “Release!” TBone let the squirrel go and I pulled him up the stairs and inside the house the whole time yelling “NO! NO! NO!”

          I went back to the dying squirrel and watched as he took his last two breaths. I kept telling him, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. He didn’t mean it. He didn’t mean it.” I was instantly caught in an internal struggle. I knew that TBone had been bred to be a hunter. No one had taught him how to go after prey like that. He knew how to do it in every fiber of his body. And the truth is, he had done a good job of it. In all the five years of his life, this was the first time he had ever caught a squirrel. He had chased countless of them, but the tree squirrels have always been too fast for him. This time, this shy one never looked up. He didn’t even hear us come out onto the porch. He had been so unsuspecting. I knew that TBone was not being bad. He’s a really friendly dog. He was not attacking out of anger or meanness. He was being himself. He was being true to his nature, but at the same time, I really like those shy, little rock squirrels. Whenever I happen to see one tentatively poke his nose through the fence, my heart gets happy. I feel so lucky to be there with one of them. It’s such a rare occasion.

          After I stroked the rock squirrel’s fur, I went out to the garage and got a couple of plastic bags and a shovel. I carefully placed him in a bag, then went out the back gate, dug him a shallow grave and covered it with dry leaves. I would let Nature take it from there. I went back inside and sat with TBone, talking with him softly to let him know that I understood. I understood him but the truth is, I was left bewildered.

          I had gone out to commune with nature, to let it bring me some new awareness. You know to have a few blissful moments of Kumbaya. I was not expecting to witness a brutal murder! What was this? What was I supposed to get from it? I went back to my chair on the covered porch, went inside myself and asked for clarification from an Inner Wisdom. Here is what I got:

          Nancy, this was our gift to you. Your being shocked by it exposes the degree to which you still think you know ... you know what life is about, you know what should and should not happen, you know what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. It exposes the extent to which you still live out of assumptions that you label as not only true but of the highest value. Can you widen your lens? What if TBone and the rock squirrel had some sort of karmic contract with each other? What if TBone’s quick kill was more kind than the squirrel’s slow demise? Could it be that the squirrel was sick? Could that be why he didn’t hear your approach or even when you told TBone “No?” Your surprise over the interaction between TBone and the squirrel, your assumption that it should not have happened, your assumption that Loving Wisdom only comes in sweet packages is the gift that the interaction carries with it. You still think you know. Move deeper into Beginner’s Mind, into a deeper space of, “I know nothing, show me.” And Life will bring you many wonders that you could never predict.

Stock image from Pixabay


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