Nothing inspires and delights me more than spending time in nature. Birds are the beings who make my heartstrings vibrate most fervently, but I also enjoy encounters with other animals. Fortunately, it’s still possible to meet scaled, furred, or feathered creatures, but I don’t take these joyful moments for granted and feel privileged whenever they occur.
In order to share some of them, I dove into my archives and selected a few images for each month of this waning year, starting with the Great Horned Owl which granted me a glimpse into its sleepy eyes on January 1, and ending with yet another locking of eyes with a nocturnal animal taking a daytime nap in a tree in December.
To enlarge a photo, click on it.
American Dipper; Wilson’s Snipe
Pair of squirrels dancing a two-step; newborn sheep (I watched it drop to the ground)
Mountain Bluebird; Porcupine
13-lined Ground Squirrel (the lines are on its back); migrating Snowy Egrets and Greater Yellowlegs
Cuddly Canada Goslings, often the first spring bird babies; Painted Turtle; Bullfrog
Red Fox; Racoon
Some of you will remember my review of one of the most memorable books I have ever had the good fortune to come across. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass” advocates approaches for living in the world that appear novel, even though they have long been practiced by various Indigenous cultures. In the chapter “Learning the Grammar of Animacy,” which summarizes her efforts to learn her tribal language, the author explains:
To whom does our language extend the grammar of animacy? Naturally, plants and animals are animate, but as I learn, I am discovering that the Potowatomi understanding of what it means to be animate diverges from the list of attributes of living beings we all learned in Biology 101. In Potowatomi 101, rocks are animate, as are mountains and water and fire and places. Beings that are imbued with spirit, our sacred medicines, our songs, drums, and even stories, are animate.
Furthermore, she ponders:
Learning the grammar of animacy could well be a restraint on our mindless exploitation of land. But there is more to it. I have heard our elders give advice like “You should go among the standing people” or “Go spend some time with those Beaver people.” They remind us of the capacity of others as our teachers, as holders of knowledge, as guides. Imagine walking through a richly inhabited world of Birch people, Bear people, Rock people, beings we think of and therefore speak of as persons worthy of our respect, of inclusion in a peopled world. We Americans are reluctant to learn a foreign language of our own species, let alone another species. But imagine the possibilities. Imagine the access we would have to different perspectives, the things me might see through other eyes, the wisdom that surrounds us. We don’t have to figure out everything by ourselves: there are intelligences other than our own, teachers all around us. Imagine how much less lonely the world would be.
Bullock’s Oriole, embodying the vibrancy of summer; curious alpaca
Not one but two Northern Pygmy-Owls; Mississippi Kite; Burro in a meadow
German Roe Deer doe with fawn in a vineyard; German cows resting in a lush meadow
Galloway cow with a calf in Germany; German domestic goose taking an open-eyed nap
Draft horses at Rock Ledge Ranch enjoying (?) late-autumn sunshine; alert Mule Deer watching me
Northern Pygmy-Owl at Red Rock Canyon; irresistible Porcupine (I want to cuddle it so badly)
In this spirit, I hope you have had your own special experiences with Brother Bear, Sister Swan, Cousin Cougar, or Aunt Anteater, and I wish all of us memorable and meaningful moments with our animal relatives in the year to come.