I have a dear friend who is a tortured but gentle soul. She has spent a lot of energy and effort doing all those things that help one find their center, create balance, exorcise the demons, quiet the voices, and calm the storms that life sends your way. Along her journey of self help and spirituality, my friend encountered a woman who seems to see through her human self and into her soul. My friend regularly seeks out this woman’s counsel to unwind the knots of life.
During one of their early spiritual guidance sessions, this medicine woman told my friend that she is surrounded by spirits. She identified these spirits as women and then went on to accurately describe, in detail, several beloved female family members who were deceased. My friend was amazed.
My friend was also disappointed that she seemed to be unaware of these spirits or any effect they had on her life. She spent several weeks trying to be open to this idea and trying to see or feel a sense of being surrounded by souls. Eventually she forgot to think about her spirits and stopped looking for her souls. Months passed and life went on.
There must have been a reason, but I don’t know it, that caused my friend to return to the medicine woman to seek some clarity or continued spiritual guidance. During a session, the medicine woman again referred to the multitude of spirits that seem to embrace and attach themselves to my friend. Full of skepticism and disappointment after weeks of seeking them and finding nothing, my friend began to ask a lot of questions. Why don’t they show themselves to me? Why don’t I feel their guidance? Why don’t they comfort me? Why are they okay with causing me this discomfort, and why don’t they come forward so I can sense them too?
The medicine woman said they do comfort my friend. She also told my friend that she can see the spirits; she just doesn’t know that she can. My friend remembers being truly puzzled by this conversation. Eventually during this same meeting, the medicine woman reveals to my friend that the spirits and souls that surround her come to comfort her in the form of deer. You have a spirit animal, and that animal for you is the deer.
This revelation floored my friend. She started to recall all of the deer that seasonally call her acres of woods and back yard home. She recognized that her daily dog walks through the woods are always punctuated by deer sightings. She said the deer never run away when she and her dog come into view. Instead, she said they just stand still and quiet and watch her as she travels up the path as she does every day. She also recalled that when she is overwhelmed by sadness or loss or stress, she seeks strength and relief by walking in the woods among the trees, the ponds and the deer.
All of this spirit animal talk got me to thinking. Is the cardinal my spirit animal? I often sit on my porch with my early morning coffee and see a male and female cardinal in the rhododendron. I was raised since birth in Virginia where the state bird is the cardinal. Are you my spirit animal?
What about the turtle? I was shopping for a Kate Spade copy bag on Canal Street in NYC during one of our girlfriend weekends when I saw a petite lady walking down the street with 2 clear plastic boxes. Each box held a tiny plastic palm tree and two tiny turtles. Hey, I had that kind of turtle when I was a kid! “Where did you get those turtles?” I asked the Asian woman. “Eleven dollars” she said, thrusting the boxes towards me. I bought them, brought them home, and set them up in a tank with all things, light and heat and water, that suburban turtles need. I even saved one of the turtles from being attacked by 2 of the others, nursing him through the night, holding a gauze pad to his rear end where one of his tank mates had taken a bite out of him. Are you my spirit animal?
No, it’s not a cardinal, nor is it a turtle. I think I have found my spirit animal. I could have spirits around me too, you know. I’ve lost a lot of souls during my lifetime, and they could be nearby, coming and going, and guiding me through life. That’s when I realized that my spirit animal has been staring me down my whole life. He used to run across the fence tops in my old neighborhood like an acrobat. I used to feel sorry for my spirit animal as a kid. I thought it was hard to have to climb trees to find your food, so I would collect acorns and fill old margarine tubs with them and leave them on our sidewalk to make meals easier for my furry friends. He’s always been close, eating my tulip bulbs, chasing his buddies around and around through the trees and up and down tree trunks, and hanging upside down from my bird feeders so that I have to come outside and refill them with black sunflower seeds. My spirit animal is so desperate to get close that he recently chewed through the screen of my back porch to get closer to his human. Undeterred by my discovery of the hole in the screen and the shutting of a porch window, he tried again to comfort me and chewed a second hole in a second screen. I shut a second window. After I left for a weekend trip, my spirit animal was distraught about being left behind and chewed a third hole in the screen door to try and keep close to his human. My spirit animal is not easily dissuaded.
Fast forward to this week when I stopped home in between teaching my class and returning to my office. I needed to let out my dog and grab my lunch out of the fridge. My dog is always happy to see me, but these lunch time stop ins wake him up from his nap, and sometimes it is hard to get him up and out of the house. I try to be patient, but I’m on a tight schedule and I’ve gotta get to work – new job and untenured after 23 years, so I’m following the rules in case people are watching. Anyway, it seems to take forever to get the dog walked and the lunch gathered, so I’m distracted as I pull out of the driveway, hit the garage door remote on the sun visor, and turn the wheel to negotiate the end of the driveway without hitting the mailbox. That’s when it happens. I felt it. The bump. The interruption of my left rear tire leaving the surface of the asphalt road. I felt sick to my stomach. My karma will never recover. I killed my spirit animal.