Cassandra’s Vulnerability

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While gazing out the porch window this morning I spied a roundish brown creature hopping around my flower garden. Grabbing my binoculars I was delighted to discover that this was the little hare that I had glimpsed disappearing under the cedar fence a couple of days earlier. As I watched this little rabbit she stopped, munched and then moved on repeating this pattern as she circled the garden. Her very bright dark eyes stood out from the uniformly oak brown fur. Curved stand up ears acted like radar alerting her to the slightest sound. She had a distinct oval white spot on her forehead, making her easy to identify. Getting a picture of her (I named her Heather although I have no idea why) was something of a challenge because she moved so quickly, and preferred the high grass and brush. Red clover was obviously a favorite but she had lots of tasty greens to choose from. Each year I plant three kinds of clover and dandelion for the bees and in hopes of drawing down a rabbit or two. I watched her disappear under the fence again surmising she might well have a nest in the tangle of prickly juniper. I was tempted to investigate but refrained because these animals will often abandon their young when disturbed.

An hour or so later I met Heather again up at the garage where she was sipping water from the snake dish. She let me come within about 6 feet of her as I spoke to her. I wondered about that white oval on her head. I couldn’t escape the thought that Heather had been marked; she belonged to the moon. When I continued to move towards her she slipped through the fence and vanished.

After the encounter with the rabbit I meandered around my “now gone wild” flower gardens which were festooned with bees, butterflies, and baby hummingbirds. What a busy world it is around here on a sweet summer morning!

Suddenly a sickening thud. Racing back towards the porch I searched for the poor bird that had hit the window. Unfortunately, it is fledgling time and young birds, still awkward fliers, have not yet learned to avoid my windows. When I saw the emerald feathers splayed out on the stones I cried out “oh no, not a hummingbird” and in that moment the tiny jewel shook her head and soared upwards into the crabapple tree flooding me with gratitude for all Life…

The cardinal’s lovely whistle alerted me to his presence in the white pine… Every morning he sings as soon as he sees me at the door. Today I responded “hi beautiful” and he whistled back “wheet wheet” followed by a series of rapidly descending notes and closing with three or more “chiwes” after which I said “I love you!” Some days we repeat this conversation a number of times. To say I feel blessed is an understatement.

Birds have been much on my mind because we are leaving on a trip and my house dove Lily B has been ill. I am so used to hearing him sing that his silence has been unnerving. Yesterday while sitting in my very wild garden I asked Nature to take care of him as only she could, and that if it was his time to die, to make it a good death…In my mind I spun a thread around Lily, my dogs, me, our home and land and stretched it out to include the place we will visit containing us all – animals, one human, and two patches of wild earth – in a psychic round. This morning Lily once again helped the sun rise with his melodious cooing. Coincidence? I doubt it.

The intimate relationships that develop between some birds, animals and humans are based on respect and a shared need and desire to communicate. Interspecies communication has been around a very long time but we have been educated out of this idea and separated from nature to such an extent that we have lost the ability to believe what our senses tell us is real. I think of the mythological Cassandra…

In an intriguing version of the Greek myth Cassandra falls asleep and snakes whisper in her ears. Serpents gift Cassandra with the ability to understand the language of animals as well as an ability to read the future but because a god then curses her, she is not believed…

Snakes often represent the wisdom of the body and they were associated with women in a positive way during Neolithic times (6500BCE – 3000BCE) and up until the common era. To be visited by serpents might bring a wo/man into a positive relationship with animals and herself but also leaves her vulnerable to rational and logical thinkers, who are frequently men or male –identified women.

Take the vignette about the cardinals and me. The pattern is always the same. Whenever I try to share a story like my cardinal experience, the carefully chosen phrase “what an interesting story” is usually followed by the naysayer’s rational and logical explanation dismissing the possibility or probability of interspecies communication. This kind of a knee jerk response is as boring as it is repetitive. It is also dangerous. Not only is my personal experience dismissed but so is that of the animal/bird/bee in question. I struggle to hang on to my own experiential reality and the door is shut on Nature’s sentience.

Our western culture has little room for relationships that are mediated through our bodies. We live through our minds in a disembodied state. Yet, it is these bodies that carry our feelings, so when we dismiss our emotions we lose access to truths that can only develop through relationship with others, human or non-human. Without access to genuine feeling we privilege mind over body and can think or talk ourselves out of believing anything that cannot be nailed down. Like Cassandra we have been cursed by the gods.

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