For First Nation Medicine People the connection with Mother Earth is incredibly important. Understanding trees, plants, rivers and the creatures who live in this habitat has been a crucial facet of Aboriginal spirituality. When you read books or stories connected to indigenous shamanism there’s always references to the medicine or power of nature. I’ve come to notice that lots of these stories are what often motivate individuals to seek out Medicine People or Shamans. People are hungry for purity, hope, beauty, abundance, magic, adventure and the unknown. Yet, lots of these people forget that Shamanism is outside Western expectation, indoctrination and perspective. Shamanism demands from the seeker a commitment to an experience; to challenge taboos; to reach beyond scruples; and to surrender completely to the Universe. It’s difficult to let go of control and yet, it takes doing it once to get access to these stories and to suddenly be characters in them.
We have a mourning dove that perches on the roof or on the electrical lines that run through our back yard. Three years ago this same bird had a mate and they both perched on the lines together. I’m not sure what happened but at the end of the season one of the mates disappeared. I had the strong feeling it died. The female who remained became incredibly depressed so much so that it obsessively and plaintively shouted her sadness to all who would listen. At first, I simply pointed out to everyone that the bird had lost her mate. For the rest of the season we were quite sympathetic towards the dove’s loss.
Last year, the dove returned and it was still alone. After watching her all summer I noticed that it wasn’t well. It was like the lost of her mate the year before had somewhat made the bird unstable. It perched all day long and cried for hours this horrible melancholic call. It was almost as if she said: “Come back to me, please.” For a while I let it go even though I cringed every time I saw the bird sobbing over us day in and day out. Finally, at the end of the summer I just lost it and screamed out to the dove: “Enough is enough…”
When it returned this year it continued to plaintively cry out her desperation to the World as most mourning doves do except it seemed not as sad or as lost. It made its nest in a tall white pine across the street and although it perched at its usual spot it didn’t continuously weep. It almost seemed playful. Now, it lamented only when I stepped out on the porch. Everyone started noticing and even mentioning that the bird was purposely trying to get my attention. And so I started to interact with it.
“Go cry somewhere else,” I cried out one afternoon and noticed that the bird listened.
“Stop the self-pity,” I yelled on a few occasions, silencing the bird for a few days.
Eventually, the bird became more animated and I noticed that it regained some interest in life.
“If only it was this simple with humans?!” I told G one afternoon after shooing the dove away again.
I notice that humans need reassurance, proof, confirmation, sympathy and lots of attention. When humans are caught up in something they actually believe they are the only ones on the planet living through their kind of suffering. I’ve seen too many people compete in who’s worst off…
SO who did her thesis on the Medicine Wheel and community living often wrote about how she observed me inter-acting with bees, birds, trees, wind etc…. I often had the feeling that she was impressed with the fact that I could keep a conversation with people and have a discussion with nature at the same time. It was only after reading SO’s observations that I started wondering: “Is this something I’ve always done or is this something that I gradually developed?”
With a bit of nostalgic reflection (thanks to the dove’s influence J) I realized that I grew into who I am today even though I was born with the potential. I was always in tune to my environment but I never appreciated it. Gratitude isn’t so much about saying thank you as it is about feeling involved or part of a whole. We watch squirrels climb trees, geese fly south, skunks roam across our streets and raccoons dig through our garbage but rare are those moments when we actually feel related to these animals.
It’s not the first time that I make such a statement and every time that I’ve said these words people have approached me and asked: “How do we become kin to these creatures?” I’ve even met a man who angrily said “the next think you’ll know you’ll ask us to get on all fours and howl like wolves…” A woman even stayed with me for a few years in hope to eventually be able to talk to animals. It seemed to be her driven ambition.
The fact of the matter is it shouldn’t be difficult to connect to our environment and yet it is. We’ve become so caught up in man-made realities that we no longer grasp the reality of Creator. On the other hand, man-made realities should be an extension of Creator realities. Where did we actually derail along the way? And how do we get back on track? I always say: “Practice getting back to the basics.”
Lets put it this way, the only reason why the mourning dove responds to me is because I let my true emotions, true thoughts, and true self move through my tone of voice. When teaching the Wheel we encourage people to get in touch with their moons which speaks of their true emotions. Emotions aren’t strictly about tears, laughter, or anger but about impressions, reactions, and connections to the world around us. How do we respond to what surrounds us?
Again when teaching the Wheel we show people the difference between the physical body, the emotional body, the mental body and the spiritual body. We show people the process of creating thoughts and empower them to become participants in the thought process rather than be overwhelmed by it. And finally, we help individuals use the Wheel in self-discovery. In the end, it’s by bringing all three steps together that they slowly and steadily begin to walk in the realm of creation.
Ironically, the turtle dove allowed me to understand the value of mourning, missing loved ones, and the importance of loss. The presence of this bird brings me in a Wheel of sadness so deep that it aches. It speaks of death and it speaks of inter-connections. When something or someone precious to us dies a part of us dies along with it.
Can we loose so much that we begin to no longer exist?
For some reason after some time this fatalist perspective starts pissing me off. It’s the reason why I often scream to the dove: “Oh shut up… Get a life.”
I believe that where the dove teaches us about self-indulging the red-wing-black-bird brings us the lesson of hard work. We complete each other once we start acknowledging each other. The raccoon can certainly show us how to be ingenious and to have initiative. I’ve never come across an animal like the raccoon who doesn’t take “no for an answer” and always finds a way in. You start noticing the medicine in animals, plants and people by observing them and by letting go of Western expectation. The idea is to go back to your basic nature and to truly find your place in creation.
In my world it’s the only true goal any of us have…
P.S. The picture is not of a mourning dove. Still, it was a picture that I took this spring and connects to yet another story about natural phenomenon.