Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

Another chance to get the message

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About a week ago I hosted a walk in the park.  It was a perfect morning. The sky couldn’t have been more blue, with gorgeous puffy white clouds. The green of spring was deep and the sun was making everything sparkle.

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And no one came.  I don’t know why – it may have been post-Jazz Fest quietness, it may have been odd timing, because this particular walk is usually well attended unless it’s raining or freezing.

However, there was no one.  There had been six, then five, then three, then two, and now none.  Some changes of plans, some last-minute cancellations.

I had no worries about it.  I actually started to get excited.  I exhaled.  A big relaxed sigh.  No one to introduce.  No agenda.  Nothing to do for anyone but me.  What a wonderful opportunity!  I began the most delicious most leisurely walk around the park that I had taken in a long time.  I didn’t need to do anything but what I wanted and that felt fantastic.

My angels almost always take care of me when I’ve over-scheduled myself.   And I gratefully accepted this gift.

A triplet of squirrels perched coyly atop cypress knees.  The last of the purple irises showed off their perfect blooms.

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Crows and jays called across the treetops. Turtles plopped quickly into the water or sunned languorously on the fallen logs.  I’d seen it all before, but it was still glorious.

Then I made a big request.  I asked for an unusual animal with a message for me.  I didn’t have much hope- I’ve probably been to this park hundreds of times.  I’ve seen everything. I couldn’t imagine what could possibly appear to surprise me.

I was wrong. I walked over to the edge of the lagoon. And there, almost close enough for me to reach down and touch it, was a three-foot long spotted gar.  It rested in the dappled sunlight, in less than a foot of water, sitting as still as possible on the leafy bottom.  It took me a long time to notice its gills moving ever so slightly.  Otherwise, there was no way to even know it was alive.  All it was doing was breathing.

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Me and the gar spent some time looking at each other.  Actually, I’m not sure if the gar noticed me or not.  I had trouble distinguishing its eye from the spattering of spots on its head.   I listened for its message, which to me seemed something like this: “All you have to do is be.  All this running around you humans do, it’s not necessary. It's a choice.  If you crave stillness, take it.  Do it.  Be still.  All is well.  Look how long I am still.  I have nowhere to rush to.  It’s always ok to relax.  Especially when it feels good and peaceful.”

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know this is the message I struggle to receive over and over, even though it’s what I desire.  I love to watch and listen.  To wait.  To perceive.  To notice.  I love it as much or more than creating or moving or doing.  There’s so much already created.  I like to slow down to appreciate it.  I could spend every day watching the sky and the leaves moving in the breeze.  Just breathing.  Andmy message from the gar was, "That's cool.  That's enough." 

I am so glad I could make time to bond with an ancient fish.  And that it what I did.  I made time.  I have time for anything I want to make time for.  I’m believing that more and more.  I just got a little help this time from the angels in clearing some space on my calendar!

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If you need some permission to be still, take the message from my friend the spotted gar.  It’s been working for him and his species for 100 million years.  Step away from your screens and rest your eyes on something beautiful.  Grass, leaves, flowers, clouds, water, branches, rocks.  Just be. It's enough.

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And if you’re local and want to learn more about how giving yourself quiet time in nature will provide you with the energy and creativity to do what you want in the rest of your life, come to my book chat – outside! – where we’ll discuss Martha Beck’s book Finding your Way in a Wild New World.   May 24.  Details here.  RSVP via the Meetup or contact me at carla@livingwildandprecious.com.

Calling the animals part 1

The animals I called for my wordless walks two months ago were the deer, and it's funny - while I rarely used to see deer when I went to the swamp, now they come.  Almost every time.  I saw six or seven two days ago.  I still don't really believe it works, but it's a fun game and I enjoy making "oneness" connections with the animals, even if it could all be chalked up to coincidence. This time, I didn't call anyone in particular.  I sort of sent a "surprise me" sentiment out to the universe.  And almost immediately a great blue heron lifted off and flew gracefully through the trees.  I whooshed in a breath of wonder.  Then as I walked a little further, I heard what sounded like dragons.  I am not kidding.  Turns out that they were a passel of young wild pigs, some all black and some tan with black spots, like something out of a children's' story. They ran off too quickly for me to get a photo, but I heard and saw them twice, snuffling and grunting and snorting and splashing through the flooded forest.  What a cool surprise - I've never ever seen pigs at the swamp!

I waded through shin-deep water for over a mile, relishing my Amazon-like adventure, and noting that I'd need to choose a different trail for my wordless walk the next day. I wondered where the armadillos had gone - there was so much water and so little high ground.  I'm sure they know what to do and had taken refuge somewhere.

Eventually, I headed to a less remote, far more civilized, fully boardwalked trail, and even a small portion of it was under water!  I walked amidst myriad lizards and snakes.  I surprised two small alligators who splashed off the boardwalk- I don't know who scared who, it happened so fast!

On the way back, I thought - ok - I would love to see an owl.  I sent a request for an owl, wordlessly.  I don't even know quite what I did.  And then I dropped attachment and kept walking.  Sure enough, a few minutes later, there was my owl.  As I crept closer, she glided silently away through the cypresses further up the trail.  But when I quietly rounded the next bend, there she was, perched and watching me, then turning to gaze down into the water.  I did my best barred owl call and I can only describe the owl's expression as bemused - like, "Really?  You expect me to believe you are an owl??" But she didn't fly away.  The owl ignored me and stared down into the water, perhaps eying her next meal.

Whether the heron, pigs, deer and owl came for me or for themselves doesn't really matter -- I'm just so glad I had the gift of a moment to enjoy watching them. Give it a try next time you're outside.  Call the animals and see if they come.  You can read more about wordlessness and oneness and techniques to connect to the natural world in Martha Beck's book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.  And watch for announcements- I'm going to start up a new Wild World virtual book club soon!

Also coming soon: More animal calling stories and shared wordless walks from some of you!  It's not too late to send me stories or pictures from your own wordless walk - I'd love to hear!  Email me at carla@livingwildandprecious.com .

Lastly, tomorrow (Monday) this blog is going to move to self-hosted so I have a little more ability to do some cool things with it.  My only worry is that I won't know how to do said cool things, so if anything seems a little wonky for the next while, you'll know why.  I'm hoping for a super-smooth transition, but I know I have some skills to learn too.  Wish me luck and I'll hopefully be checking in again very soon!