We often hear stories that begin with “A long, long, long time ago, humans and Our Relations in Nature lived in harmony and spoke a common language…” This is not just the stuff of myths and fairy tales; the language of nature is not a dead language of a mystical time; it is a vital living language of our day. This is a story of how to rebuild our fluency.
Having just moved to Ashland, Oregon, and not knowing many folks yet, I initiated a talk with my neighbor who is a Red Tailed Hawk. The conversation ended with her tossing down an offering that consisted of one decapitated ground squirrel. The discussion began like this….
The land where I get to live now is a gorgeous piece of earth, about twenty-five acres, right on the banks of a salmon bearing creek. The private drive is lined with oak trees and there is a metropolis of ground squirrels that dart across the drive frenetically at all angles. Driving home through the arc of oaks feels a bit like being in a Disney video game where you have to avoid running over the cute wildlife running at you from all directions. Of course, this squirrel megalopolis is where the hawk hangs out because the oaks drop acorns, the squirrels gorge on acorns and the hawk feasts on the squirrels.
It’s late spring now and given that acorn season is a few months off, I suspect that the squirrels’ nut caches are running low. Being new to town, I want to make new friends and many, of late, are of the non-human variety. I have around one hundred pounds of acorns squirreled away for my Wisdom of the Oak program. My movers thought I was a bit “nuts”, as they hefted the acorn boxes labeled by species: valley oak, black oak, tan oak, golden… Since all new friends appreciate generosity and good will, I have been making frequent acorn gifts to the squirrels on a flat boulder that sits in the middle of a circle of dark stones under the oaks.
I leave a small palm full of valley oak acorns on my way to town or a little mound of golden cap nuts under the brilliant full moon of spring. Many evenings I have set out with a pocket full of nuts and a warm-hearted desire to build my community.
The day I met the resident raptor, she was in the oaks hunting for acorn fattened squirrels. This is almost exactly what I said to her out loud, “Hello beautiful hawk. You are a gorgeous creature. I am so happy to be living here. I know that this is your home and I really want to be respectful and be a good neighbor. I hope it is okay that I live here with you”. She perched, eyed me and moved her head side to side. We both stood there for a minute in an easy silence and took each other in. Then, I walked on.
Several hours later, I returned lugging my groceries, thinking about something else entirely, when I felt the push of wind off large wings, I heard a loud screech, and then a thump. The bird tossed a headless, bloodied, plump squirrel three feet from where I stood. My new friend flew back to her oak perch and in that telepathic language of nature that I only comprehend when I am present, quiet, and bursting open with love for all of life, I swear she said: “You are welcome here. You are welcome here”.