Messages from Nature

Nature centers me. It always has; I recall spending summer afternoons gazing at the clouds, looking for images as they slowly billowed and rolled across the sky or traipsing through fields investigating bugs and plants up close. So, spending a few minutes watching the leaves blow or an anhinga drying itself at the pond resets my internal frenzy to “calm.”

This morning I came eye-to-eye with a morning dove as it clung to the screen on my lanai. It remained there even when I moved closer to the screen. I could see the unique coloring of its feathers and imagine how soft they’d feel. What an amazing gift to watch it up-close for close to five minutes!

Last week I came face-to-face with a rabbit as I was leaving for campus. I’ve seen a hare across the fairway at dusk and watch a variety of birds and squirrels from my lanai each day, but I’ve never seen a rabbit.

I was amazed that it didn’t hop away, startled when I emerged from the stairwell. Instead, it startled me. It did hop about three feet toward a hedge, then continued cleaning itself, much as my cats used to do. Was it someone’s pet, set loose on the golf course that winds among the condos and villas around here? It seemed so tame, too used to a human infringing on its morning routine.

Wanting to observe it, I wandered around to the other side of the hedge and watched it. It paused to look at me but quickly continued grooming, exactly as my cats would have done.

My mood was lightened by this encounter, since I don’t have time to enjoy coffee on the lanai while watching wildlife on the days I teach College Writing Skills. Then I recalled about a month ago when one of the writers in my critique group brought a novel that caused our conversation to turn to animal totems. Where these wildlife run-ins simply a way to connect with nature? Or is there a message for deeper meaning behind them?

I’ve heard that air animal totems are supposed to be “winks from God” which is why many people report seeing a unique bird or white dove visiting them after the loss of a loved one. I felt encouraged by the visit from this morning dove. But what message might this rabbit be trying to send me? Why hadn’t it hopped away? Aren’t rabbits as skittish as squirrels? Instead, I was the one startled.

I considered this as I drove to campus. Life lately has been intense and ultra busy; season generally provides a full schedule but this year was busier than usual. Perhaps I’m supposed to slow down and trust my gut, like the rabbit; no need to flee unless there’s danger. On the tails of that schedule the summer is promising to be filled with family events and positive news. (One of my books is finally making it to print and I’m looking forward to an upcoming conference when I’ll get to see a good friend.) Maybe a sense of peace, anticipation, and celebration is what these creatures were trying to tell. That sounds like a good story to believe in. I’ll trust in it.

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