Category: Connecting with Animals


As I prepare for my journey around the world, again, this time to Thailand to volunteer at an elephant rescue place, I reflect on why I am going.

Because it feels good to do so.

Is that such a foreign idea to most people? Is it just New Jerseyans?  I don’t think so. When I stopped at the bank yesterday to withdraw money, somehow I mentioned to the teller/manager at this tiny adjunct bank in a supermarket),that I was going to need this money because I’d had some hard knocks recently The look in her eyes changed immediately, and I suppose expecting I would sympathize, she began to tell me the long story of her life, a tale of struggles and past triumph, but always coming back to the present – now – the one where she hated her job and was completely miserable. I began to wonder why anyone would continue in a situation where they were so clearly miserable. So I asked her – “what are your choices here?” She stopped and looked at me in confusion. Why wasn’t I feeling sorry for her? Where were the pity phrases we utter automatically, condolences for her losing her vice presidential position that landed her here, in a job that paid her a quarter of what she had been making.  Didn’t I understand that she had no choice?

“We all have a choice” I found myself saying. She kept staring at me as if I was holding up the bank about to ask her to empty the safe. “If you are so miserable, why not make a change?” I said. This is particularly telling to me because I have been that woman at other times in my life, and I’m not going back. Not going to put energy into justifying my misery anymore. You can all hold me to this! As soon as I realize I’m doing it, I’m making a new choice – to what feels good now. This has been a lifelong endeavor, and so it’s particularly painful to see others still caught in the sticky grasp of  this demon.

Well, this woman was not going to give me my money until I commented on how awful her life was. I felt sorry for her, but mostly I felt repulsed about having to hear her insist she was a victim of life. Not because of her situation – I’ve been there myself too many times, but because of her disbelief in the idea that she had a choice, that she could make a new choice and create a better life- one where she loved it. In reality, the repulsion and how it bothered me after I finally left her window was from the recognition that I have made the choice to be like her at times, and how deeply painful – like self inflicted torture- it was. I reminded myself to let this serve as a cautionary tale for me, to send good wishes of change for the better her way, and to be grateful for once again returning from the dark side of pessimism to the joy of finding my bliss and leading it forward into a new life that feels good.

What really made me notice this dynamic was that this same scenario had been played out earlier at a swim class I had been a part of that morning. One of the students had monopolized the instructor’s ear with unrelated complaining chatter for most of the 45 minute class. It was my first class and I could have used more of the attention of the instructor, who granted, did an admirable job of throwing some instruction my way, in-between polite listening to this housewife brewing over storms in her teacup. Near the end of our time, I mentioned that I wouldn’t be attending soon because I would be away for awhile.

“Where? “ they inquired.

“Thailand, to volunteer at an elephant rescue facility.  I’ve always loved elephants and I’m really excited about this opportunity to be close to them and learn more about their life and their world”

The chatty woman who had spent the class intent on describing every problem in her life in detail, glared at me. “Boy I wish I could do that.” She seemed more angry with me, than happy for me.  I said “You could go.”  She did a double take and whirled on me, immediately listing all the reasons why she most certainly couldn’t go. I said, “Well, it is a choice. We all make choices and all these choices have effects on our lives. “

There’s nothing wrong with deciding to stay at home and be a mom and a wife in New Jersey, but it is such a downer when people start railing on how “lucky” you are when, in actuality, you made a choice and then another, and more choices,  because these choices are the most life giving, joy filled, exciting and eager-to-get-up-in-the-morning-for-things you could possibly create at this moment in time. I don’t want to be stuck justifying my choices to anyone, I want to be free to live, to enjoy, to find my passions and live them fully down to the very last day I have on this earth. There is a saying going around on the internet about rather than carefully creeping up to one’s old age, another choice is to come careening in, holding a spilled beer in one hand, and a winning hand of poker in the other, while cursing up a storm and laughing hysterically, with a bunch of friends at your side.  Somehow I like the latter image, returning to my Tomboy roots as I age, being like Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes, aged in her 80’s selling honey at a warm southern hospitality roadside stand with her compatriots. And of course the honey is from the wildest of bees, which she still hand gathers on misty mornings, using her special bee-charming ways.  All in a place where wild bees still thrive and fulfill their place in Nature.  Although I did give up cursing on all except the worst of days quite awhile ago, I do like the image of a winning poker hand – implying that I am finally winning at this game we call life.

Yes, it really is all about choices. I am choosing to do what feels good and I’ve been doing it for awhile. I don’t always get it right, but that’s ok because as soon as you make one choice, if that was a mistake, there are 20 more choices waiting for your attentions. If I can only make the smallest increment that day toward feeling better, I take it. And if I can make a super leap into the trip of a lifetime, and it feels good to do so, then I do it. After that first decision, more choices come up at almost every moment to decide again to do what feels good.  I’ll keep making those decisions toward moving in the direction of my happinesses, making more real friends and finding freedom of spirit, for a start.

You can too.

lek with trunksThis is Lek Chailert, the founder of Elephant Nature Park. Make a choice to support her work at www.elephantnaturepark.org

Hello all you friendly followers!

If you want to keep up with what I’m writing currently, come to my new page at listentotheanimalsblog.wordpress.com

I will be focusing on posting actual communications from the wisdom of Nature, starting with the really neat ones from the whales of Panama in the last week.

Who knows what will be next?!
It’s all one big adventure now, isn’t it?

killer whale and girl

This is a second communication from the Whales of Panama who were there for me, when I woke up worrying in the wee hours of the morning, in New Jersey.

beluga white whale

“When you worry, you create circles that ensnare you and form tension in your body.  Why go there? We are here in solidarity, happiness and bliss, why not be with us?

When you feel sick at heart, turn your beating beautiful heart over to us. Let us nurture and cherish your heart-song and your soul-songs, let us sing your songs while you are too weak to sing them.  We will always sing these heart-songs, always while we still have breath in us and in the Beyond. We keep the rhythm of the Universe going. The tempo and the beat, we feel them and we keep them going. Feel the beat and keep dancing, swimming in the Sea of Life.  There is always a heartbeat and a rhythm to your life, and you decide what it is.

You can choose fast or slow, frenetic or peaceful, happy or sad, and we would say, choose the happy rhythm.  Choose the beat that makes your heart sing, over and over again. Feel for it, close your eyes and feel the heartbeat of rhythm that is your Breath. Relax into it. Let it pull you in the direction of Happiness, Contentment, Joy.

Relax into Life.

We want you to try this simple exercise and see if it connects you more with your Soul, your Happiness and your true Spirit.

Follow the Breath home to us.whale tail underwater

 

Full Moon Energy breaching humpback

“We have helped in the decision to plan the trip on the full moon week for a reason. Living in the water puts us in touch with with the flow of life and the full moon is a time of great activity and removing inertia, increasing life activities. Many babies are born near this time, and we are waiting to birth you each into a better way of living.

For those of you who feel ready to make a change of significance in your life, this is the week to come visit.  We don’t have the human names of astrological signs and planets and so on that will be in alignment during this time, but there will be a facilitation of great awakening and the adjusting of what is no longer working in your life. This adjustment may also be for what is working already, but that you aren’t quite fully aware of or fully appreciating.

This is one example of a situation where people’s tendency to “kick themselves” (we don’t do that :))because they “didn’t move fast enough” on a decision to “snag it”, or whatever the drama of failure is,  is once again wholly inappropriate. In fact, it is all perfect just as it all is. This will be be but one of the lessons we will be teaching on this 5 day journey- that situations where you think you’ve made the “wrong” decision, where you return to regret in your memory, are in actuality exactly perfect. We will help you to really feel that “rightness” inside you, that ease of knowing that all is right with your world.

The flow of water is universal and most powerful in the light of the full moon. We will be applying  for the permision to help you apply that flow to your life. 🙂  We repeat: Those of you who live in the past, or wish for futures that never seem to happen- this is the trip for you.  We will be using the power of this particular full moon to teach manifesting. To see the conclusive Beauty of each and every decision that “happened to you” in your life as just right. Perfect. Just so.”

This is the first of a number of messages from the Whales and Dolphins of Panama in regards to the 5 day visit planned for Sept 15-20, 2013.

ImageVisit http://www.listentotheanimals.com for more information

I don’t have pictures for this blog. You’ll understand why later.

The other day, after a glorious summer’s day of hot, sweaty, herb gathering and chicken tending, followed by a relaxing evening watching a favorite show with hubby, I decided to take a delicious shower before finally settling into a well deserved rest late at night.

As I stepped out, clean and wet with just a towel on, I noticed the bathroom door wide open and my nearby bedroom door was shut. Unusual. We have not closed the bedroom door in 17 years due to roaming German Shepherds who like to sleep with us, and in the past, a kid who might come and go in the night. I figured the door was open because of aforementioned Shepherds who like to check on my safety while I’m showering. However, the closed bedroom door was definitely odd.

“Why is the door closed?” I called out as I toweled off,  to my husband, thinking he was inside.

“There’s a Bat in there.” I heard from downstairs.

“Oh. My pajamas are in there.” I said.

“So is the Bat” he deadpanned.

As most of my friends know, I love bats. For many years while I earned my living as an Environmental Educator, I taught classes on the many benefits of living in harmony with them, and their documented social intelligence, economic and environmental boons.

However, late at night, naked, and half asleep is still not the ideal way to renew acquaintances.

Sigh.  I slipped into the bedroom, speaking softly to the still invisible Little Brown Bat. I knew s/he would probably have found a quiet little nook to re-evaluate this unfortunate turn of events. He didn’t want to be there any more than I wanted him to be there. I also knew it was likely a juvenile who was confused and most certainly this bat was more worried about me than i was about it. Important to remember when having to interact with another species is how dangerous that other species thinks you are. Hence, the quiet talk. The slow easy breathing and thoughts of how my only wish was to gather him up and gently escort him outside to the night.

Bats are vital – economically  and environmentally world-wide.  In 1994 (publication of the nearest book on Bats that I reached for off my bookshelf) more than 300 economically important plant species, producing over 450 commercial  products, were known to depend on bats for pollination in the Old World alone. For example, the Durian fruit contributes $120 million each year to the economy of Southeast Asia. (1994 data from my Golden Guide to Bats of the World).  This estimate has surely gone up since then. I invite you to look up current facts on Bats and all they do for us, and the current challenge they are facing. In our part of the world, bats are insectivorous and indispensable to maintaining insect balance for our crops and comfort.  Even the Vampire Bat (who only lives in South America) benefits humans by  having a component of their saliva that prevents blood clotting that may be used to prevent heart attacks in humans. Guano is not only a valued fertilizer but has bacteria in it that is used to treat  chemical wastes and in the production of gasahol and detergents.

I remembered that the Little Brown Bat doesn’t have a mouth big enough to bite me very easily with. Still, I don’t take chances, and I use common sense when forced into a situation of interaction. Having handled many of these while assisting Bat Conservation International with an Autumn Species Count many years ago, I still vividly remember late one dark cool night, being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of various species of bats as they darkened the stars behind them with their sheer numbers. They were having their last night or two of “partying” before hibernating. Swarming in a dense cloud, feeding on bugs to store up fat reserves for hibernation, making love, being social, and doing as yet not understood activities as they prepared for the long winter ahead, I was in complete awe of them. This time is important as the prepare themselves to make it all the way to Springtime without eating again or moving much.

We stretched a net nearby to interrupt the flight of what we hoped would be a representative count. All of us Naturalists then set to work gently extricating tiny bat feet and claws from the net, then sexing and identifying the species in our hands before setting them free. I started out with big leather gloves because I was a newbie then, and was a bit nervous. It soon became apparent that gloves were extremely awkward and just frightened the bats, as you really had to manhandle them to extradite them. So, off came the gloves. What I soon realized was that if I was calm and moved slowly and gently, the bats of whatever species would be placid and almost appeared tame. If I appeared nervous or hurrying, they would also often become agitated and sometimes even try to defend themselves from the giantess who was interrupting the party/shopping trip.  In a cloud that darkened  the moonlit sky considerably, as I stood among them, I marveled at how not even one ever bumped into me, though they swooped all around and close to me, catching bugs and doing who-knew-what.

Back to the present. Once I  had on some clothing, I evaluated my options. Having 35 years as a trained Naturalist and Wildlife Rehabilitator, a deep appreciation for the scientific order of Chiroptera, and being inoculated against Rabies, gives me a real advantage in such situations. I still do not handle bats (or any wild animal) with my bare hands. This is called common sense. My most used options are a box and stiff cardboard to sidle him into and carry her outside, or a towel to place over her and gently pick him up with wings pinned while carrying to the open window.

Once I found the little guy, at one point  he dropped down and landed on the back of my calves, as I was kneeling on a wooden chest. The  furry little microchiroptera looked very uncomfortable and as I twisted to try to pick her up, she crawled over to my other calf. It tickled.  Bats can’t take off from the ground like birds can. Totally different wing, bone and body structure make it so they need to drop down and take off from a height. The resulting swooping around a room that happened when my first pick up attempt failed, is the result of how awkward it is to fly in a tight space where you have to land up high enough to drop down for your next take off. The myth about bats becoming entangled in your hair is just that – a myth. When I was surrounded in the darkest night at the bat hibernaculum, while they swooped around and above me, not one ever touched me in any way. I was the only one who broke the polite and real distance bats prefer between us. If you’ve ever tried to swoop around a 15 foot square room with webbed wings, well then you’ll know why it appears that bats are coming at you  – it’s almost impossible to navigate gracefully that small a space while flying, even if you do have better radio radar capabilities than our military’s best.

Finally, I was able to very gently pry him from the stone wall where he was clinging, and quickly open the towel outside the previously opened window and watch him fly into the night. A healthy, grateful bat was gone, relieved to be far away from me, and most likely wiser for the experience.

FOOT NOTE
Most bats are clean, healthy and non-aggressive to humans. Precautions should be taken as with any wild animal, and people must avoid handling or unnecessary interactions (which most are). Rabies is present in less than 0.5 % of the population, a percentage no higher than what is observed in most other mammals. Like other mammals, bats cannot carry the virus without becoming sick and dying. Rabies does not spread extensively among bats and is only extremely rarely transmitted to humans. Fewer people have died from bat rabies in the last 50 years than have died from dog bites and bee stings in one year alone. That being said, if a bat appears sick, common sense must be used and greater care taken. Anyone being bitten by any wild animal should wash the wound well with soap and water and seek medical care immediately.