I learned a lot about chaos and finding my own true north a few summers ago. On our way home to Missoula from Butte, a city driver going well over 50 miles an hour bounced off a curb in the opposite lane, suddenly now careening in our direction. She magically corrected and missed hitting us head on, then sped several more blocks in the opposite lane before hitting a curb, sailing into the air, and decapitating several trees before smashing into two parked cars.
We pulled over and sprinted back up the hilly street as emergency teams were already arriving. The lone driver’s airbag had deployed, the car was crunched in on three sides, and the driver was being comforted by a nurse who also witnessed what had happened. Erik and I shuddered to think what might have happened had the driver done the same thing the day before when hundreds of people were gathering downtown to celebrate Pride in Montana, or what might have happened had she struck us head on.
That Sunday also happened to be Father’s Day which, since 2011, has become especially bittersweet, given that my father lives with dementia and can no longer care for himself. The following day I still felt rattled by our near-miss. Early that morning, I dropped off my car for fairly extensive and expensive repairs, wondering how that would impact our upcoming camping trip in the Big Snowy Mountains and other envisioned summer plans.
While walking home from the mechanic’s, I quickly went from a somber to a sullen mood after learning that my email account had been hacked. Evidently I was “detained in The Philippines and needed a few thousand dollars in order to return home,” and lots of friends and colleagues called to let me know what had happened. Flo-Jo the cat sensed my darkening mood—she quietly left the house and bedded down in some tall grass while I continued to stew, simmer, and swear.
Furious, vengeful ideas reigned for a few hours, coupled with anger and annoyance at what this meant to my workday, work week, and everything else on my plate. I felt vulnerable, tricked, and violated, and wondered what else the hacker may have done.
So what does any of this have to do with an urban squirrel? I had hit a boiling point with the hacking, and as I walked outside to take a break, I saw a large squirrel devouring ripening cherries from our lone cherry tree.
Instinctively I picked up a heavy, corrugated empty cereal box and, with perfect aim and anger, sailed it at the squirrel 10 yards away, grazing his skin, startling him, causing him to run up a nearby apricot tree. He sat there panting, still, blinking his eyes repeatedly while I continued to yell, swear, and explode at him. Now really pissed off, I stomped into the kitchen, having totally lost my shit and sense of connection to anything. Come to think of it, the squirrel seemed to be mirroring physically what I was experiencing!
Suddenly I was aware of how crazy this all looked, seemed, and felt, and how I was choosing to respond to what was happening. Here I am, someone skilled at mentoring others to consistently deepen their connection with nature and their own lives, having a major meltdown and exploding at a squirrel that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on a bad day for poor Hobie. “Wow. How pathetic!” was my first reaction, but then I started thinking, “How funny, too!”
What if everything was happening in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason? What if this were indeed a good day, and the squirrel was a messenger for me to reconnect with nature and my own true nature?
I sat out on the front steps for several minutes, focusing on bringing my breath into balance, and envisioning myself grounded with the earth’s healing, peaceful energies. I decided to communicate in the spirit of forgiveness toward the squirrel, myself, and everything else that I had conjured up to be a threat and a problem, and to shift the spiraling, unproductive energies that had surfaced.
I approached where the squirrel was still resting and breathing hard on a high branch of the apricot tree and stopped once I was within 20 feet of him. He blinked his eyes once while acknowledging my presence; it seemed that his breathing slowed down to a more restful, calm, and natural rhythm.
Then I told him:
“Mr. Squirrel, I am really sorry I exploded at you like that. You don’t deserve to be treated that way. In fact, no one deserves to be treated that way just because something bad, unpleasant, or awful happened to me. I am sorry for how I have acted, and I give thanks for your understanding and forgiveness. But please, it was a real bummer last year when you ate all of our cherries and didn’t leave us any to enjoy. This year, can you please leave us some and instead enjoy some of the apricots and other fruits?”
Flo-Jo had woken up from her feline nap in the grass, rubbing up against my foot as I talked to the squirrel. She was likely thinking that one of her owners was now certifiable, bantering with the enemy. I gave her extra food for putting up with my rants that morning, and I proceeded to work and enjoy the rest of the day in a focused, calm manner.
The squirrel didn’t touch the cherry tree again that summer. Instead, we saw him lunging into the apricot and box elder trees and traversing the garage roof en route to feast in the neighbor’s garden.
Out of all this chaos came much needed order and clarity; from an encounter with a squirrel returned discarded and disregarded humility, respect, and wisdom. This course correction also brought me back into my own natural orbit again, one where I work in harmony with the universe in being and doing my best, and in mentoring people to have a deeper, more consistent connection with nature, no matter where their feet are.
Even now, I continually wonder what animal will be my next teacher and what the next lesson will be in life, yet I also hope next time I don’t have to totally lose my cool in order to become more enlightened.
With each seasonal change, Hobie Hare finds his way to Dunrovin Ranch to sit on the “porch swing” with SuzAnne to celebrate nature’s annual cycle. Hobie has a way of letting you close your eyes and follow his voice to that special natural space where your soul is replenished – no matter where your feet are. It is a gift that Hobie has to share, this ability to follow sounds, conjure the sights, and ask our minds to take us to nature to receive its many healing benefits, even when our entire body cannot there. It works and it is such a blessing.
Be sure to check our DaysAtDunrovin calendar for Hobie next visit. He also hosts a forum on the DaysAtDunrovin web site where he would love to hear from you!
You can connect personally with Hobie by visiting his web site at YourLifeNature where you will find meditation tapes and nature photographs to help build a nature connection into your daily life.