Animals and the Women Who Love Them
By Allen and Linda Anderson
The spiritual connection between people and animals isn't reserved for the female gender, but it certainly seems that animals have some of their strongest defenders and protectors in women. It is women who fill the ranks of animal rescue volunteers and animal caregiving professions. Perhaps this is due to the tendency to be nurturers. Or maybe in the divine plan, something in women relates profoundly to the primal nature of animals.
In the following story from a previous issue of Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter, a woman and Nature form a vortex of wisdom and compassion. The author, Sara J M Armstrong, calls herself an Animalist, Creatrix, Colorist, Frangranceur, Idiolalian Word Spinner Goddess, Website Weaver, Intuitive Lightworker, and a Certified Laughter Yoga Instructor. Sara and her husband live in Northern California with cats, chickens, wild rabbits, and wildlife too numerous to mention.
With all that going for her, it's no surprise that when Sara was going through one of the most painful periods of her life, she recognized the blessings that animals and insects were offering to provide comfort.
Wings of Change and Tears of Joy
On my morning walk, I found a red-tailed hawk feather and a beautiful angular gray stone with a perfect, orangey-brown stripe through the middle of it. When I spotted the third thing, a cat toy, an unlikely plastic golf ball parked conspicuously to the side of my lonely country lane, I knew it was Mersey at work, again.
Mersey was a grayish tabby cat with orangey-brown and black stripes. She always knew that computer keyboards are NOT for walking on and that cats make the best paperweights. Mersey would march earnestly on her beloved blanket, lips touching the fabric ever so softly. Her resonant purr lulled herself and us to a blissful sleep. She was a cat with a fine sense of humor and a heart big enough to warm the world.
My folks were visiting from Portland, and we were seated on the patio early one evening. The cats had essentially disappeared during my parents' visit because they are not too comfortable around strangers.
It was the kind of deliciously fragrant twilight with a cooling breeze for which our northern California hills are famous. My father sat directly across from me, and I noticed that a monarch butterfly seemed to appear from nowhere and fluttered about his head.
Dad was quite pleased and held very still as the orangey-brown and black creature circled his head and repeatedly landed on him. Resting on his glasses and slowly fanning its wings, the butterfly stayed for fifteen minutes or so before it flew off into the encroaching night. We have lived here for over six years and had never seen a monarch butterfly until that evening.
"Hmmmm," I speculated out loud. "Butterflies can mean transformation and immortality. And the ancient Greeks saw butterflies as the souls of those who had passed on. I wonder what that was about?"
My folks left a couple of days later. My uneasiness about not glimpsing Mersey for several days had me calling for her as they pulled out of the driveway. I wandered around the property in ever widening circles, calling and calling.
I was in the pasture when I saw a monarch butterfly again. "Twice in as many days," I thought. I watched as the butterfly flew toward the meadow, cavorting, dancing and spiraling and then, poof, it seemed to disappear. I began to call louder for Mersey.
Walking around and down the road, I was startled to see a vulture standing on a fence post. It wasn't the bird itself that I found alarming. We have lots of buzzards in our region. It was the peculiar dance she seemed to be doing that made my heart beat faster. She dipped and swayed while spreading her glossy black wings, back and forth, back and forth, seeming to gesture down the road.
I followed where this Mother of Death and Rebirth seemed to be pointing. And then I saw Mersey. Her empty eyes gave me no clue to the unfolding of her final hours. My sweet darling was gone. In the heat of the high desert sun, her once shining coat was dull and lusterless. Her mouth opened slightly in silent appeal.
I was devastated.
Everywhere I turned, she wasn't there. No happy chirrup with a head-butt and purr greeted me as I walked multiple times each day from my wee home office to the house. No cozy fur ball nestled at the head of the bed, always touching me. No soft sentinel waited patiently by my bath for me to get out. I hadn't known I had so many tears.
Why Mersey? And why now? became my mantra.
We buried her at the top of the garden among the flowers. I sprinkled frankincense oil and tucked her into her earthly nest with rosemary for remembrance; mugwort leaves as a protective talisman, and sweet, calming lavender flowers.
On the first day I visited her grave, tears cascaded down my cheeks. From behind a hummock of orangey-brown rudbeckia, one of our wild rabbits appeared. She had just given birth to a new litter of bunnies a day or so before. The black fur on her breast had been pulled out to line the underground nest in her burrow.
She hopped right up to the pile of rocks marking the grave and lay down not a foot from where I stood. She went right to sleep and stayed there, as I eventually crept away. (Rabbits mean sympathetic magic.)
The second day I found a three blue jay feathers (feather means reincarnated soul) in three different places on my way to put flowers on Mersey's grave.
Later that day, I counted five or six orangey-brown salamanders floating serenely in our pond. Salamander means transformation and grounding in the present moment.) I had never even seen salamanders on our property before.
At the grave on the third day, a female hummingbird suddenly appeared, landing on a nearby flower. She sat still with me for several minutes before she flew once around the grave and then zoomed off across the garden.
Now, I'm not entirely spiritually thick so I was starting to get a message. I know that hummingbirds can symbolize joy. Come to think of it, Mersey was truly the embodiment of joy and pure unconditional love in my life. I had often commented that she was my perfect role model. I felt a sweet whisper of relief and peace on that day of the hummingbird's appearance.
Since then, Mersey has been my inspiration. When I feel her absence, I fill that lonesome spot with the love and joy that she so generously gave during her short life. Several times each day, I feel an abundant appreciation for the many lessons I've learned from her.
These days, I frequently remember to lighten up, to slow down and smell the roses, and to roll with great relish in the proverbial catnip patch. Mersey. Sweet Mersey. Merci! Thank you.
Perhaps we underestimate our ability to feel better when faced with tragic circumstances. If we can just find a way to overcome our pain and transmute our negative feelings, we can emerge triumphant and free of the shadows of sadness and loss, stepping boldly into the brilliant light of the sun. How can this be accomplished? Sometimes, by focusing on the positive joys in our lives. Helped a bit by Nature's gentle encouragement, we might just astonish ourselves and begin to feel the strength of our own healing power.
What are signs and symbols that have indicated the animals and people you have lost now rest in a loving embrace?
Allen and Linda Anderson are founders of the Angel Animals Network and authors of a series of books published by New World Library about the spiritual connection between people and animals. "Angel Dogs with a Mission: Divine Messengers in Service to All Life" is their tenth book in the Angel Animals series. Subscribe to the free, online newsletter at www.angelanimals.net and participate in the Angel Animals forum and blog. Sara J M Armstrong's websites are www.every-day-a-gift.com and www.vineandweaver.com
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