Animals and the Mystical Side of Life
By Allen and Linda Anderson
When we walk around the magnificent Lake Harriett in Minneapolis with its Victorian-era bandshell, our dog, Taylor, often reveals the mystical side of life. Strangers grin as they pass by after looking at this dog with her head held high and her tail wagging. In this setting that transports back to another day and time, Taylor acts as regal as if she were remembering some past life when she surveyed her kingdom from a high and mighty perch. She inspires our fellow walkers and us to savor each moment and live life with joy. Taylor, assured and confident in the now, communicates that cares and concerns are as transient as the breeze rippling across the sunlit, glistening waters of this no-longer-frozen lake.
One day, Taylor led us to view a sight that lingers in our memories like the scent of spring flowers. We say that she led us, because unlike well-trained, obedient dogs, this exuberant yellow Lab takes us for walks. Not the other way around.
Since we were a bit worn out that day, Taylor allowed us to stop and rest on a park bench overlooking the lake. There, we basked in the sun and beheld a sight so sweet in its simple truth that we continue to marvel at it.
Industrious spiders had woven tendrils of webbing across an expanse of lake water about the size of a movie screen and spanning from the branches of one tree to another. In the center of the web danced a diamond-shaped branch, which was about six inches tall. The wind swirled this branch like a ballerina. It appeared to be suspended in mid-air with no support. The branch floated in the breezy air with a beauty, grace, and resilience that was breathtaking.
As we gazed at the spectacle, which had even entranced Taylor, we began to talk about how this image reminded us of a truth most people tend to forget. Especially when life deals almighty blows. The branch, held high above the water by the nearly invisible threads of a cathedral-like spider web, was a heaven-sent image. It said that God’s love keeps each of us supported even during times when it feels as if we’ve been left to dangle and blow in the wind.
This, too, is the message that the animal kingdom delivers. Animals remind people that an invisible presence sustains them with unconditional love, even through the most precarious circumstances. God often sends an animal to let a person know that he or she is loved and has not been forgotten or abandoned. Story after story we receive illustrates the principle that animals offer comfort to the inconsolable, attention to the neglected, and aid to the needy. Who guides animals to express compassion, to offer hope to the hopeless, to bring joy to those who have despaired? We believe that the Sacred uses animals as vehicles for divine love in astoundingly complex and perfect ways.
One way Spirit assures people that they are loved is by using animals to get past mental censors (the ones that protect human egos). The Divine creates a parallel situation with an animal companion or one in nature to act as a mirror to the soul. This process is how Catherine, a friend of ours, received comfort after a very tough night.
Hanging by His Fingernails
Catherine is a film producer. She had worked until two o’clock in the morning on a shoot that hadn’t gone well. In fact she says, “It was a disaster.” To let off some steam, the morning after the miserable night, Catherine went for a walk around the same lake where we like to stroll. She looked up in a tree and saw a baby squirrel hanging from a branch by his fingernails. The baby had ventured out too far on a thin, high branch and had slipped. If he fell to the ground, it would have killed the little guy.
The squirrel’s plight affected Catherine emotionally. She said, “The night before, I had felt like that baby squirrel, trying to make it through the difficult situation. Because I could relate, I found myself sending mental energy to the squirrel. I was willing him to somehow pull himself up. I begged God not to let him fall. I was this squirrel.”
Then a strange thing happened. A bigger squirrel, who was obviously the baby’s mother, inched out toward the tiny, terrified creature. Instead of immediately running to her baby’s rescue, though, she waited and watched him continue to struggle. Her offspring tried many maneuvers to right himself. When he had done all he could, the mother stepped in and reached her paw down to grasp his. She yanked him up on top of the branch and at last, back to safety.
The mother’s hesitation and her reluctance to instantly rescue her baby had puzzled and frustrated Catherine. But again, Nature had demonstrated another aspect of God’s love for her.
Often in life, each of us finds ourselves stranded on a high branch to which we’re desperately clinging. As we struggle to regain balance, it seems that God waits on the sidelines. We shout, “Where are you?” and shake our fists at the sky. But like the mother squirrel and her tough love, God lets us try to regain footing before restoring our equilibrium. How else could we test our own strength and trust our ability to survive? With too early an intervention, how would we understand the consequences of our actions? If God stepped in too soon, how would we grow spiritually?
How are animals and the Divine showing you that love is all around? Try asking a question that has been perplexing you. It can be as simple as how to avoid rush-hour traffic or as profound as wondering about your purpose in life. Write down your question. Then go for a walk, preferably with an animal companion. See what words (and images) of wisdom Mother Nature is willing to share with you — now that you have remembered to ask.
Allen and Linda Anderson are co-editors of “Angel Animals: Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals” (A Plume Book, 1999), available in local and Internet bookstores and through One Spirit Book Club. DO YOU HAVE A STORY ABOUT A SPIRITUALLY SIGNIFICANT EVENT OR A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH A CAT? They are looking for cat stories for their next book. Send to Angel Animals, P.O. Box 26354, Minneapolis, MN 55426 or you may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . You may also subscribe to the Andersons’ free online newsletter at www.angelanimals.net . For more information call (952) 925-3309.
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