"When the pupil is ready, the teacher will arrive."
There's something about animal companionship that's a rare joy in life. Something pure and loving that's deeply comforting - a deep purr, a weight across one's feet in the middle of the night.
At the moment, I'm surrounded by fur: ChemoCat, DudeCat, ScaredyCat, and EvilCat. Ex-ferals, all, and an interesting group who still carry with them some of their former wildness. They've all arrived at odd times in my life, when I didn't expect them. It wasn't always convenient. Sometimes, it was hard. And frustrating. And with tears and worry. But a thousand times worth it.
But I learned a lot. Animals have their peculiar wisdom. A stillness. Something to teach. Certainly about winning unconditional love. Commitment. Sacrifice. But also something else. About communicating with the world on it's own terms. Giving without demanding anything in return - focusing on another creature's wants rather than one's own. Being quiet and listening.
Cats are their own enigmatic selves. But I have other animal friends. Always had them since I was a kid, from looking for salamanders underneath river rocks to hearing the eerie howl of bobcats at sunset. Carrying buckets of bluegill from the river. I remember my father showing me a great horned owl in the headlights of the car as a child. The owl had hauled a rabbit up into a tree and stared back at us, wings spread and fluffed forward. Just amazing. I remember my father telling me: "Owls are like people. You eat what you kill." Good truth to remember.
In the shed behind the house, we have bats. When the door's opened too quickly in daylight, they slip down from the rafters and scramble in the dark. There's a rabbit who's lived behind our shed and had many litters of rabbits over the years, just beyond the reach of the lawn mower. When the deer are restless at night, they've been known to jump the fence and leave tracks in the snow. Once, I found a snake at the edge of my yard. Those little guys have taught me about blending in. Observing. Co-existing with larger creatures and big machines.
Something else showed up after the Mini-Wheats. Ravens. First, a female. Very shy - she is timid to be seen even through window glass. I think that someone was unkind to her in the past. But she grasps the cereal squares in her talons, dunks them in the downspout like a cookie, and then eats them. Eventually, she brought her mate. He doesn't much care about dunking the spoils. They've both gotten into the habit of eating their fill and taking pieces of cereal far away. When there's fresh cereal on the ground, one will come and call the other.
They don't even mind when the cats observe them from the window. Or me, anymore.
I caught the female watching me when I got the mail the other day. She was perched on the downspout, peering down at me.
I told her what a pretty bird she was, how magnificent and glossy. I'm sure that she thinks it's shameless flattery.
But I wonder what she'll teach me.