Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Spirit Animals

I was running along the bay in San Francisco the other afternoon. It was a crisp, overcast but not foggy day. I was on the flip side of an 8 mile out and back, just going down the hill above Fort Mason that I had climbed on the way out, when a huge thing swooped next to me and alit on the branch of a cypress to my left.  I stopped, having identified it as a bird of prey. A red-tailed hawk, I believe.
It was not as if I had never seen such a hawk before, but the way it swooped in so close and landed there, then eyed me, in the middle of a city? That was different.

Hawk, SF, October 2016
Next morning, I ran before sunrise. I was running up Lombard and hit that weird dead end at the top at Kearny where you have to either break into someone's gated stairs down the big hill near Chinatown or run further up a hill around the corner to God knows where, and as I stopped to ponder what to do next I saw just ahead of me, in the middle of the street, a coyote. My head lamp made its eyes glow and I was not particularly scared. Just a little thrown off. Too thrown off to snap a photo. It finally trotted away after eyeing me for awhile. I am surprised it did not try to eat me. God knows I have enough meat on me these days to keep it hale for a good week. I turned around and found my way back to a feasible route. Headlamp was also helpful to avoid stepping on any of the homeless folk sleeping on the sidewalks.

I never get used to that. I bet they don't either.

I used to work for a mobile medical clinic in San Francisco, back in residency. We would search out the homeless in their various haunts (i.e. places they felt safest). I remember coming to work at clinic on that day we call 9-11 now. But clinic was cancelled, which I could just never quite figure out. The city was eerily quiet that day. Maybe the lack of airplanes flying over, and people just sort of huddling close together indoors. At least the people that had indoors to huddle within.

While driving home along the 101 today, there was a golden retriever in a truck. But not in the flatbed like you are picturing. He was in the cab with his people, sitting on his haunches but facing backward, and the middle back window was open. He had his paws up on the window frame and his head sticking out with the biggest smile on his face.

I count that as 3 spirit animal sightings in 3 days. Now I have always considered the whale my personal spirit animal. I seem to have intense dreams involving whales whenever something big is about to happen in my life. But I am open to the idea that we are constantly being offered messages from the world around us. We are mostly too busy with our nose in our iPhone screen to notice them. I am guilty as anyone of this. I also often stop to wonder what would happen if you plated out a culture from everyone's iPhone screens. But I digress, into potentially award-winning middle school science fair projects and my own insecurities thanks to my medical school infection and immunity professor. I only ever flush the toilet with my elbow, thanks to him.

According to my highly dubious sources, the hawk may represent being able to see meaning in ordinary experiences. Also seeing the bigger picture, having vision and intuition. It might be telling me to step back and look at a difficult situation with a new perspective. The hawk is telling me to pay attention. So I tried to ask it for more details, as I am a scientist and I want some details gorramit, but this is what it said:

I interpreted that as "See ya, sucker. You ask too many questions. Now go finish that run."

The coyote made me so happy. Apparently it is meant to make you stop taking yourself so seriously. It might be time to let go, and get on with things. Irony and a trickster spirit are its specialities. Wisdom and folly go hand in hand, and, for heaven's sakes play more often.

I told a friend about my sighting and she said if I see a roadrunner next she is calling a doctor for me.

That dog in the truck, well it could mean letting go of doubt, as there is plenty of knowledge, skill and support to achieve my goals. Also,  it is telling me to let go of material things and stay focused in the present moment.

OK I buy that last part. Has anyone out there ever in your entire life met a Golden Retriever not focused on the present moment? Or any dog, for that matter? OK, my dog Miles is often focused on getting to the beach, which is often in the future and past, but he is also an avid fan of television and likes to hump 12 year old Zoe the golden doodle in the window for all to see. So, Miles may not be the best example of the deep wisdom or spiritual awareness of dogs. He likes the Warriors (even after last night!), hates the Simpsons, and patiently watched the presidential debates. He prefers long beach runs to food, likes to lay on his back and stretch his front legs out as far as they go. He burps, snores and irritates the hell out of my teenaged daughter. He chews on good literature (literally) and doesn't mind butting my hands with his curly head in the middle of a technically difficult piano piece. He gets upset if the family plays raucous games with each other and likes to sit on our feet and lean against our legs till he slides over onto the floor. Mainly because he, like most other standard poodles, has no ass.

Tomorrow I board not one but 3 planes to go and see my beloved GodMom get married. She is just the best GodMother ever. I know for a fact she and my Mom used to hide in the bathtub, fully clothed, drinking coffee and chatting while 7 kids pounded on the door at various times looking for whatever it is kids look for from their ever-suffering parents. But aside from bath tub escapes, she, like my Mom, always has shown up. Shown up with spirit and tenderness and humor. Plus she rode on the Harry Potter ride with me at Universal Studios in Orlando a few years back. I thought I was going to have a heart attack, but she took it all in stride.

It has now been over 20 years since my Mom died. A few years after her death I found myself at a mindfulness retreat along the coast of California. I was out walking on a silent day, and there was a small wooden shed in the field on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean. I went in, and found it to be a shrine of sorts, with an altar and various significant pieces set there by many people over what appeared to be years. Some found, natural objects. Some photos and icons and treasure of sorts. As I sat there, I suddenly felt my Mom's presence. And then a small songbird flew in and fluttered about this small space while I sat there. It finally came to rest and we sat together for awhile. Then it spread its wings and sailed away from me.

Pay attention.
See the extraordinary.
Do not take yourself too seriously.
Consider play important, and material things overrated.
Sit quietly, and see what happens.
Show up for those whom you love, and those you don't love and those you don't even know.

Stop asking so many questions.

Finish the damn run.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Thanks for writing about this with the reminder: pay attention.