Posted by: MaraPurl | September 1, 2021

Close Encounters of the Animal Kind

August was the perfect month for sitting on our refurbished deck. (Our Colorado Springs home, along with many others, had severe hail damage in 2018 and repairs throughout interior and exterior are finally almost complete.) We had some delightful al fresco potluck dinners with local friends, which was more special than ever, since we”d all been unable to gather for nearly two years,

In the mornings, my husband and I take our tablets and coffee to the deck to read our newspapers. An angled segment of railing parallels a mountainside with a double row of boulders. Amongst the big rocks, potentilla bloom yellow and various grasses and small shrubs crowd into crevasses. Above the boulders a stand of tall pines marches higher and continues over the ridge.

It’s our little slice of heaven, but we share with an abundance of creatures. Bunnies hop through the grass and blend into a river-rock swale that carries storm water away. Turkeys parade and deer chase each other leaping through the trees. Hummers nest in their favorite Russian olive, then dart towards the feeder my husband constantly refills, and the little birds thank us with aerial displays and occasional close hoverings.

One morning, after a sip of coffee, I looked up to find myself eye to eye with a bobcat. We held one another’s gaze for a long moment as it crouched on one of our boulders, ready to spring up the hill but too curious to dash away too quickly. Spectacular in her wildness, she allowed this brief exchange, then went on her way, perhaps in search of aforementioned bunnies.

I value this moment, because my character Miranda, a wildlife artist, has a similar experience when painting a bobcat. So the visit seemed to be completing my research and granting me permission as I draft this chapter.

Perhaps this conversation opened an internal door wider than I realized, because I had another encounter on our deck. Reading in a chair shortly after dawn, I clearly heard heavy breathing, and imagined we might have an out-of-breath hiker who had lost his way. But when I looked up, it was a magnificent mountain lion breathing hard, standing well above the boulder wall, his long body in full view, head turned toward me. Again we held an eye to eye gaze for what might have been a full minute. His breathing calmed and his immense body and beautiful face appeared luminous in the early light. Though I could have snapped a photo, I did not want to lose eye contact, as both of us waited in utter stillness.

For me personally it was a special moment because I’ve lately been studying the work of animal communicator Anna Breytenbach. Her conversation with a jaguar that’d been abused is a stunning tale. The beautiful and powerful black jaguar had been brought to a marvelous big cat sanctuary, but never settled in and had remained dangerously aggressive or sullenly aloof. During a meeting with Anna, the animal’s concerns were aired, expectations shared, and a sense of mutual respect established. Also the cat complained that he didn’t like the negative connotations of his name, which had been Diablo. He asked to be called Spirit, and this wish was granted immediately. Spirit’s behavior completely changed and he now enjoys his new home. Here’s a video of this conversation. You may find it as inspiring as I do.

I’ve waited each morning for another glimpse of my mountain lion neighbor, knowing it’s unlikely I’ll see him again. But I see him every day in my mind’s eye, feeling his intelligence, and listening for whatever message he might be offering, even if it’s only, “What are you doing here in my forest?” The new deck has been blessed by these encounters, as our various co-inhabitants inspect the new space. And really it’s we who are blessed by their presence.

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