My spirit soars.*
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable stream or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
The Wild Swans at Coole. William Butler Yeats.
Yesterday evening Heather and I walked down to the valley below our island home. A low mist gathered over the farm fields in the rapidly cooling air. It is late Fall, the leaves have left the trees to clog the streams, which are themselves awakening at last from the long sleep of summer drought. Out of the fog rose flight after flight of mallards, urgently gaining height in the dark sky; so purposefully, so focused on their mission. Were they simply moving over for the night to a local lake or were they outward bound on a long night flight further south? I say something like, “I wonder where the people are headed this evening?” and then stumble and try to correct myself, “the tribe..., I mean the ducks.”
That, I realized, was a natural enough mistake for me to make; I don't differentiate easily between species and, as in the folktales from the past, I think of all the other beings around me in this rural setting as different tribes, each with their own vital lives to live. My spirit soars with those night travellers.
This capacity for empathy is not so strange; do we not relate to our pets more personally, more openly, than with other humans? In fact do we not relate to inanimate objects as well, whether that is familiar landscape or some piece of memorabilia left behind from the lives of our ancestors? Do we not need that sense of connection and does it not have practical survival value for us as individuals? A sense of self is a precious thing; loose it and we loose the will to live, neglect to tend it and we slowly fade away.
When I consciously acknowledge my relationships and expand the range to include my cousins, those dark, eager shapes against the grey evening sky, I am tending my Self as well. Not I, but we, are living and experiencing the world.
*When I pray, I pray for all living things.
When I thank,
I thank for everything.
My Spirit Soars. Chief Dan George