I have a special relationship with red squirrels. They’re not that common or easy to spot, but for me, if and when I see one, it’s always a good sign and immediately lifts my spirit. Yesterday, I was at a lakeside spot with a grove of different trees, some of them pine, and I strongly felt the presence of a red squirrel. Often I hear them, but there were none of the trilling or squeaking noises that they typically make. Instead, I heard bird song, so I went towards where these sounds were coming from. Sure enough, within a minute, a red squirrel appeared with a fat pine cone in his mouth, which he settled down with and proceeded to eat with gusto.
Sometimes we only have a feeling about something and it’s not based on anything rational or demonstrable in our environment. Maybe it’s just a small feeling or niggling voice telling us to do something, to go towards something, even if it’s not exactly what we’re looking for. It’s always worth following this inner voice, because our paths in life are rarely clear or straightforward, and instead are often windy and illogical. But our inner voice of passion is always true, even if it seems to be leading us to places other than what we were expecting.
With all the noise and distractions we have in life, it can be quite hard to hear, much less follow, what this small voice is telling us. But it’s there if you listen carefully and it knows the way, however odd it may seem at time, if you have the courage to follow its lead, it will bring you to somewhere you need to be.
I think one of the problems we have as human beings is our innate tendencies to look and not see – forever searching, rather than seeing and appreciating what we have and all that is before us. The trouble with looking is that we’re imposing our expectations and our needs, rather than being present to whatever is around us and to process things and appreciate them for what they are.
Similarly, we often hear but don’t listen, which again, means we’re not really present. It can be hard to listen, with our minds racing here and there, but the value of listening can’t be underestimated, not just for the person being listened to, but in developing our own skills in being present and empathetic.
I especially practice both of these skills in nature, for when I just encounter what is there – rather than what I would like to be there or hope will be there – I experience such joy and openness and gifts – beyond what I could have hoped or planned for. Sometimes just by baring witness, to whatever it is, what will come to us is not what we wanted or expected, but often it will be so much better and by being present and still, we will be in a much better place to receive it.
Masks have become a regular part of our everyday lives over the past year and a half. I wear only the cloth ones, as my heart breaks with all the disposable ones I see littered on the ground everywhere. One night, on a walk around the neighbourhood , my mask ended up on the ground somewhere too, as it fell out of my pocket. Although it only cost $5, it was quite a pretty mask decorated with flowers, so I would have been sorry to have lost it. As I discovered its absence only on returning home, I re-traced some of my steps, but couldn’t find it. I thought I would try again the next morning.
Before doing that, I ran an errand at a local drug store, and at the cash, I found $5 on the floor. Without thinking, I handed it over to the cashier. I don’t know if anyone would claim it or not, but I didn’t feel it was mine to keep. Oddly, handing over the $5 bill (the cost of my mask) made me sure that I would find my mask again. And I did. I went further along my route and found it on the grass of the local park.
You might say that I would have found the mask anyway, but for me, it was a reinforcement of how my relationship with the universe works – founded on honesty and openness, and things I put out literally come back to me. Of course, I think we should all strive to be honest without any expectation of return, but it’s also nice to have reassurances from the universe that it’s continuing to look out for me and the things that I care about.