Animals In Our Pathways

It’s been an interesting two days. A full two days. Full of wonder.

Yesterday, I picked up my friend Kate to walk around the seawall at 7am. It was a walk bursting with connection- to each other, to the animals around us- seagulls eating purple starfish and eagles calling from the trees, to the worlds and lives we envision for ourselves. There wasn’t any blood, but there was definitely sweat and tears, and as we sat on the edge of the walkway as our path came to a close and looked out onto the horizon and listened to each other, there was a lovely goose, giving us a show. She was splashing and cleaning herself, and craning her neck around and deep into the sea, and swimming in little circles. Even though we were talking about secrets buried deep inside our bodies and patriarchy and things that don’t normally surface, the goose was there, cleaning herself off, and showing us, to clean ourselves off and dance in little circles and delight in the waves we make.

And as we made our way to the car, we came across a dying rat. The crows circled overhead, waiting for her to die, waiting to peck at her little body.  Her foot trembled. She breathed a long breath, and nothing. Then another breath. We wrapped her little grey body in a giant leaf and settled her among other leaves under a garden bush- which seemed much more comfortable, much more hopeful, much more loving than dying in the middle of a walkway, crows waiting for your last breath. She had buck teeth and a long tail, and she was in the shade and away from the crows. We tucked her in, and said goodbye. My heart hurt for her, this little rodent that so many people would have just swept away, tossed into the trash because she’s a pest, because they might have forgotten that she had a family and friends and a dream to gather all the trash and recycle it into treasures.

And then Kate, the friend I walked with, emailed me. What was the universe trying to tell us, when that little rat ended up breathing her last breaths in our pathway? What could we learn from dear little buck-tooth grey rat?

I felt a little embarrassed. A little embarrassed I was so obsessed with reading about what the rat symbolized. And I’m sure it was embarrassment, not a hot flash. What the fuck? Whatever, I researched about the symbolic, spiritual, worldly, magical hippie-dippie meaning of crossing paths with a rat. And it was awesome. Why am I embarrassed at how meaningful it feels, to have encountered these animals, to wonder about why we crossed paths on this earth?

I read about rats symbolizing clearing clutter, about rats meaning asserting our selves in news ways, about rats showing us how to make space for what is to come. I thought about the changes coming in my life, the decisions still pending, the relationships I’m still holding on to even though they aren’t enriching me. I thought about the conversation we had while we watched the bathing goose, and about who I want to be in this wide world, and about what I need to be able to be that person I want to be. I wondered about the rat, and the goose, and the friend, all of whom came into my life in the last couple years and they all gave me something I needed.

I told a friend about this wonder last night, a friend I love dearly. And she said, “What does this mean for people who live in the inner-city, who see rats all the time? It’s like horoscopes- it doesn’t have any meaning.” Oh but it does. And what if it means, if there are lots of rats crossing paths in the inner-city, that  we need to clear our cities of the muck, rid them of racism and classism, do away with the misogyny?

What if it just means, we can permit ourselves to wonder? To wonder at the animals, to wonder at what comes into our lives, to draw connections? What if it just means, we can allow our selves to find patterns and hope in the everyday, afford our selves the opportunity to talk deeply and carefully with close friends, extend the possibility to our selves to imagine something wider, something bigger, something more sparkly?

I want to find synchronicity in the things that show up in my life, I look for meaning in the friends I make and the animals with whom I cross paths. It’s just one of many ways to make sense of the world, to hold true to our selves, to think creatively, hopefully, magically. And making sense of the world by wondering? I’m down. That sounds freakin’ awesome. That sounds whole. That sounds like what I need. So yah, whatever.

Thanks, rat.


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