I was listening to my friend describe a series of experiences he’s had with a gray fox, which have taken place now over a number of years, and it made me think about my own experiences with whales, owls and coyotes, and the instances of interspecies communication, and it got me thinking about life-changing experiences.
I have a friend who was changed by his visit to the Serengeti. Whatever he saw and experienced there made him “want to be a force toward goodness.” Later he was changed even more by a brain tumor, which left him without motor function, including the ability to breathe, swallow, eat or speak, for the final 11 years of his life.
In the months immediately preceding his death, he insisted that as hard and unimaginable as the changes were, he was, in the end, a better person for it.
Medical crises, such as a bout with cancer or some other serious illness, or the loss of a loved one, often serve as a wakeup call, and thus constitute a life-changing experience.
In my case, especially after the whale episode, I remember saying to myself, I will never again be able to question the great mystery of the universe, or the interconnectedness of life, or what some people call extra-sensory perception or paranormal activity.
I know people who, literally, have been changed by riding horses, living with cats or dogs, feeding deer, kissing hummingbirds, listening to dragonflies, walking through the woods, hiking in the mountains, sitting by a river, listening to the waves, gazing at the moon and the stars, or working in the garden. The one thing that each of these life-changing experiences have in common is that they entail some sort of connection with non-human life forms, be they animal, plant or mineral.
For so many of us who are whipping around, living our lives, working our jobs, being with our families, and taking care of everything that we’re involved in, it takes a an effort, sometimes a tremendous one, to put ourselves into situations and surroundings where we commune with nature, and even those of us who live in beauty and in close proximity to the natural world still have to remind ourselves to stop and smell the roses, and appreciate life in the present moment. When we do, how often do we report some kind of positive, beneficial change to our outlook and attitude - even if only for a day.
I think about certain jobs, and the training that’s necessary to work at those jobs, whether it’s taking college courses, or having a certain number of hours or years of on-the-job training, or whatever the case may be. I think about the people whose job it is to negotiate with officials from other countries and other cultures, in an effort to create peaceful relations, and a more harmonious world, and I think how it would benefit them, and all of us, if they would take some time before sitting down on opposite sides of the negotiating table, to be in nature.
Likewise, all of us - regardless of what our jobs or responsibilities are - would likely benefit, and it would benefit others too, if we could, in the midst of an accelerating and ever-developing world, invigorate our connection with nature and with organic life, for as simple and perhaps even na•ve as it may sound it is one surefire way to honor and elevate our humanity, and preserve our ability to feel and care about life and living things.
Ron Colone is on vacation. This column originally was published in the Valley News several years ago. Ron can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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