I have always been an animal person, much to my mother’s dismay. I brought home salamanders, birds, cats, bugs and snakes. Pretty much any critter that would allow me to pick it up, I brought home. I had a gift for it really. At one time in our home we had a cat, a rabbit, a guinea pig, sea monkeys and a clam. They were all mine.

Fast forward to the ’80s when I was working in a metaphysical book store. It’s no surprise that Native American spirituality, with its deep connection to nature and animals, attracted me the most. I got one of the first decks of Jaime Sam’s Medicine Cards before they were even put on our shelves. The animals popped off the cards for me and I could remember all the meanings, because they just sang to me. It was a way in which I connected to nature and Mother Earth and received council and comfort in my life. I still spent a lot of time outside, camping and such, but I was more aware that there were messages to be had with each encounter. I learned to find my personal relationship with the animals I experienced.

I’ve been thinking lately though, “How many of us actually have those up close and personal encounters with wild life?” I mean really, it’s one thing to say cougar is your totem, but how many of us have actually seen one in the wild? What animals do we get to encounter living in the cities and suburbs these days? Maybe some squirrels, rabbits, perhaps a deer or two. Raccoons are all over the place but very stealthy and not often seen.

But the birds, ah yes, the birds! They are everywhere! All the time! Year in and year out, we have birds. For people looking to connect more to nature in a personal way, you can try doing what I’ve done in my yard: make it a happy place for the birds.

Bird feeders and food are very inexpensive and bring a lot of life to your yard. I really got into it, even reading some books on identifying birds so I knew what I was looking at. Then I consulted various books, such as Animal Speak by Ted Andrews, for the possible meanings and how to interpret what I was seeing. Even if you live in an apartment you can at least make note of what birds you see often, what they are doing and how that might relate to what is going on with you right now.

You will cultivate your own personal meanings and they can help you in your daily life. For instance, I know when the Blue Jays are swarming in my yard I need to look at how I am using my power. When the Cardinals are out, I am mindful of my connection to spirit and my importance in the world. Eventually the messages will become clearer and more personalized. If you are consistent in keeping food out, the birds will really move in and you might find some surprising and colorful residents.

My biggest surprise was to see a Coopers Hawk many times in my yard hunting the sparrows! Yes, I live in South Minneapolis and now get hawks in my yard. How wonderful is that?

We need to cultivate our connections. Many of us have lost sight of how to do that on a personal level. You won’t find a true connection with nature on Facebook, in pretty pictures in an email or in text messages. You need to find ways to actually experience it yourself.

Go outside! Really! It’s pretty wonderful out there!

Do what you can to bring nature to you by having things in your yard to attract it or by paying attention when you are out. Turn off the music, TV and phone and listen to the birds! They play the most amazing music! Definitely an Oldie but Goodie!

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