weekly challenge: MESSAGES FROM THE WILD

Port Alberni owl


guest post by Sherry Marr

The heart that breaks open
can contain the whole universe.

—Joanna Macy

Mother Earth is sending us urgent messages in wildfire, floods, tornadoes, the CO2 index, and record-breaking temperatures. The wild ones, too, are speaking. I think of Tahlequah, the mother orca who carried her dead calf on her nose, in grief, for seventeen days and could not let her go. The Tla-o-quiaht people, here in Clayoquot Sound, teach that every creature is a being, as worthy of life and respect as we are. They tell of an orca who accompanied the boat carrying a dead chief all the way to his island home. They believed the orca was the chief’s brother, come to accompany him on his final passage.

One of our online poets had a three-day visitation from an owl, recently, who chose her yard in which to do her dying. I believed at the time the owl carried a message for her. The poet, sadly, was diagnosed with cancer soon after. It sounds like it has been caught in time, perhaps thanks to the owl, who gazed at her intently, soul to soul, for the days she visited.

Two weeks after my mother died, I was driving towards her farm when, (it felt like in slow motion), an owl flew across my windshield, so close I could see every feather. Her head was turned towards me and our eyes met as she made her passage into the forest, still looking back at me. It felt like time had slowed. Somehow the car was still moving and on the road, yet I can still feel the slow suspension of those moments, our eyes locked. I knew an oracle had been, with a message for me from my mother.

I have a poet friend who is visited often by wild creatures. She has dreams filled with the cries of the wild ones, who bring her messages because she is a seer, a woman of the drum, who can carry their voices to the rest of us.

I worked for many years at a First Nations healing centre where families came to heal from addiction issues. We had a ceremony called the Healing of Memories, where we gathered in circle around an outdoors fire, and people wept as they threw their written messages of pain into the fire, to lessen their burdens. Eagles never failed to show up and circle slowly overhead  till we were finished.

I lived with my own wild one for fourteen years. Pup was a wolf-dog, found at the healing centre, close to death, as a tiny puppy. I took him home and fed him and he grew. He was a wild one, and he led me a merry chase! He did not want to leave me when he died. The next morning, right around the time his body was going into the flames, I woke up feeling his snout on the edge of my mattress, and heard his gentle whuff, the way he had woken me for all those years. He had come one last time to say goodbye. This still makes me cry.

These days I am hearing of rivers being given the status of personhood, to protect their rights. Our opportunity now is to recognize what indigenous people have always known, that everything has consciousness: the sea, rivers, trees, animals. We need to save the wild, not just for ourselves, but for all the wild ones of every kind: animals, birds, sea creatures. All our relations.

We have seen the photos of starving polar bears in the melting north, sometimes only skin and bone by the time they expire. We heard the cries of the burning koalas and kangaroos of Australia. But then another crisis came, and another.  The pangolin and the barbecued monkeys and dogs from the wet markets of Wuhan have brought us a profoundly life-altering message in the corona virus. We did not heed earlier warnings, so the lessons are being repeated more strongly.

For today’s challenge, let’s contemplate messages from the wild.

Have you had an encounter with or a visitation from a wild creature? Do you have a totem animal with whom you identify? Or do you share life with a less-wild creature, and have a story to tell about communicating with another species? For we do communicate with them, and they with us, as any dog or cat or horse-lover understands very well.

Write whatever comes up for you. There is sadness in how the wild ones are suffering. But there is also such wonder and privilege in sharing this world with them; such gifts given us by the animals who honour us with their trust. Since their messages are non-verbal, we have the opportunity to speak for them. You might wish to relate an encounter. Or you might speak as a particular wild creature, as we do in the Council for All Beings, giving voice to what the animals wish and need us to understand.

The animals hold my heart, always, so, whatever you write, I will read your poems with such delight.

19 thoughts on “weekly challenge: MESSAGES FROM THE WILD

  1. Wonderful challenge, Sherry – These messengers, totem animals, ghosts of the Pleistocene, mothers and fathers, lost lovers, predators, meek monks, sisters, ancestors, founders—they are such a brood! Their mouths full of songs and prophecy. I think of Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things” and their nurture is wildly evident: But what do they tell us, and how do we hear it, especially now in a burning world? So looking forward to reading the responses. Thanks again. – Brendan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dearest Sherry- You were with me on the journey with Bella, and now on my journey with cancer. I am honored Bella has touched you just as she touched me, so I am sharing my story of her and I, for our paths are forever entwined.


  3. The animals always have my heart. I posted an old poem, an encounter with an owl that Linda’s Bella reminded me of. I likely will post one about Pup as well. I have written so many poems to that wild creature I love so much. I am so looking forward to reading about the critters you have all encountered.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Sherry, I love this prompt. I was trying to find the place I wanted to go but, it came back to me being connected with the animal kingdom. So, I guess I am pieces of all their beauty and gifts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love that idea, True….that we are all pieces of their beauty and gifts. Cool. We are just one more earthling, among the many others.


  6. A message for Truedessa: I’m sorry for posting this comment here, but I’m having trouble posting comments on your blog and getting privacy warning messages. I love this delicate poem with a powerful beating heart, Truedessa, ‘strung together in birdsong’ and ‘more than meets the eye’.


    • Kim, thank you for reading my poem. I am not sure what is going on with the privacy issue as it is a secure blog. I thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment here. Have a lovely week and may it be filled with birdsong.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. River Otters

    They aren’t cute and cuddly like the ones that float on their backs
    fur isn’t as soft, no table manners,
    teeth sharper than puppies’,
    they eat with their mouths open
    spraying shell fragments, loud consonants

    They revel in the warmth of sun-soaked wood
    are known to roll like dogs,
    grow as big, scratch themselves
    poop everywhere
    snort and growl and of all things whistle

    As if a starting gun’s gone off,
    eight otters charge up a beach
    into the forest of a small island

    A mother noses her two young onto my wharf
    lets them explore scamper their clawed feet
    on my glass solar panels

    Singles cruise along seal-like mellow
    as if they had all the time in the world
    to eat live crab and enjoy life

    A lone otter climbs onto my deck
    to sniff the potted daffodils

    An orphan pup, supposedly half-tame
    running whirlwinds around a small room:
    joy on speed

    I’ve admired their underwater grace and form
    followed their bubble trails
    seen them light up a dark night swimming meteor-fast

    River otters live in the sea
    embodying contradiction
    confusing tourists
    and delighting locals

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What a wonderful blog for nature and so glad I found you through Kim and Dverse. I will try and link my poems as am doing my own challenge at the moment. Most of my poems and blog is about my encounters with wildlife at our woodland in Southern Spain.


  9. Chris, thank you for sharing this DELIGHTFUL poem. You made me see them, so alive and joyous. Friends, Chris Lowther is Tofino’s poet laureate. She lives in a floathouse, surrounded by wild beings. Chris, i am so glad you shared this poem with us. Wow.


  10. Spain! How wonderful. I am so happy you found your way here. (Thanks, Kim!) I look forward to reading how it is in your part of the world. Yay!


  11. This is the first poem I have written for almost 4 weeks–that’s a record since I retired 7 years ago! It had dwindled to one or two a week, and then I realized I had to pull a book together–sort of a grif therapy, and a Pandemic time to do it in. Gosh. The manuscript is at the 2nd reader and an editor now. Both have been silent, so I wonder I wonder I wonder. Thank you for these marvelous essay-prompts, Sherry and Brendan. Stay safe everyone. Black Lives Matter.


  12. Susan, I love your poem and am so happy you shared it at earthweal. Congratulations on making such good use of covid time, and having a BOOK to show for it. Way to go. I look forward to its release.


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