The Real Thing
“Psychology and religion are metaphors, and symbols, and signs of the real thing, at least one step removed. Revelation is the real thing. Nature is revelation, and nature is us; nature creates us.”
Michael Dwinell (Being Priest to One Another, p.29)
In Being Priest to One Another, Michael Dwinell tells a story of three encounters with animals that happened in one road trip to Canada. Three times, a wild animal crossed his path—a wolf, a hawk, and a red fox. Each animal crossed directly in front of him, and the wolf and the fox each stopped, sat down, and made eye contact. He did not feel threatened. Each experience was “electrifying, stunning; each had riveted and commanded my attention. I know them to have been visitations.” (p.29) When we have experiences like these, with real animals in the wild, they are neither metaphor nor symbol; they are true revelation. Dwinell saw them as trinity—his symbol for the divine. His path had been crossed by the divine.
From the porch this morning, I watched two squirrels running along a branch of the oak tree in my neighbor's yard. One of them air-dropped about four feet to the limb below and kept going. The second one contemplated the drop and thought better of it. He/she turned and ran back to a place where the lower limb was closer, and jumped to it. Then both of them chased all the way to the end of that limb. What now? There was no branch below or nearby to leap to. After a short hesitation, the dare-devil squirrel flipped to the underside of the branch they were on, and ran back to the trunk. The other squirrel carefully made a U-turn and went after him.
There are so many metaphors one can make with this squirrel activity. One squirrel was a leader, a risk-taker, innovative and courageous. The other was clearly a follower, careful, slightly insecure. Or, perhaps one took unnecessary risks, and was cavalier in the way he encouraged the other to act similarly. The second one was smarter, more sensible; got to the same place but in a thoughtful way. The Han Solo and Luke Skywalker of squirrels. We humans can draw all manner of parallels. As for the squirrels, who knows?
There is so much to learn, and there are so many teachers. All we have to do is tune in. Here is a poem by Michael Dwinell (Being Priest to One Another; p.26) that speaks to this:
The Night Walk
“We don't find God.
We are found by God.
We don't have a soul.
We are ensouled.
We don't have our sexuality.
We are sexual.
We don't discover nature.
Nature is us.”
I hope nature crosses your path today. And I hope you take time to tune in.
In the Spirit,