Talking with the animals

People often ask me how I got the idea to write Choosing to Be. What they are really asking is why I decided to dialogue with a talking cat.

It’s difficult to answer that question. I usually explain it by saying that I wanted to write Choosing to Be as a story, and I wanted to have dialogue. I say that since Poohbear Degoonacoon and I are the main characters, well, he had to talk. People smile and accept this — it fits into their frame of reference. It keeps them from thinking I’m crazy.

But this really isn’t the truth. Talking with animals, and hearing what they have to say, has come naturally to me for most of my life. I never question it. It just is. But having spent the first 20 years of my career in the business environment, I learned to keep this part of myself to myself, lest I be dismissed as “that strange young woman who talks with animals.”

Then yesterday I was reading Spirituality & Health Magazine and came upon an article about the vision of the Inuit. In addition to the beautiful pictures of Inuit art, there was a poem. I was compelled to read this poem aloud, almost as a chant — and tears rolled down my eyes as I did it. Here is the poem (I suggest you read it out loud):

Magic Words (An Inuit Poem)

In the very earliest time,
When both people and animals lived on earth,
A person could become an animal if he wanted to
And an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
And sometimes animals
And there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
Might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
And what people wanted to happen could happen
All you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That’s the way it was.

I grew up in Kodiak, Alaska in the early fifties, when Alaska was still a territory. In fact, I attended Kodiak Territorial School. I was friends with Eskimos and with kids whose fathers braved the treacherous ocean as fishermen. Most years, someone I knew lost their father to the Alaskan wilderness.

I talked with the moose and bears and seals and rabbits and the many other animals around me. It seemed natural. My Eskimo friends told stories of animals and we related to them as part of us. I cheered the sled dogs as they swept through the little town of Kodiak in a blur during the annual Sled Dog Races. I knew these animals and their spirits as though they were my own. I respected the animals and fish my father took for our food. I watched him build fish ladders with the Civilian Conservation Corps to aid the salmon upstream for their spawning, and I saw the respect these men paid to the beautiful fish that provided us with sustenance during the long and dark winter. We had a neighborhood smokehouse where we all stored our meat and fish, often exchanging our bounty for something different that a neighbor had put up.

I was part of the natural way of things, and I took it for granted that it would always be that way. I was wrong. Today my heart hurts with this knowledge. The Inuit poem has touched me so deeply that I find tears welling up and a lump in my throat as the words from the poem swirl through my head again and again.

And so, I talk with animals. I learn from them. I admit this. And today, I am proud of it.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Melody Lamb December 17, 2010 at 9:36 am

YES YES YES!! Amen, Kat. It makes my heart light up to meet another person who finds communicating with the critters as natural as talking with other humans. You just made me feel like I’m “home”! ­čÖé

Peter Clothier December 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Seems logical to me! I talk to George all the time. His wisdom transcends mine. Looking forward to your book!

OldSchoolHaiku December 18, 2010 at 8:48 am

If I listen to them do I learn from US?

Dogbarks December 18, 2010 at 9:53 am

Wow…great story. Don’t ever change your ways.

Sharon Webb December 18, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Like Melody, I’m glad to know I’m not unusual in communicating with my animals. Their language may not be spoken, as mine is, but we all understand each other. That Inuit poem is magical. I look forward to reading your book.

admin December 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

I’m so glad to welcome you home, Melody. Feels like I was doing the same thing for myself….

admin December 20, 2010 at 8:58 am

Thank you, Peter. It was nice to return to my roots, to understand where I learned about the wisdom of animals. I love hearing about George’s wisdom…

admin December 20, 2010 at 8:59 am

Beautiful question — according to Inuit view, we are all the same — so learning from animals is learning from a part of us. This feels right to me.

admin December 20, 2010 at 9:00 am

Thank you — tapping into the beginnings of my relationship with animals is amazing. The Inuit poem released many memories for me. And I promised that I will never change my ways!

admin December 20, 2010 at 9:01 am

Thank you, Sharon, I am glad to learn that you too felt the magic on the Inuit poem. Did you read it out loud? I love reading it, almost as a chant. It evokes such deep memories and feelings in me.

Leelananda Jayasuriya June 9, 2012 at 4:04 am

I attached part of the the poem Magic Words (An Inuit Poem) in my site. I hope I was not violating your copy rights.
I believe animals can talk with people using senses

Kat June 9, 2012 at 8:55 am

I love the Inuit poem Magic Words — the more we share it with others, the more we spread the magic. Thank you, Leelananda.

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