Spirit Animals: Grackles

I recently retired from tech work, after…I dunno. Eighteen years? A long damn time.

When I first started, the web was still pretty new to the mainstream, and the potential got me fired up. I could help people connect, share their stories and ideas! The whole notion of global access was an utter game-changer. And I could offer this incredible opportunity to everyday people. How powerful is that?! I was excited enough I struggled through endless hours obsessively poring over code and reading technical tutorials in between waxing poetic about how cool it all was.

I was going to learn to do this and do it well.  And do it well I did.

There were no blogs back then. It was a different world. Eventually, the bar lowered dramatically for self-publishing (a good thing–usually). The work I did wasn’t as pivotal. But still, I kept learning and coding and consulting. I kept looking to serve as Virgos do, and I was good at it.

But somewhere along the way, so gradually I did not even notice, my once-mission morphed into obligation. The work became weight. I still considered myself blessed to be free the confines of a traditional office job. But I wasn’t excited about the work itself anymore. Gifted an opportunity to begin work in the Woo-Woo world, the difference became palpable.

I was enthusiastically building my spiritual practice while quietly planning my pixel-pushing escape. But even as I got close enough to sensibly make the full switch, I didn’t. Even the thought was terrifying.

What the Hell, Dixie?

It wasn’t until I actually took that leap of faith that I finally got it: web work was my last cloak of mainstream respectability. That’s perhaps an ironic admission for a pink-haired chick decked out in tie-dye. That business was what stood between me and the judgement of the mail man, the bank teller, the world at large–and yeah, the family.

Funny thing. My cloak of respectability was incredibly sheer. Three seconds plugging my name in a search engine is all it would take to see right through it…still, I spent an excruciatingly draining week to broker the hand-off of my web business. My “sanity breaks” out on the front-porch garden were well-populated by Grackles.

Hello, Grackles!

Grackles seem like they’d be related to crows or blackbirds, but they are not. They’re actually part of the meadowlark and oriole family of birds. From a distance, you can easily miss the gorgeous iridescent coloring. People often don’t see these birds for who they are. Grackle’s bright yellow eye with the tiny black pupil seemed like it could eerily pierce even intricate illusion.

Are you looking past superficial appearances to see what really is? 

Grackles are known as very intelligent, playful and happy birds. Their colors show  us emotion, the color of life. For many grackles, the lovely coloring is especially pronounced around the head.

photo by ibm4381

Are you conscious of your emotions and how much emotions color your thinking?

Grackles often congregate in large numbers before dawn or after sunset on tree branches, wires or roofs, in groups sometimes known as “annoyances.”  They may sing and caw for a long time with their distinctive calls before moving on to a new congregation. Their call is often compared to a rusty gate. But you know, even a rusty gate cannot be heard unless it’s being opened.

Are you all talk, so much that it may be annoying? Are you talking or doing?

They are known for bravery and resourcefulness, not being afraid to approach humans for food.  They may follow plows to catch  mice or wade into water to fish. They forage expertly and thrive because they have adapted to cities and humanity’s changing habits.

Are you active in solving problems and seeking what you need?

Grackles have a hard palate that helps them crack open acorns and other tough food. Even so, they have the unusual habit of dipping hard pieces of some types of food in water to soften it up before eating. They also teach their offspring to do this.

Do you attack tough problems, consciously guiding emotional states to “soften up” life’s challenges? Do you provide an example to others in doing so?

Grackles like to nest in pine trees–and the scent of pine calms emotional states. Their nests are hidden, providing safety.

Do you maintain a safe space for working through emotions?

Grackles remind us to take stock of our feelings, and question whether or not those feeling are blinding us to truth. They point out areas where we may be pointlessly rehashing woes instead of acting on opportunities for resolution. They remind us to be brave and go after what we need, while maintaining a safe, home base to process.

Grackles emphasize the impact of our own choices on joyfulness–and those who may follow our lead. They encourage us to actively take care of ourselves while adapting to changing circumstance.

They remind us–okay, they remind ME–to look for the shine and cherish with gratitude all the beauty life holds.

Thank you, Grackles.

 Do you see Grackles?

Spirit Animals: Crows & Ravens

photo by nbphotogfy

photo by nbphotogfy

When a new animal totem shows up in your life, one of the best ways to understand their messages is to start is learning about that animal’s characteristics.

The Crow (and its close relative, the Raven–essentially a bigass crow) are among the most intelligent animals, not only able to use tools but construct them, or even use tools on tools! They show evidence of remembering things that have happened to them before. They have also demonstrated the ability to recognize faces, so if you think a particular crow knows you…well, there’s a good chance you’re right. They sometimes warn other birds of “bad humans” through loud shrieking or cawing.

Are you using your smarts and learning from past experience? Are you paying attention to warnings?

They nest up high, so they have a broad perspective of events. Their sight is keen, so they do not miss much.

Are you taking a long-range view of your situation? Are you seeing clearly?

Crows are highly adept communicators, known for complex vocalizations, sometimes in response to events in the environment. They have even been noted “talking” to other animals. As such, they are natural messengers. Odin’s Ravens brought him information from all over the worlds!

Are you communicating clearly? Are you paying attention to incoming information and messages from all sources?

Like most intelligent animals, they are quite playful.

Do you have enough fun?

Crows are extremely adaptable. Ironically, the “Scarecrow” seldom works to scare crows because they quickly see through the ruse.

Are you remaining flexible? Is anyone trying to fool you?

Crows and Ravens may team up with wolves, serving as a scout for prey in exchange for access to the leftovers. Crows in particular are extremely social, often banding together for safety or to achieve a goal.

Are you teaming up with others in mutually beneficial ways?

Consider what you’re thinking about, talking about or doing when the crow is showing up. Consider what’s commanding your attention and emotional energy. Often, the animal’s message will be related to what’s on your mind at the time. Pay attention to any symbolic gestures…what is the bird doing? Running around, flying away, cawing loudly?

Could the bird’s behavior be interpreted metaphorically?

This bird stars in many myths, very frequently associated with magic, transformation, death and the underworld. If you are exploring magic, going through a transitional or transformational period, developing psychic sight, communing with the dead or exploring your own shadow in some way, you may find the crow appearing in your life. You can honor the crow and get aquainted by learning about him, collecting representations of him, and if you don’t know what he’s trying to say, try asking! Because I hear, these crows are talkers.

Are you friends with the Crow or Raven?

Butterfly Signs: Figure it out.

20130716_100835I’m sitting outside visiting with my daughter. She points out the white butterfly.

“Yeah, I’ve been seeing a white butterfly every single time I come outside for a while now. If I’m outside five minutes, I see him.”

“Is it the same one?” she wants to know.

“Sometimes I see a few together, so I’m figuring not. Just every time I go outside, I see the same kind of tiny, white butterfly. So I kind of think of him as being the same one.”

“It’s a sign, Mom! It’s a sign! It’s a sign!” she chirps.

I’m amused without letting on–because there was a day she would have made fun of me for saying what she just said, even though she was maybe joking. Kind of, anyway. 60% joke, or maybe it’s 40% joke. 

“What do they mean?” she asks.

“I dunno.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?!? Look that shit up in a dream dictionary! It’s a sign, you need to find out what it means.”

“Butterflies have lots of meanings. Usually related to transformation. But I don’t know about white. Someone did tell me, sometimes it’s someone who’s passed.”

“It’s a sign, figure it out.” She must get her bossiness from her father.

I’m still seeing them. And no, I haven’t figured out what he’s trying to tell me. But I don’t mind all all. I enjoy seeing him. A friendly sign, for sure!

Do you get signs?

Squirrel Put in a Good Word for Me

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“Hey, Mister Squirrel. Make sure you let the Nature Spirits know, that I’ve been looking out for you and your friends, okay?” I asked politely.

I think it’s the least they could do, after they chewed through my hose snacking on the birds’ Sunflower seeds, and dug holes in some of my potted plans. The chow down daily on the fancy, fruit and nut bird seed, and never clean up after themselves. They kind of owe me, as they are not always polite guests! But I remain a good natured host.

Truth is, I have a soft spot for squirrels, even if they are occasionally obnoxious.

“And the fairies,” I added, on afterthought. I’ve heard, fairy-types can be cranky if you offend them. Don’t need any of that. Plus, I don’t know if they and the other Nature Spirits always get along. They may not be talking. Who knows? Maybe too many Divas or Diva-wannabes.

Well, he must have done what I asked. A couple days later, what did I find but a feather, inserted into a flower pot. The positioning struck me, like a little flag planted.

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And firmly planted it was! You can see how far down in the dirt it was by by comparing the photos. The dirt wasn’t in the least bit squishy. But there it was, planted in the Cockscomb pot, big as day.

It isn’t a perfect feather, but who am I to criticize? It’s better than I could produce. I still like it.

Maybe they’ll help my plants bloom, or keep those pesky bees and wasps that have been hanging about from stinging me. Maybe they’ll send special bird visitors. Or maybe, they just won’t let the squirrels act up quite so much any more! Wouldn’t that be ironic? Ha!

Anybody else talk to squirrels?

Speaking of Animal Messengers: Butterflies!

You know how I was talking about all the Cardinals? Well, there is another animal practically accosting me every time I step outside: butterflies!

And we’re not talking, “Shut your mouth, don’t you know it’s Spring, Dixie, you pink haired goof? numbers of butterflies. We’re talking, “What the Hell, is this a sign of the apocalypse?!?” swarms of butterflies. It’s been a near-constant stream. I haven’t tried to count them yet, but it’s a lot. I’ve had the standard butterflies flying by, but also butterflies brush up against my shoulder (tapping my shoulder?), butterflies land on my knee, butterflies flying in circles over my head, even a butterfly sit in my hair–and stay there! They are EVERYWHERE!

Sometimes, they slow down enough to let me take their picture. (Click an image for a better look.)

I think of butterflies as very Plutonian, for obvious reasons. It’s all about the transformation, baby! That’s the kind of symbolism I don’t have to look up.

Evidently, many cultures associate the butterfly with the soul. Greek myth represents Psyche (“Soul”) as a butterfly. We’re not talking surface level shifts with butterflies; more like DEEP, down-to-your-very-core sorts of changes. Maybe a little intimidating, but all in all, it’s a beautiful message to get.

I was contemplating this rush of birds and butterflies into my life when I hit a realization…my current card, from my “Living the Archetypes” exercise? Yeah. I’m on the Fool still.

And what do I do?

Let’s see. I sit outside in my Sacred Garden, surrounded by Morning Glories, birds and butterflies.

And this Fool card? He carries a staff of Morning Glories. On his right, a bird. On his left, a butterfly.

Whoa.

Um…I’m sure hoping that “alligator of the unconscious” in his path isn’t as dangerous as it looks…at least some of it’s showing already. So it won’t be a total shock when I…er, I mean, when HE steps on it.

Yeah. That.

And you may call that crazy, but I don’t. That’s what I call “living Tarot.” And you know what else? I like it!

Do butterflies come to visit you, too?

Cardinals: Yes, I see you!

Cardinal (575x426)So, I’m sitting out in the Sacred Garden, just soaking everything up. Listening to the trees, the leaves rustling in the wind. Do they have anything to say to me?

The birds have  been especially delightful since I’ve been putting out some birdseed magic for ’em, and my mind drifts, getting lost in nature’s whispers…

And then there are the Cardinals. I’ve have noticed so many cardinals lately. I mean, the odd Cardinal here or there doesn’t seem out of place, but I’ve never seen them like lately. And again, now. They watch me just as I watch them, eying me from a distance. Alone, quiet, just watching me.

Is that supposed to be a sign? What do Cardinals mean, anyway? I’m considering Googling it on my phone. But I don’t like to. It’s easier to do it inside, on the keyboard. Maybe I should just…

WHAP!! Jolted back into the now by the smacking noise directly in front of me,  accompanied by flapping wings.

Maybe four feet away, a very large, very ruby-red cardinal had hit and perched sideways on the fence. How did he keep from getting hurt, smacking into the fence?

He, whipped his head around, his huge, black eyes aimed directly and intense into mine. It was the same look a mother might give, had she caught you red-handed sneaking cookies out of the cookie jar before dinner.

Okay, okay! I see you, already!!

I acknowledged him. Just as suddenly and dramatically, he swooped down behind the fence amongst flapping wings and just…disappeared. There didn’t seem to be any place for him to fly off without me seeing him, yet he did.

Duly noted. Cardinals demand attention. If I’m going to be thick, they may get very loud!

So yeah. I looked up Cardinal symbolism.  Their name came from color matching the vestments worn by Roman Catholic Cardinals. Regal fellas! The brighter red ones are male, while the lighter colored, less distinctive birds are female.

As I’d expect with that deep red color, Cardinals are associated with energy and vitality. All that read makes me think Fire Element, so passion, creativity and energy would be part of the mix.

A few sources mentioned the Cardinal’s penchant for munching on decaying food and icky insects, which is a good reminder to pay attention to what one “eats,” either physically or energetically. Be kind to the body, be it the physical or the auric body, I guess.

20120526_170739 (423x575)Red is the color of life’s blood, love, and the heart. Follow your heart! Like Cardinal signs in astrology, Cardinals are known for taking charge and aggressively defend their territory. Cardinals initiate and set the tone. They are leaders. Be a leader.

Since Cardinal eggs hatch 12 days after they’re laid, they’re often said to reference cycles of 12 hours, days, months or whatever. Whatever it is, it’s coming. Maybe in a multiple of 12!

Still, I’m paying attention. I always try to pay attention. And a few days after? I spied this little cloth bag on the floor of my office, with what else? A bird appliqué.

I asked my husband about it, because I didn’t recognize the bag. It’s from a Christmas gift to him, a gift card from several years back.  But it had absolutely no business in the middle of the floor, other than to get my notice. I was amused.

Seems the birds are saying, “Hello!” Usually it’s just my cats or the squirrels that do that.

Do birds (or other animals) come to bring you messages?