Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rites of Passage


There are many opinions of Nature's way of being...many figure she is flawed: she is cruel, she is merciless, she is apathetic. Others see her as: perfective, benevolent, merciful, empathetic...

I see her as mysterious, energetic, transformative, volatile, harmonious, disruptive and always, always flowing. Heraclitus thought of her as the tension of opposites, and I believe this is so. Nature is yin and yang, not at all the same as the human preoccupation with good and evil, which hinges upon subjective judgmentalism. There is that which is edifying and that which is unedifying...that which is expedient and that which is not so, and then there is sheer expression which the human mind either accepts with a certain awe, or condemns as "that which ought not to be". It's my feeling that Nature deals in expediency, edification and sheer expression with no preoccupation with what "ought to be" or "what ought not to be". Besides human beings what other creature in the universe proclaims, "That ought not to be!" and so wages wars bent on complete annihilation of plants, animals, insects, germs and each other?

But wait...I want to speak of rites of passage.

In the opening photo of today's entry in the Journal of Ravenseyrie, you see me at the "Top of the World" spot at the edge of the bluff overlooking Lake Huron's North Channel. The pups and I frequently hike to this place to see the view from above. Sometimes I sit and contemplate topics which have preoccupied my mind, sometimes I bring a journal and write, other times I just go to repose and melt into the landscape (though for this magic to happen I find it is best to leave my chair and sit directly on the ground.) I think the dogs do some of these meditative things too as you can see in this photo:Ganja, enjoying a timeless moment at Ravenseyrie's "Top of the World" spot.

Rites of passage--certain observances and ceremonies undertaken at precise times to usher individuals into a new phase of their lives, do you think these are only human constructs?

Living here at Ravenseyrie, I have been swept into the many rites of passage which Nature engages in and for me they have as much ceremonial elements as do institutionalized traditions. I'd like to share a few with you.

We had a peculiar winter here on Manitoulin Island. After that first frightful mauling winter gave us last December, our weather was milder than usual and with much less snowfall than we typically receive. Lake Huron was not held hostage by ice until mid-January and already even though it is only March, it has begun the process of breaking up.
The view above
and the view below:

The Ravenseyrie beach area shows a mosaic of floating ice with open water further out. Looking to my right, I noted that a large mass of ice has jammed up against a portion of the shore to the east.
Spring break up of the lake is always an exciting rite of passage into the warmer seasons, and is a bit different each year depending on weather conditions. The process is initially gradual, with the sun and rain softening from above and the swelling and heaving of the water working from below. Sometimes there are moaning sounds and strange sensations of some slumbering creature beginning to awaken. Then the high winds come, violent cracking noises can be heard and pressure ridges explode, forming long narrow rivers of open water which abruptly break into large and small individual planes of ice that are moved by the wind and water and thrown into the shore with a grinding force that causes significant alteration of the beach, shifting around even huge boulders on a whim.
There are three phases typically in any rite of passage:
--separation
--transition
--re-integration

Something as seemingly common place as an apple falling from a tree demonstrates a rite of passage. Like the spring break up of Lake Huron, when an apple falls from the tree it's separation is abrupt and the process is violent. The apple falls, thudding resoundingly as it hits the ground. Bruised and perhaps even split open, the apple goes through a transition period, losing its integrity as a solid orb which once dangled among the family of other apples and leaves and branches--now it exposes its inner fragrance, auto-macerating, enticing itself to be eaten by some passing animal. Later its seeds are consumed, carried further afield, expelled, covered by debris and await germination, after which they reach tentative tendrils upward, re-integrating with growing kingdom once more, though not as fruit this time, but as the tree itself.
Kevin with a Ravenseyrie apple tree in 2008



"But...oh, dear Altamrio, she is only ten months old!"

We are very pleased that Altamiro has grown into such a fine stallion with incredible expressions of instinctual protocol. We were very impressed at his innate wisdom when last year he banished his colts Animado and Interessado from the family band once his new foals began to arrive. Later, as well, when he made no attempt to hold Fada back when she determined for herself that she wanted to leave we applauded Altamiro's fantastic fatherly qualities...but we did not expect this past Sunday that he would expel his 2009 filly, Encantara, on the very day that Bella (who is not Encantara's dam) delivered her new foal!

We remain pleased, yes, with our stallion's sense of duty, but it was difficult to see Encantara thrust so early into a forced change of circumstances...

Here again, we have Nature showing us a ceremonial rite of passage, replete with violent abruptness to facilitate separation, with a period of transition, followed by re-integration.

Would you like to see how Encantara's rite of passage transpired, effectively putting her life as a nursing foal behind her and presenting her to the world as weanling and soon to be yearling?

When Kevin and I were heading out with our food laden toboggans to the far northwest sector where the family band was absorbed with the excitement of Bella's new foal, we could see and hear Encantara calling from the edge of the central wooded copse. After taking care of the family band, we immediately set about making Encantara as comfortable as we could.
I dropped off her pan of oats and cubes, while Kevin took the toboggans back to the house, promising to return with hay. While Encantara was eating her breakfast, I checked her over for injuries and found two places where Altamiro felt it necessary to use harsh means to impress upon his filly that she would do well to leave the family band. She has one bite mark on her abdomen and one on her thigh, neither of which required any doctoring:



Kevin, true to his word, came back with hay. And, can you see in the photo who has appraised the situation and come to lend his own brand of support to the displaced filly?
Uncle Jerry first checked out to see if there were any goodies left in Encantara's pan and then settled in to graze while she ate her hay:
Soon, she left her hay and went over to graze aside Uncle Jerry:
After an hour or so of grazing together, it was time for a nap:
Thanks to the thoughtful care-taking of Uncle Jerry, I was free now to take the dogs for their usual morning hike. When we returned, (I didn't have my camera with me), Doll, one of the molly draft mules, had joined Jerry and Encantara. Encantara was laying flat out now, napping and processing on a subliminal level the unusual events of the morning. I made lunch and Kevin and I watched from the kitchen table as first Jerry decided to wander over to the east sector where Mistral's group was grazing, and later was joined by Doll. Before she left, Doll prodded Encantara with her muzzle, "Get up, kid, we're leaving now." Encantara's answer was to raise her head and sleepily look at Doll briefly, then she flopped her head back to the ground and resumed her nap. "Suit yourself!" Doll's expression seemed to say, and in no time she too wandered off to the east.

When Encantara arose from her nap (imagine how tired she must have been!), she looked longingly off to the northwest where the family band was, and she looked off to the east where Mistral's group were now filtering further east to slack thirsts from the creek. I thought she would maybe join them, but instead she quietly went back to work on her left-over breakfast hay, only briefly, for soon she was ambling up to the house. I went out and gave her a few more alfalfa cubes. She ate these and then wandered while grazing off to the southwest, until finally she slipped into the woods.

Having a feeling that she was planning to clandestinely work her way northward to slip back into the family band, I wanted to be on hand for what might transpire. I was just in time to catch a bit of how things went for her on video:
video

Encantara was damp from running, but not breathing too heavily and had no new wounds, only a few burrs catching a ride on her fur. She looked back to where her mother, Belina, and the rest of the family band remained, watching her even as she was watching them:
I heard a whinny from the Cedar trees and zoomed in to see if it was Belina calling for her. I was surprised that it appeared to be Ciente who was calling, while the others were already moving on to other things:
"C'mon, Encantara, it's time to go," I said. She paused for a minute or so, lost in thought:
Soon she decided to follow me back to the house, where I assured her we could convince Kevin to bring us some afternoon cookies:
Along the way, Encantara appeared to want to take a shortcut through a small copse of Cedar trees:
It was a good idea, saving us from having to walk all around this copse. But I misread what Encantara was doing...what she actually wanted was a drink of water, and she knew there was maybe some standing water in this copse. And there was:
While Encantara was drinking, I weaved through the copse and waited for her on the other side so we could resume our walk together back to the house:

video
Once back by the house, I called to Kevin, who was busy organizing his workshop attached to the sorry, shabby structure we have been using as a garden shed and feed room. Kevin brought out some hay cubes for Encantara to munch on and took some photos while I gave her a little grooming:


Kevin thought I should look at the camera and give you all a smile, so I did:
After this attention from her human friends, Encantara went off to the knoll at the edge of the "barnyard" where Kevin had put some more hay out for her. While she ate her hay, I laid down nearby and let the sun lull me into a very peaceful state of bliss, so peaceful that I fell asleep! I awoke to the sound of Kevin's voice. Encantara was gone and Kevin hadn't noticed which direction she had taken leave to. After scanning the landscape, we finally could see that she was grazing among the Trembling Aspen trees on the south fence line. She remained there by herself until that early evening.

While we were having our dinner, we could see Encantara crossing over to the far east where Mistral's group was grazing. Soon she was among them! There was much excitement, but no hazing and within fifteen minutes or so, they were all grazing again...little Encantara had been officially accepted into Mistral's group. What a brave and decisive filly. I felt so proud of her!

Separation. Transition. Re-integration.

Abruptness, violence, sense of loss, disorientation, acceptance of the situation, awareness of change, a seeking of new horizons, finding a place to belong--these were all part of Encantara's rite of passage, and all in one day!

It may not have been necessary for Kevin and I to dote upon this young filly to help ease the transition she was forced into experiencing, but it felt good to us to be able to support her and it provided us with a greater appreciation for the ways of Nature.

To so violently and abruptly force the separation between mother and child seems at first to our human oriented senses to be a cruel thing...and yet, neither Belina or Encantara have been crying for each other, and both have smoothly transitioned into new phases of their lives, almost effortlessly. I cannot call it cruel, I must embrace it as a beautiful rite of passage, which is easy to do seeing how readily a part of Mistral's herd Encantara is. I feel honored to have been able to participate in it!


Encantara shares breakfast oats and morning hay with Mistral's group.

Encantara's dam,Belina is likely pleased to have a month off of nursing a foal at her side, while she prepares to deliver her new foal in late April. She appears in good spirits, robust health, and very appreciative of me helping her itch away some of the winter coat she is shedding.
Belina, moves in to push Zorita over to a different pile of hay.

Altamiro with Silvestre...is he perhaps the next to be weaned by his father?

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Frisky Filly!

Finally, this day old frisky foal takes a well deserved nap

Readers might remember that here at Ravenseyrie we have been awaiting the birth of Bella's second foal. By my records, the last heat cycle she experienced (and had been well serviced by Altamiro) indicated that she should be looking to empty her womb sometime after the middle of March. The timing of Nature and Bella decided this event should occur during the predawn hours of yesterday.

It occurs to me, to pause here for a commentary on how much money some individuals feel is necessary to spend on veterinary palpation of the ovaries, blood testing to assure no infections are out and about, ultrasounds, etc. in order to feel assured that their mares are ready to be bred and that the mare has indeed been settled and in foal. All of this is very good business for the veterinary clinics, but for those who live with horses, such scientific proofs are unnecessary. Companionable relations, keen observation, simple record keeping seems to give as much information about the mare and fetus' state of being and impending delivery of the foal as do the more elaborate, costly veterinary procedures. I daresay an experienced veterinarian would not have been any closer in a prediction of delivery than we here at Ravenseyrie have been, and instead of having to spend more time working in order to afford such veterinary expertise, we've been able to enjoy mingling with horses in a wilderness landscape which has the added benefit of feeding our spirits even as it lays no extra burden on our finances.

Six year old Bella is a registered Spanish Mustang mare of moderate Sorraia phenotype. In addition to their primitive grulla colouring, Sorraia horses have long, lean musculature, fine-but strong-limbs, and convex profiles. Bella tends to be of overall compact and rounder build, slightly heavier boned and of straighter profile. Nevertheless, Animado, her first foal (which was, in fact, the very first foal born on the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve) is of excellent Sorraia type, demonstrating that the crossing of a purebred Iberian Sorraia with a Sorraia type Mustang further consolidates the primitive features of Ebhardt's Form III ancestral equine of which is so evident in the Sorraia horses.

Animado was born in April of 2008. In the summer, Altamiro once again settled Bella with a foal, but in October of of 2008, Bella came into a brief heat, alerting us to the fact that she had either absorbed or aborted her unborn fetus. It seems Nature determined that Bella should skip a year and there would be no foal from her in 2009, something which we embraced as meaningful and right. Having been settled by Altamiro last spring, it was obvious, however, that Bella was carrying to term this time around and we began to anticipate when she would actually deliver.

Two weeks ago, Bella began to seem more inward, more contemplative and would often take a nap before having completely finished her morning hay.

Last week, I noted a change in her udder. It was showing indications of "bagging up" and "waxing", as you can see in this photo:


Whenever I know that one of our mares is pregnant, I begin to expand the sensation of nurturing love and admiration I have for the mare to include the unborn fetus. Many indigenous cultures and even a few scientists are convinced that the unborn fetus has an awareness which is influenced by the events, perceptions and sensations that occur during the period the fetus is in utero. After seeing the changes in Bella's udder, I spent even more one on one time with her, letting her know how much we appreciated her and the contributions she is making to the future of ancestral horses. And, I must admit, I was also getting a little carried away with attempting to sense every alteration in Bella's body which would forecast when the birth would come. If you followed the above link sharing Animado's birth story, you'll know how lucky I was to be a part of it, and can perhaps understand how much I was hoping to be there for this birth, too. This was not to be, but as Kevin and I peered through our field glasses yesterday morning and saw a light-coloured diminutive form skittering aside Bella out in the northwest sector, our delight was just as effusive as it is every time a foal is born at Ravenseyrie.

Altamiro was keeping his family band out in this northern area of the property, but Mistral's group was waiting by the house as usual for their breakfast oats. We fed them first, and then hauled one toboggan of hay and one toboggan of oats & alfalfa cubes out to the family band...even though our snow has been gone for some time now. Everyone in Altamiro's group was pleased we made this effort so that they didn't miss out on breakfast after all, and it gave Kevin and I the perfect opportunity to introduce ourselves to the newcomer.

Early on, this foal raised its tail allowing us to see #1. she is a filly and #2. she has definitely had a bowel movement.
A foal's first bowel movement seems to be something that domestic bred horses sometimes have difficulty with and so my copy of The Complete Book of Foaling lists a compulsory enema among its list of three basic tasks humans must do for foals once they are born. In addition to an enema, the foal is supposed to have its umbilical stump treated with iodine and also be administered a tetanus shot. Of course we do not impose these "basic tasks" on the foals born here on the open range, but we do make ourselves aware of possible troubles that might arise and monitor the newborn foals carefully but in a non-intrusive way.

While Bella was eating her breakfast, her filly came up and attempted to suckle my skirt and when I reached out to stroke her for the first time, she began licking my fingers.
Note how wrinkled and compressed this filly's face still is! Animado's face looked concave and wrinkled too when he was a newbie, but in time, his profile took on the convex structure of the Sorraia.

I was surprised, since she already seemed to be several hours old and not in need of needing help to find the right source of sustenance. In a few minutes, she was no longer seeing if I might have milk for her too, she went back to Bella for this instead.

Tonight, when I went out to visit with Altamiro's family, this filly again came up to me, nuzzled me all over and compared the taste of a human hand to that of a mare's udder. I was able to capture it with a brief video clip:
video

I also have some video clips which I took yesterday. The first one is during an afternoon visit where I did not attempt to inject myself into the herd, but, instead remained an observer on the fringe. In this video clip, Bella carefully shields her newborn filly from the curiosity of Silvestre and Segura.
video

The following footage was taken during last night's evening feeding of hay, during which time Bella's filly was completely energized and exploring the feeling of freedom and lively movement that the equine body is capable of once freed from the womb. I've seen all Altamiro's foals exhibit this type of lively frolicking on the first day of their birth, but whenever I visited Bella's filly she was engaged in these amazing circular capricious cavortings, on and on and on! Such is the stamina of the Sorraia! Methinks that her name will reflect her very curious nature as well as her amazing delight in physical movement. How often do domestic born foals wind up being kept in a foaling stall for several days prior to being turned out into a larger space where they are able to experience such delight in the use of their outside-the-womb bodies? After just a few hours, these Sorraias have already danced the Ravenseyrie landscape!

video

The "foal coat" of this new filly has totally obscured whatever shading and striping she may possess. Her four black hooves indicate there is no white on her limbs, but you can see that the typical dark lower limbs and leg barring is for now, hidden under the dense layer of baby fur:

This filly has a few, rather insignificant wispy white hairs on her forehead:
Bella's filly will have a good offering of bi-colouring in her mane, which presently is adorably tossed in no coherent fashion:
Her tail exhibits the same bi-colouring and devil may care attitude only foals possess:

On my walk back from visiting with Altamiro's family yesterday afternoon, it was sheer luck (some might say goulish misfortune) that I came upon Bella's expelled after birth:
And also the umbilical cord:
But let's not keep these exposed biological images too fresh in your mind. Instead, we will offer some more photos of Bella and her new filly:


And to close, I will offer a photo of Bella just a few days before. The filly you see on the other side of Bella is Encantara. Ten month old Encantara had a very big day yesterday too, as it was the day that her father, Altamiro, expelled her from the family band! Encantara's story will be the subject of tomorrow's journal entry.
Until then, for those readers who are maybe having a difficult time rejoicing in the birth of another horse during a period of time when there appears to be an epidemic of unwanted horses in North America, I'd like to remind you that there are roughly only 200 purebred Sorraia horses left in the world and less than that number of the Sorraia type mustang! These horses are genetic repositories of a prehistoric ancestral equine similar to the Tarpan. Preserving these horses requires that some breeding takes place, and this crossing of purebred Sorraia with Sorraia Mustang is being undertaken at this time nowhere else on planet earth. A vital aspect of equine biodiversity absolutely benefits from the way of life these horses experience here at Ravenseyrie, which includes allowing them to procreate according to the rhythms of nature. If you want to take a closer look at what the real source of unwanted horses is, please go to the website of the Unwanted Horse Coalition and download their pdf file of a survey they did of unwanted horses in 2009. On page 16 of this document you will notice that the top two categories of unwanted horses are #1 Quarter Horses (31%) and Thoroughbreds (12%). Sorraia horses are not on this survey but North American Mustang horses are--they come in at the very bottom of the list at just 1%.

I want all my readers to know that not a one of Altamiro's colts or fillies are "unwanted"...and if they should never be sold or adopted to other humans, they will have a home here at Ravenseyrie, though drastic measure would need to be implemented to make it possible. But I feel that most (if not all) of these Iberian beauties will come to live elsewhere and flourish...its just a matter of time and finding the right people who will want to enhance their lives with the friendship, companionship and unique potential these equines offer.



video
On rare special occasions I will pack my pockets with "cookies" (compressed alfalfa cubes). Bella, of course received the lions share of cookies as congratulations on the birth of her filly. But each of the other horses got a few as well, and of course the herd stallion, Altamiro deserved congratulations too. In this video clip Altamiro and Segura come up to see if maybe I have any more of those cookies left to distribute...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jerry and the Animistic Lightness of Being


After my last rather heavy journal entry, I thought it would be appropriate to offer up some lighter fare this day.

One of the best ways to be lifted out of gloomy negativity is to hang out with Jerry.


Come with me, for a little interaction with this magnificent draft mule, won't you?

Along the way, let's think a little about how alive the world is and how meaningful it is to engage with all of it in a way that reflects our awareness that each entity we encounter (whether mule, or wind, or bulb of garlic) vibrates with what Goethe called "exact sensorial imagination". How thankful I am for this wondrous aliveness of all things!

"Appreciation is the sunlight of love that makes relationships grow and bear fruit. It is the sunlight that can awaken the seed of greatness in another. And it must be admitted that only great individuals can have great relationships. The future of society, if there is a future, will have to be built upon great friendships--friendships between men and men, women and women, men and women, adults and children, of civilized man with the so-called uncivilized, of the privileged with the underprivileged and of people with animals of all kinds." --J. Allen Boone, from ADVENTURES IN KINSHIP WITH ALL LIFE, pg. 27


My friend, Jerry, was born to a Belgian draft mare and fathered by a Mammoth Jack. Jerry, came into our lives, along with his pasture mates, Dee and Doll (also draft mules) in the autumn of 2001. Their former people were moving to the city and knowing Kevin and I already lived with mules on a nice farm (we were still in Michigan at that time) they asked if we would give them a home. Dee, Doll and Jerry were long time companions and their former people did not want them to be split up. We were not looking to expand our equid family further, but in the end, we decided to make room in our hearts for these fine mules even so.

After we moved to Manitoulin Island and established our Sorraia Mustang Preserve, Hardy Oelke (an ardent advocate for the preservation of Sorraias and Sorraia Mustangs) initially encouraged us to create separate environments so that the domestic horses and mules did not mingle with the primitive group of grullas. Both Kevin and I felt differently, however...we desired all our equine friends to have free range over the entire Ravenseyrie landscape. I'm very glad that we allowed this because it provided Jerry (who is in his late teens) with a very stimulating environment in which to fully express his playful qualities and gave us reason to admire him even more than we already did.

Jerry will play with everyone, no matter how old or young, and he is very careful to tailor his games to reflect the age, size and skill of his gaming partner. This is a marvelous re-channeling of Jerry's energies--you see he used to terrorize calves on our old farm, and even attacked Altamiro when we tried to integrate him into the herd as a yearling stud colt. At some point it seems Jerry came to realize that Altamiro and the mares were part of something very special and if he wanted to be a part of it too, he'd better find a different way into a closer connection with them. All by himself, he gave up his thug-like tendencies and created a new persona-- "Uncle Jerry" is a name he now wears proudly.

The half-Sorraia foals, Encantara and Silvestre spend a little time with Uncle Jerry (with Doll in the foreground.)

Past journal entries show Jerry at play with Altamiro and also with Animado.

Earlier this month I was present for a rare instance where Altamiro allowed Silvestre and Encantara to spend a few minutes with Uncle Jerry. Would you like to see how Jerry and Silvestre engaged in their first tentative game? Please enjoy the video clip below:


video

The games Jerry plays with Silvestre's older brother, Animado and with their father are much more intense...and in time, especially when Silvestre is banished from the family band by Altamiro later this year, he and Jerry will have many more opportunities to develop greater strength and vigor in their game playing.

I went through some older photos in which Jerry appears, and thought I'd share some of them with you.

Isn't this landscape fabulously beautiful and surreal? Jerry, Dee and Doll enjoy the cool breeze coming off Lake Huron on a gorgeous summer day in 2008.

Jerry splashing in the "tide pool" down at the beach in the summer of 2008. Look how big he looks compared to Belina and wee Fada!


Looking magnificent even though covered in clay mud, Jerry of Ravenseyrie, surveys his private beach.

A favorite photo! Taken while I was sitting on top of Jerry (completely at liberty) giving mounted itches.

Jerry, all "fat and shiny" as my friend Jean, once said.

I have been lately peeling what's left of last year's garlic harvest so that we can mince it and dehydrate it before it sprouts. I like to do this outside, so the wind whisks away all the papery layers, keeping me from making a complete mess of our small house. One day I was sitting out on Kevin's stack of barn beams when Jerry noticed me and decided to come investigate.
Can you feel the "heart connection" present? It's far more potent than treats or a halter and lead for bringing together horses (mule) and humans.


"Still, there is a great power in the world around us. It has not disappeared just because we no longer notice it. Redeveloping the capacity for heart-centered cognition can help each of us reclaim personal perception of the living and sacred intelligence within the world, within each particular thing. It moves us from a rational orientation in a dead, mechanized universe to one in which the unique perceptions of the heart are noticed and strengthened, to a deep experience of the living soulfulness of the world."--Stephen Harrod Buhner, from THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF PLANTS / In the Direct Perception of Nature, pg. 21


This past Sunday, I was once again outside peeling garlic, sitting this time in the yard, with the house at my back sheltering me from what was on that particular day a rather cold March wind. In the lee side of the house, with the sun warming me nicely, I was able to watch Mistral and his group grazing off to the east and also enjoy the vision of Altamiro and his family band off to the northwest. During this very pleasant time of day, Jerry came up once again to see what I was so absorbed in. It pays to keep one's camera handy, and I'm glad I had hung mine off the back of my chair, because Jerry looked so handsome standing there watching me at work:
Unable to disrupt my work by putting his nose into the middle of the garlic basket this time however, Jerry took to making himself look as goofy as possible. The more I laughed at his faces and took rapid fire photos, the more he posed in outrageous ways.
What a clown, eh?!

"Our most immediate experience of things, according to Merleau-Ponty, is necessarily an experience of reciprocal encounter--of tension, communication, and commingling. From within the depths of this encounter, we know the thing or phenomenon only as our interlocutor--as a dynamic presence that confronts us and draws us into relation. We conceptually immobilize or objectify the phenomenon only by mentally absenting ourselves from this relation, by forgetting or repressing our sensuous involvement. To define another being as an inert or passive object is to deny its ability to actively engage us and to provoke our senses; we thus block our perceptual reciprocity with that being. By linguistically defining the surrounding world as a determinate set of objects, we cut our conscious, speaking selves off from the spontaneous life of our sensing bodies.

"If, on the other hand, we wish to describe a particular phenomenon without repressing our direct experience, then we cannot avoid speaking of the phenomenon as an active, animate entity with which we find ourselves engaged. It is for this reason that Merleau-Ponty so consistently uses the active voice to describe things, qualities, and even the enveloping world itself. To the sensing body, no thing presents itself as utterly passive or inert. Only by affirming the animateness of perceived things do we allow our words to emerge directly from the depths of our ongoing reciprocity with the world."--David Abrams, from THE SPELL OF THE SENSUOUS/Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human-World, pg. 56

Why did we ever decide as humans to accept an unconscious world and shut off our perception of our rich heritage of unity? How much more meaningful is this world when all things are perceived as alive and in communication with us! What an exquisite lightness of being we experience in this animistic realm! This is our true heritage, not lost to us, rather, waiting for us to embrace once again. All we need do is set aside those cultured shapings we grew up with which told us animals and plants and the elements were not conscious beings. We are not separate from all that is, but are intricately experiencing all that is, even as all that is is intricately experiencing us. As you've now seen for yourself, Jerry is a good reminder of this. Thank you, Jerry for lifting us up with your playfulness and light-hearted way of being.