— by Deb Matlock, M.A. —
At Earthfire Institute, the powerful idea of starting a conversation, any conversation, as a way to explore how to best live on this earth is rooted in every offering…from retreats to presentations to blogs like this one. In fact, Conservation Conversations, gatherings of change makers for the purpose of discussing some of the most challenging conservation issues, are at the core of Earthfire’s mission. Also though, at Earthfire, the concept is taken one step farther than is often the case. The voices of wild animals are considered a valued and critical part of the discussion…ones that are often left out or dismissed in common human communications.
Including wild voices
While including the voices of wild animals is in some ways a very ancient and well-honored custom, it is also considered on the fringe of modern, western thought and process. The very idea can be met with awe and wonder or disdain and skepticism all at once. I have often wondered why the idea of communicating with other animals can seem so strange to some and yet, so natural to others. Perhaps this tension arises from that fact that we depend on animals to sustain us via their flesh, skin, milk and bones and also to be our companions, sources of inspiration and connection to a wildness with which we may have lost touch. This is a challenging dichotomy. What does it mean to include the voices of animals? What does this look like? How do people do it? There are as many answers to this question as there are individuals, human and non-human alike, living on this planet.
Ways of communicating with animals
Some people converse with animals via physical gestures and body signals, others use telepathic imagery, while others might use shamanic journeys and the like. Some people feel that they can understand the voices of domesticated animals, but perhaps not those out in the wild. Some of us work with animals day in and day out in such close proximity that there is barely space to consider that we might not be communicating with them. Some feel that by simply being fellow living beings on this earth, we inherently understand the experience and plight of others. This list could go on and on…
Thinking about including the voices of animals in our conversations brings up some questions for me. What does including the voices of animals mean to us as a species? What might it look like to integrate the voices of other animals into our decisions? We would love to hear other’s stories and thoughts.