— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
It is late February. It is cold and blizzarding. Will someone please explain to me why Teton Totem decided to rouse himself now, of all times? I rush to the store to get dark lettuce for him. That is close to what they will eat in the wild to ease their stomach into the world of food again. He is interested.
It is a bit of a break not to have to care for five bears for several months. But we do miss them. And on the very, very plus side… he survived the winter! It is a worry for me each year. I just can’t believe they can disappear like that (he went to bed in early November), not eat, not drink, and come out alive. It isn’t possible. But it happens.
There is the extra worry that he is getting on in years. He is 20 now. But he is looking fine…
Foxie Moxie and An Egg
I told one of our new animal caretakers, Garrett, that the foxes liked eggs, and that he should take some from our chickens, who donate their efforts to the animals on a regular basis.* He asked if he needed to crack it open for them. He was being really considerate of the foxes, which is lovely, but I started laughing. No. Not needed. Or desired.
Foxie Moxie, for example, will take the entire large egg in her delicate fox mouth and race around interminably, unable to let it go and crack it open. She needs to hold on to the treasure. It is HERS. (A bit like a monkey with his hand in a jar, making a fist around a treat and not able to let go of it to draw his hand out). We don’t want to take the pleasure of racing around away from her.
Eventually, one greed (hanging on to it and the hardship in general of letting go) succumbs to another greed (eating it) and she will gently put it down and crack it open just a bit with her sharp teeth. Then she will begin licking the white that leaks out. She makes a whole lot of noise if anyone approaches anywhere near her. The entire thing is a lengthy and intense process. For goodness sake, don’t crack it for her!!!
Wild animals rarely need help figuring things out. If they weren’t really smart and adaptable and creative, they would never make it out there. But to be fair to our new help, all these years later, I am still learning their capacities and underestimating them, to my delight and/or surprised inconvenience.
* When I say donate their effort, have you ever watched a chicken lay an egg? It is an enormous production. Think of the size of the egg relative to the size of the hen. It is really quite a gift.
lt is snowing again. So beautiful. So lovely. The air is filled with tiny blowing flakes. Then it changes and huge flakes gently drift down from the sky. The wind comes up and for a few minutes, the snow is a driving force hurtling through the air. The wind relents and everything is outlined in blasted white, every tree and bush stunning in their newly accented shapes. It is hard not to think of nature as an artist with an ever-changing palette and endless resources. Perhaps it is, and we are created to appreciate it. I met a man once, years ago, who had fallen in love with the sky. He had been lying on his back, watching clouds drift in the ever-changing light, and he fell in love. He devoted the rest of his life to sky awareness, teaching classes and sharing the beauty he had found. I asked him to teach a class at the nature center where I was working. It has stayed with me these decades later. Because of him, I take increased joy in the endless parade of clouds and shapes and lighting and blues and whites and grays and sunrise and sunsets—all there for us to enjoy, get peace from, any time, for free, anywhere. He helped me focus on the sky. None of us can focus on everything, and each part of nature needs its advocate to help us increase our awareness and appreciation. Any of us can do this with whatever has spoken to us.
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.