How to Truly Hear Animals: An Interview with Jean Simpson

Two brown and white spotted eggs sitting in rocks, grass, and leaves

Jean sensed something was wrong. He was using the backhoe to dig a pond for our new beaver rehabilitation project. He noticed two killdeer running on the ground and fluttering their wings as if wounded, trying to attract his attention. He suddenly realized, “There’s a nest somewhere here!” They were trying to lure him away with the promise of themselves as prey. He was digging for a good cause—to save beaver. But apparently the birds had decided this is where they were going to have their family. He stopped the backhoe and got out to look for the nest. The ground was all rocks and killdeer eggs are perfectly camouflaged for that setting. He could look for a long time and not see them. “So I sat down on the bank and I tried to locate where they laid their egg and so I could start excavating. I listened, felt for energy. The energy of life inside an egg. The energy of creation. In that space and time something was being created. Energy in the process of becoming bird.”

He sat for a few minutes and began to sense the general direction of the source. He walked towards it and when he was close enough, it said, “Right here.” There was an egg, lying indistinguishable among small egg-sized rocks. He put a few more rocks around it to mark the spot so he wouldn’t accidentally run over them, and continued excavating. He told me about it and I was worried the nest was too close to that big noisy backhoe. It was a difficult choice—if we move the egg, will the mother come back? If we don’t move it, will she come back? We relocated the egg several feet back, not so far that she would miss it—we hoped. When he came the next day and looked for the egg, there were two. But as he started on the backhoe work again, he said, “There was a female bird three feet away from the nest area just staring at me. I felt despair from her. She wasn’t trying to look wounded—just despair. I felt so horrible. I just destroyed a possible family. That year’s hope. I finished what I needed to do but never saw the parents again.”

Killdeer in the grass
Killdeer | Jacob W. Frank (NPS)

The hopeful news: last year, we had a killdeer couple and four offspring on our property. We hope, since she had laid only two, that she found another place to lay more eggs.

How to Truly Hear Animals

Jean mentally calling to Nightstar the wolf | Earthfire

This story made me think of two things. First, during building projects, we as humans are often unaware of potential tragedies we are causing. How important it is to tune in to the life around us and care. Jean told of another time there was a flood and he sensed a faint cry for help. He wasn’t sure who it was or where it was coming from. He was not in a position to be able to help. But what if he is right and we can hear those things if we tune in? How tragic that we are causing suffering and don’t even know. Or how beautiful that we can tune to it and help. How rich to take more care in our activities. How rich to come from a place of love and to feel the urge to protect!

The other thing I thought was how do we develop the ability to truly hear animals? Michael, project manager for the beaver, was fascinated by the story of the eggs, and decided to interview Jean. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

Michael: How did you get that way?

Jean: It is easy is for me to feel that way. It is hard for many people but everyone has it. Just sit down and listen. If they can discuss what’s in them they could get that feeling again. There are places where people live—in Africa, in South America—where they have to think that way because is only way they can survive—by a feeling from your gut, from instinct. Not by what was told to you. You listen to what’s around you. The animals. What’s alive. We all have that capacity to listen to the energy around us, whether good or bad. In the case of the killdeer, it was creation. And I wanted to know where it was at. I was going to destroy their home.

Michael: When did you start this ability?

Jean: I think I always had it but didn’t realize it. When I was nineteen I moved to the United States near Vernal, Utah, where there was no one around for 100 miles. I had to feel what was important around me. Like an animal, I had to feel what was dangerous and what was not. So I became an animal. I got used to working from feeling; walking at night, not seeing what’s in front but feeling what’s in front of me: danger, peace. Mostly danger. Eventually, walking at night was like walking in the day. I could sense energies in front of me, behind me, left and right. It was scary at first. Sometimes it’s still scary now.

Jean with Windwalker the cougar | Earthfire

Michael: How did this change you?

Jean: You can feel beauty. Today, several ravens stopped and looked at me. They said in effect, “Wow, we don’t have to run! This is a safe place.” This happens often. You start living with what is around you as opposed to what is pushed into you or projected onto you. Then it happens. I was riding my horse in the woods and suddenly felt an anger or an agitation. I knew something was going to happen. Suddenly a bull moose and five cows and calves burst out of the woods, bellowing, in front of me and scared my horse. It taught me things I didn’t think I was capable of as a human. I didn’t realize I had it. It never came across my mind.

Michael: How can people learn this?

Jean: People need to be guided. For example, today there is the beauty of having rain fall on me. There is nothing boring in nature. It’s raining on me, I’m wet, I’m feeling it, it’s what the animals endure. We’re not protected. We’re feeling everything that is from nature. So from nature listen to what’s around you. Your own sense. Your feelings. Getting cold—ok, so it’s cold. I’m feeling. It’s life—enjoy it. Enjoy living.

Michael: Do the feelings stay, or are they just fleeting, come and go?

Jean: I think it’s the love you give back to the environment. You enjoy. Then you can see plants grow, see animals come to that area. With persons, animal, trees, earth, if you have that connection, it will come back to you—and if you receive it, you can multiply it. Help a piece of land live what it’s made to live for. Or with a person, what they’re meant to live for.

Michael: What do you feel after you make a connection?

Jean: Totally fulfilled. And whatever I connect to is also that way.

Jean communing with the wolves Kenai and Tanaka | Earthfire

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