Animal Guides

Mourning Dove in the Dark

Mourning Dove in the Light, Cliffs of Lima, Peru

Mourning Dove in the Light, Cliffs of Lima, Peru

It had been a day of syncronicities and usually when more than one occurs, there's a strong message there for me. This was one of those days. That morning my hibiscus plant had brought forth a beautiful flower bloom despite it being late autumn. The rich, orange color made me feel gratitude especially amidst the many gray days we had seen as winter approached. It had been a great start to the day for me. Later while driving home, I had also seen a Buck in the distance frantically searching for a safe place amidst the traffic and chaos of the road. His appearance, once again, a special symbolic moment.

That evening I had walked with my dogs amidst a starlit night sky. Despite the cold and darkness, I was determined to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise after a long day of work adjusting to a new environment that had drained me energetically. I could clearly see the Pleiades, as well as Jupiter and Venus that had paired in a recent conjunction. The two planets were still close to each other shining brightly. Somehow it all felt magical as I thought I might even see a falling star that night. Something felt like it was in the air.

I had recently had a vivid dream in which I was sitting beneath a star filled night sky where many meteor showers were displayed. The stars kept falling from the sky. In that same dream, a flock of Falcons also appeared during the night. The symbolism of the contradiction still eluded me since Falcons do not fly in flocks nor do they appear at night. They are day birds of prey. I felt the dream was perhaps a premonition of powerful energies descending upon the Earth, though the symbolism could be viewed in many ways. As time passes, I usually understand the metaphors. As always, I just needed to be patient until the symbolism revealed itself in my life.

Source: Sheila Sellers Images

Source: Sheila Sellers Images

This night I was to once again, have a day bird appear to me in the night. This time it was in the real world and not in my dreams. As my dogs and I continued walking, I suddenly stopped and looked down on the ground with my flashlight and there was a Mourning Dove sitting motionless in the dark on the asphalt paved path away from any protective trees or shrubs. I shined my flashlight on her for quite a while so surprised to see her. I thought she must be injured because this was highly unusual behavior. As I began to take off my gloves, she must have sensed I was about to pick her up and she suddenly flew away. The moment left me in awe with such a feeling of mysticism. This songbird who usually seeks shelter away from predators, had caught my attention underneath the stars.

I went home and continued reading Sue Monk Kidd's book When the Heart Waits wherein she discusses a spiritual turning point in her life and how sometimes you just have to be with your question, until the answer arrives. This advice had struck a chord with me due to the many unanswered questions currently in this world and in my own life. The words felt like very wise advice and they gave me peace as they resonated with my own inner knowing that all was well despite what things may seem in this moment. 

Source: Nancy Barrett Photography

Source: Nancy Barrett Photography

Mourning Doves have been very significant in my life. Their soft, peaceful cooing sound has always been soothing to me. They have usually been guideposts that something significant is about to happen. They have come to symbolize transition and new experiences for me. Many years ago while my son was very young, a Mourning Dove hit my windshield on the way to meet a client to consecrate the building of their new home on Seneca land. I will never forget that moment as the Dove died on impact. I was devastated and unnerved as I continued driving to what would be a challenging ceremony. At the same time I also knew that animals often transition to spirit to be your ally. I had been told by a Native American teacher that in her tribal beliefs, it is called "a giveaway". Not surprisingly that day was to be a turning point in my career as I began focusing on ceremonial shamanic work clearing memories and healing the homes and land of clients.

Sometimes it is in their passing that these doves have crossed my path, but never have they appeared at night time. Throughout the years Mourning Dove has appeared on special occasions when changes were occurring in my life, but usually it was just feathers scattered near my bird feeder and once, an injured dove whose wounds were too severe that I could not save. During the beginning of my pilgrimage throughout southern Peru a few years ago, Mourning Dove appeared again this time basking in the sunlight on the cliffs of Peru while I sat dining a few feet away. It wasn't until recently that I realized the significance at the beginning of a journey that would be quite arduous in terms of adjusting to the altitude and endless travel, as well as the shadow and illusion that I would encounter along the way. I know now that she came to reassure me that I was always surrounded by light, despite the tests of faith I would experience as a result of this trip.

Source: Unknown

Source: Unknown

This latest appearance of Mourning Dover under a star filled sky was immensely powerful to my psyche. I felt that because she appeared surrounded by darkness this time and I had needed to shine the light on her, there would be some type of reversal in my life. Not only had I encountered hardships and several disappointments as a result of my trip abroad, but I had also gone through a tremendous healing crisis shortly after my return to the US and had been through a very long and complex healing process. There had been great upheaval in my life as I struggled to come to terms with how my life was and how I would like it to be.

Mourning Dove appeared once more in December. This time it was on Christmas day. I saw her sitting outside my son's bedroom window during a very cold winter's day. I just happened to enter his room to put some things away and glanced outside. She gave me the feeling that all was well as she sat on a tree branch calmly puffed up for warmth amidst the freshly fallen snow. She gave me a sense of immense peace and hope that day.

Mourning Dove on Christmas Day.

Mourning Dove on Christmas Day.

I know now that Mourning Dove in the Dark came to tell me that my life would be changing and that now it is time to write my story on her behalf and this planet. Most of my life I think I have been in mourning for the loss of my true self and my inability to be authentic so early on in life, as well as all the chaos of so many years of learning to remember who I am. Now I grieve for this planet in so many ways, but more than ever I recognize the importance of being authentic in this world. The creatures of the Earth have been such a huge part of my path, always communicating their messages to me, even if I didn't always understand their meaning until much later.

Mourning Dove is a constant reminder to sing a new song for myself and this Earth-- one of wisdom, hope, creativity and peace.  Perhaps she is a more powerful ally than I could ever have imagined. Mourning Dove has come to mean so many things to me. A few days ago a pair of doves sat feeding beneath my Black Locust tree I had named Jupiter. I'd like to believe Mourning Dove has come to remind me of the magic of unexpected gifts and synchronicities when you least expect them. Jupiter is, after all, the planet of blessings. It falls in line with my dream...

 

2018 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

 

The Space Inbetween

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I'm in the space of inbetween-- deconstructing and learning from the past, while creating the vision for something new. It is not an easy place to be. It requires faith and an aspect of letting go which is sometimes difficult when nothing intended is manifesting in the material world-- just yet. I've been in this space before, but now I have so many more spiritual tools to work with now. I also have the knowledge and experience that the universe works in mysterious ways often bringing you something that is quite unexpected. I have seen this over and over in my life even with the best laid intentions. Sacred timing is the greatest part of this equation.

I spent a great deal of time at the end of last year getting clear about where I needed to focus my efforts. There were strong astrological aspects around the new year particularly in my own chart with a Saturn return in my 6th house that takes 29 years to reappear. It was the end of one cycle of my life and the beginning of a new one. It was clear that I needed to create a new foundation for my life and begin making plans. While walking in the woods one day, a Beaver had appeared in the unfrozen portion of the creek that runs alongside the woods.

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I was reminded of how industrious these creatures are and their power to transform a landscape tree by tree creating an entirely different environment as a result. I knew his appearance was a powerful message for me to take things one step at a time and know that something special was underway. Beaver had appeared earlier that summer with just a portion of his head visible gliding through the still waters. Now he was here again-- this time fully visible. Beaver reminded me that creating and transforming is, after all, what I do best.

There is a time to make plans and act, and a time to wait. Everything in the universe is a matter of timing. I need to just be still and allow this space of inbetween and unknowing to exist for a while. I need to be okay with it until I receive clear guidance. Winter is, after all, a time to rest and wait for the return of life and beauty to the barren landscape. Sometimes just being is the hardest part, but my voice has gone out to the winds and my intentions have been made clear. Now I just need to allow what I desire to reveal itself through the next step of my journey.

 

2018 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

Keyna the Brilliant Jewel

Keyna was one of three sisters that I rescued from a high kill shelter in Brownsville, TX. All three had been abandoned by a woman who gave permission for their euthanasia. They were probably leftovers from a puppy mill breeder as the woman was not interested in any more females. I will never know the whole story. Luckily a caring volunteer intervened at the right moment. They eventually made their way to Western New York to find new homes after weeks of sleepless nights. While I arranged everything, I also worried about finding the right transport for such a long distance and that time might run out to save them.

I had originally searched for a rescue dog for my son's birthday. This eventually led to considering a second dog for my mother when I found a picture posted of all three dogs on social media. However, I simply could not leave the third behind. Her name would be Keyna. At the shelter they had named her "Lovely" and that she truly was. I gave her the name Keyna because it means "jewel" in Welsh. The name suited her just fine as she truly was a diamond in the rough.

All three dogs were extremely unruly and skittish when they arrived. They were quite a handful and I quickly became overwhelmed by their high energy levels and lack of discipline. The dog I had intended for my mother was way too much for her, as were all the sisters, so I quickly realized I would have to find homes as soon as possible for two of them. Keyna was the most shy and anxious of the three so I had to place the other ones first, including the one that had been intended for us. It was not an easy decision.

As time went on I realized that although she had come a long way in social and obedience skills, Keyna's anxiety issues were not going away and they were linked to our suburban environment. Anything new and unknown intimidated her and yet she was confident and obedient off leash on our property. She acted like she had a job to do guarding all perimeters of our property and never venturing anywhere near our busy street and rarely straying over neighboring boundaries. There was no need for an electrical fence. Yet our walks in the nearby park even on the wooded trails often left me stressed out. On a leash, she repeatedly looked behind her as though something or someone were constantly lurking nearby. 

It was because of her inability to adjust to public spaces, that I kept trying to find a new home for Keyna in a more rural environment where she could feel more comfortable. It seemed that her stress levels were just increasing and because I am also highly sensitive, it added to my own stress. I had found potentially great homes for Keyna on two occasions. The first was a home in a very rural environment in the southern tier. The day of the home visit, a severely injured woodchuck crossed my path on the road to her potential home. I was helpless to do anything to alleviate its suffering despite being a wildlife rehabilitator, as the wounded animal ran off and buried itself in a hole. It nevertheless remained etched in my mind as a sign of this potential situation not being right and the couple we met commented that "there was always something going on" which left me feeling unsettled that day. There was something about that particular rural area that didn't feel right, as it had developed quite a reputation over the years for tragic things happening to these once Native American lands. Ultimately this potential home fell through when the woman never followed up after our meeting and in the end, I actually felt relieved.

About a year or so later someone contacted me from Canada wanting to know if I would consider an adoption in the Toronto area. I said yes for the right person and I would be willing to do the home visit despite the distance. While we initially met at a dog park in the city of Buffalo and everything else was going smoothly, the final home visit where I expected to leave Keyna with her new companion, also did not go so well. Upon our arrival, it was clear that this potential situation was nothing like what I had been told. The backyard photos were misleading and the home was way too small. The home was also located in an extremely busy suburban area that is similar to our city streets and the woman was clearly not as active as she had led me to believe. So despite an extremely disappointing and uncomfortable situation, Keyna came back home with us that day.

The years went by and while Keyna became a devoted and attentive member of our family, it was clear to me that this situation was not getting any better. Long periods of time would go by and I kept thinking she was adjusting, but she would quickly rebound during her walks in the park and become extremely anxious. I began to realize that the chronic stress which caused her to pant heavily and become skittish could eventually lead to long terms health issues if not resolved. So I made one last effort to place her. Initially nothing seemed to be happening. Just when I had pretty much resigned to believing that Keyna was going to remain with us permanently and we unexpectedly adopted a second shelter dog, an opportunity presented itself.

I received a call from a couple who were looking for a dog just like Keyna. They had a home in a rural area of the Finger Lakes on top of a mountain with 55 acres of land and two ponds. They both worked out of their home, although the woman had largely retired and was looking for a companion to accompany her during her daily activities. Over the course of several weeks we got to know one another better and it seemed this would be an ideal situation for Keyna. I was thrilled. A visit to their beautiful, secluded mountainside home confirmed my feelings. Yet despite this perfect home that had finally appeared for Keyna after almost 5 years, it was with great difficulty and sadness that we gave her up.

I have received periodic reports on Keyna's progress which inevitably validated for me how this very difficult decision was undoubtedly in her best interest. I think a part of me always knew Keyna would be leaving, but there is no doubt in my mind that she was meant to be saved that day, the sister who would have been left behind. On Earth Day, April 22nd would have been 5 years since all three sisters first arrived. Looking back, I don't think I would have done things any differently. Throughout the years Keyna taught me about my own sensitivities and how easily I become stressed. She mirrored to me my own instinctive behavior, intuition and my keen awareness of my surroundings. 

As the months have gone by, I have heard about how well Keyna is doing as she listens to her new female companion and never strays far despite the vast expanse of her new territory. It is as if all along I had been grooming her for the perfect behavior for such a home. She now loves swimming in her ponds and exploring her new territory, always careful to sense this new environment that holds a myriad of new adventures with someone who is completely attentive to her needs and well being. The situation is so much more than I could have imagined for her and only in my own selfishness, could I not have allowed this transition to take place. Animals often come into your life for a reason eventually moving on just like people do. I've realized now how timing in life is everything. Sometimes a brilliant jewel must go through quite a process before it can shine. It seems appropriate I honor Keyna on this Beltane, a day of celebration and new beginnings.

 

2017 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

The Broken Winged One

During the 90's I volunteered for a wildlife rehabilitation center that focused on birds of prey in their environmental education programs. It wasn't long before I had the privilege of working directly with these amazing birds of prey by taking them out of their enclosures and walking around the wildlife sanctuary to give them stimulation and to become comfortable with human handling and interaction.

During those hours I conversed with various types of owls, falcons, hawks and a turkey vulture, to name a few of the permanent residents there that also included mammals. I had to overcome my fear of working with these incredible wild animals. I also know that's when my shamanic path really began.

While many of these animals were injured and could no longer fly or be released into the wild due to their injuries, but some were just imprinted. They had grown accustomed to living with humans or had been captive bred so they also could not survive on their own in the wild. Nevertheless, they were still extremely dangerous and had to be handled with care. I also had to be grounded when I worked with them. I had to connect to their spirit, their true essence, as I knew they were my teachers.

While it excited me immensely to work with these wild animals and I always looked forward to our sessions together, a part of me always remained sad for them. I wondered what it would be like to know the glorious exhilaration of flight and freedom and have it taken away by an accident. Or what about never having known freedom at all, but yet being a bird that could fly over 200 mph in a dive like a peregrine falcon? My feelings about these birds has changed over time, as well as the meaning of the lessons that they taught me. Some continue to be my allies.

One of my favorite birds became a turkey vulture named Retch. I never agreed with the name because I feel names are very important and despite the fact turkey vultures are known to regurgitate when fearful, the name did not do this bird justice. Retch happened to share an enclosure with a beautiful barn owl and so usually he would watch Artemis be taken out by the volunteers but he remained inside. Most were afraid of being vomited on so he was largely left alone except for cleaning duties.

One day I could take Retch's sad, dejected looks no more and decided to overcome my fear. It was a beautiful day as I attached him to my falconer's glove and brought Retch outside. Of course, as expected he vomited immediately on me out of fear due to lack of regular human contact, but immediately thereafter he spread his winds in a glorious way to catch the rays of sunlight that were streaming that day. He looked magnificent and I could feel how happy he was. We shared a moment of deep heart connection.

Thereafter Retch and I became the best of friends for the time I remained at the center and I believe he looked forward to our visits as he rarely regurgitated. He also taught me a huge lesson. While I was educating people about the wild creatures of our world, I still had prejudices of my own about what was beautiful. What is beautiful is seeing a turkey vulture spread its wings in all its glory basking in the sunlight whether on the hand of a human or in flight riding thermals. Since that time I have always looked up to the skies to see them in flight and honor their presence.

I will never forget those days with Retch and all those glorious birds of prey. They will always live on in my heart. I believe I now understand somewhat what it feels like to know freedom and have it taken away from you. For many years I have stayed in a region that has challenged me immensely. Yet moving back to my hometown from Washington, DC, I found myself pursuing passions that I loved such as working with wildlife, educating people about the environment and writing on behalf of the animals and this planet. I kept staying for my parents and later because of my son. Now I am still here because I'm attached to my land and all that I've created. Yet there was a time when I felt freedom that was not bound by responsibilities nor financial decisions.

Note: All photos shown were originally taken by photographer David Lawrence Reade www.dlrimagery.com.

 

 

 

 

Wizard, a Barred Owl that was blinded when she collided with a vehicle and could not be released to the wild after recovery. 

Wizard, a Barred Owl that was blinded when she collided with a vehicle and could not be released to the wild after recovery. 

Artemis, a Barn Owl that was part of a barn owl breeding project and kept by the wildlife center for educational purposes.

Artemis, a Barn Owl that was part of a barn owl breeding project and kept by the wildlife center for educational purposes.

Retch, the Turkey Vulture who damaged his wing in a vehicle collision and was not releasable to the wild.

Retch, the Turkey Vulture who damaged his wing in a vehicle collision and was not releasable to the wild.

Yoda, a Great Horned Owl that was imprinted by a well meaning person and eventually became too much to handle. He was later transferred to a wildlife center. 

Yoda, a Great Horned Owl that was imprinted by a well meaning person and eventually became too much to handle. He was later transferred to a wildlife center. 

Sometimes we are put exactly where we are meant to be to remember who we truly are. No doubt we are also here to affect the lives of others, as well as the land that we live upon. In so doing, we come full circle with our path in life.

I know that the captivity of those birds of prey in some ways was cruel and yet in other ways they had a profound impact on my life as well as the lives of so many volunteers and audiences that had the privilege to see and work with them. So perhaps, God does work in mysterious ways and sometimes clips our wings so that we remain exactly where we are meant to be. I'd like to believe those magnificent birds also chose their path...

“She is often the broken-winged one, who does everything all wrong until people realize she’s been doing it...pretty right all along.
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes
— Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Saving Goliath

For many years now I have been wanting a Staffordshire Terrier for some reason. I think because they have such a bad reputation and are so misunderstood. And for years I would see pictures of rescue pit bulls and read their stories and in my mind I kept seeing a grey one that I knew I would have some day. In the mean time, I rescued and adopted several of the wrong dogs for us, but in the end I knew they were meant to be saved and eventually ended up in wonderful homes.

About a month ago my niece contacted me about a Shiba Inu named Max that was at the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter. Being familiar with the breed and intrigued because he had the same name as my son, we went to see Max, but he was adopted that day. Somehow I felt we were meant to be at the shelter and look around to see what other dogs were looking for homes. After two separate visits that week, we couldn't agree between two completely different dogs- a female pit bull and an adorable Chihuahua mix that looked like a tiny fox. I decided to look one more time. There happened to be a handsome grey and white pit bull that drew my attention initially but did not seem to want to come out, so we went to look at him again.

The day of Goliath's arrival with sadness and fear of his past still lingering in his eyes..

The day of Goliath's arrival with sadness and fear of his past still lingering in his eyes..

Goliath was caged between two other dogs that were huge and very loud. I could tell that he was stressed but we tried one more time and no sooner was he outside in the fresh air, he affectionately jumped on us and gave us all his attention. This had not happened with the other two dogs in question. They had seemed to be more interested in everyone and everything else. Goliath chose us despite his fearful surroundings and in that moment we immediately felt a heart connection to him. He was the dog I had envisioned so many years ago and he immediately fit in when we got him home. It felt like he had been with us forever.

No sooner did Goliath arrive than the right home opened up for our other dog that I had been trying to place for 5 years due to her anxiety issues of being in a suburban environment. Her new home on 55 acres was ideal for her. Everything seemed to be falling into place unexpectedly just because of another dog named Max.

It took several days, but we decided to name Goliath "Dawson". It was my son's choice. Later I found out that Dawson means "son of David, the beloved". I couldn't think of a more appropriate name. He is a sweetheart and filled with love. He is so grateful to be part of our family.