I think I’ve found my spirit animal, my patronus (to borrow from Harry Potter). This is not the same as saying here is my favorite animal or here is the animal I identify with, this is the animal that keeps finding me and when it does, it brings me energy and calm, power and focus.
Long walks along the beach have become a norm for me. At first I started walking for a reason to take pretty photos. But the more I walk, the more I need to walk and the more I want to walk. I walk to burn off calories, to engage my muscles, and to breathe. I walk to think, to reflect, and to problem solve. I walk to notice, to engage with the world, and to write. I most often walk on my way home from work, but I also walk on weekends, on vacations, and sometimes right before the sun sets.
Seagulls are a staple of my walks on the beach. These birds are the ever-present, iconic bird of the beach. They gather on the shore, they swoop and soar overhead, they keep a sharp eye on things…especially those snacks people think they have tucked carefully away for after their ocean dip. Pelicans are a regular sighting as well. These bombardiers fly in perfect formation, shifting leaders as they speed along the coastline. If you watch carefully, you may spot one over the head of the surfers waiting for the perfect wave as it waits and then suddenly drops, snapping up a fish in its huge pouch-like bill. And there are the sandpiper category of birds (curlews, avocets, plovers) that love the low tide feeding opportunities. They are much shyer than the seagulls and much more fun to watch as they run up and back with the waves. And I take lots of photos of all these birds, trying to creep up close without causing them to fly off.
But back to that patronus, the spirit animal. Some people have always known their spirit animal. For my husband, the bear is his kindred spirit. He takes comfort and energy from seeing bears and identifies with their fierceness, their lumbering ways, the way they protect their young, and their general good looks. I have never considered that I might even have a spirit animal until lately. I think I started to make some connections about the possibility of animal totems when I read a post by a virtual friend, Molly Hogan over at Nix the Comfort Zone where she talked about the significance of some Baltimore oriole sightings outside her window. When I read about Molly’s oriole, I immediately thought about the snowy egret sightings I had experienced–and the joy each sighting brought. I’d been writing about egrets and photographing egrets without considering any connections I might have to them.
I often come across these beautiful birds at low tide and spend lots of time watching their bright yellow feet stomp the murky water to bring fish and other food possibilities out of hiding. I learned to creep close without disturbing the birds, clicking my camera lens trying to get a perfect shot. And lately, the birds seem to be finding me. Just recently egrets have appeared at unexpected spots along my beach walk, and we’ve hung out together on the edge of the surf. Each sighting brings a sense of calm and intense pleasure, a camaraderie and comfort that comes from being with those you care about and who care about you.
And then, as I started writing this earlier this week I came across an art print a CLMOOC friend had sent me a while back while I was looking for a container of sea glass I have on display in my house…a print of a heron. I stopped and snapped a photo of it, remembering that when I had looked up animal totems on the internet that heron and egret were defined together.
Later in the afternoon I headed out for my usual beach walk. I was feeling good already, the sun was shining (something that can be a bit iffy in these parts in June), I found a parking place not too far away, and I was ready to stretch my legs and breathe deeply. As usual my camera was strapped around my neck, ready for whatever shot presented itself. As I reached the mile mark along my walk I considered turning back, but decided since the day was so beautiful and the tide was cooperative I would continue on a bit further. I am so glad I did…just at about the point I had planned to turn around I noticed the familiar shape in the surf. But wait, it wasn’t white. As I walked closer and watched carefully I could see that it was a great blue heron hanging out in the surf! I have never seen a heron on any of my beach walks, but there it was!
The coincidence seems too great to be a random sighting. I am certain these birds are bringing me messages of calm and support. They are certainly bringing me strength and inspiration and an incredible jolt of joy. So I am claiming the egret and heron as my spirit animals, patronus if you will, there to call on in times of need.
So now I am wondering, do we each have a spirit animal, an animal totem representing our strengths and bringing us power and focus? Is there more to the heron/egret than I have yet discovered? I’d love to hear about your experience with your patronus!