Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Raccoon, the Armadillo, and the Possum.

When you live in Austin, TX, it is not rare to see any of the above critters sniffing around your back yard at night. In fact, fall asleep on the sofa with the back door open, and you’ll likely see or hear one in your kitchen helping themselves to your cats’ food. It was not even one week ago when I woke to the sound of hissing only to find my two cats standing next to each other seemingly united (a rare event). Further investigation revealed two empty food bowls and excessive dirt in the water bowl.

My guess was that an opportunistic, masked bandit paid a visit, then warned the local four-legged inhabitants to keep their distance. And have you ever heard a Raccoon hiss? If Dr. Jekyll were a cat, Mr. Hyde would most certainly be a Raccoon. My cats knew better than to engage him.

The Raccoon is known for his markings, his resourcefulness, and the ever-common warning to not corner one if you run into him. However, among themselves, Raccoons are generous with their earnings. The human observer typically only sees the mess left behind, but what they miss is the interesting kinship played within the clan.

A few mornings later, I woke in the dark before 6:00 am and opened the front door to let in the cool, morning breezes (something we’ve only just been able to do again here in TX). Notte, my cat, was sitting next to me on the sofa when we both heard a rustling just on the other side of the screen door. He perked up and then we both moved in for a better look.

Lo and behold, an Armadillo sniffed passed the door and was investigating the dirt out front. He didn’t even flinch when I turned on the light. If you’ve ever seen an Armadillo up close, then you know they are one strange looking animal. If they are not from a different place, they must certainly be left over from a different time.

A third night critter that has wandered through an opened door here on Trailside is the Possum. We haven’t been visited recently, but I’m sure they’ve been checking each of the two back doors now and again. In fact, once, one of this critters came in through the bedroom door and wandered all the way around to the kitchen to help himself to the cat food. I was sure they wouldn’t figure out that path and braved leaving the door open for my cats, but alas, I was proven wrong.

Now many find the sight of a possum frightening or disturbing. Their teeth are jagged and their tails cause them to look like giant rats, but they are really quite sweet. When I’ve woken to the sound of their crunching and then found them in my kitchen, they bump into the wall repeatedly as they search for the opening from which they entered. Light or not, these critters can’t see a thing. I’ve even seen one walk right into my cat as he made his way along the stone wall out back. Cali, my other cat, moved out of its way with surprise, but no defense.

Now, surely, by this point, you are wondering why David is talking about his occasional nocturnal visitors, as this is not his typical Blog post. But I do have a reason. You see, these animals are not just critters that scurry about in the night; they are also Totems and each symbolizes some form of action.

For example, Raccoon is known as the “Generous Protector”. This medicine is about protecting and assisting those in need. When Raccoon shows up, you are being called into service to help those less fortunate.

So why might Raccoon be showing up right now? Well, have you paid attention to what’s going on with your friends and neighbors lately? Have you been on Facebook?

More and more, people seem to be struggling with some challenge or other and calling out to their friends for help. Some days, it seems just as soon as you hang up the phone, another friend is calling for support. The Astrologers have been warning us of this time, and now they are saying it is upon us. In fact, today is supposed to be a doozy. 3:15 Central Time - so far so good.

So, let’s say you are one of the more fortunate ones in your circle, the one being called on rather than the one doing the calling. Well, Raccoon may be showing up symbolizing your ability to assist, but what if Armadillo shows up?

The Armadillo, with its funny looking armor, is all about “boundaries”. Helping others is great, but if you’re giving an inch only to lose the whole yard, then what? That’s when it is time to draw the line. One person can only do so much for another. There is nothing wrong with recognizing your own limits. When you’ve helped someone out of a tricky situation only to find yourself completely exhausted afterwards, in pain, in debt or with torn clothes, then maybe you’ve gone too far.

The struggles of late are not short-term challenges. Think endurance. On planes, they say, “Put your mask on first, then assist those around you.” If you run out of air, what good will that do anyone? It is great to help others, but it is also okay to say, “Look, I am tapped out right now.”

If you are clear about your boundaries within and of yourself, then you won’t likely have to set them with others. Before you venture to help another, think about how much you are up for. In the moment, allow yourself to adjust this, but be clear that it is your choice. Maybe the lesson for you is about obligation, guilt or responsibility. When you’re a martyr you give big once, but then you’re dead.

And then along comes Possum. Possum is best known for its ability to play dead. Apparently, they can even fake the smell of death to keep from being eaten by other animals. As a Totem, Possum is about diversion or distraction. Possum uses strategy to get out of a precarious situation.

You see, the thing in common with these three Totems is they all are nocturnal, showing up when it’s dark. Everything is tougher in the dark. Even if you are carrying around extra light, some out there are not and need some.

So what does it mean when Possum shows up? Well, let me explain it like this:

Have you ever been driving at night to find a deer standing in the middle of the road? They look up at you fully aware that you are approaching, yet are frozen. “Like a deer caught in headlights” is a well-known phrase.

So, let’s say your friend is struggling with something and is so entranced by the challenge that they see nothing else. They are the deer caught in headlights and will get hit if they don’t move. So what do you do?

Distract them. Divert their attention. Get them to look away just long enough to come back to their senses and think clearly again. This is not always easy. It’s no wonder they say the “art of distraction”. There is a fine line between a healthy distraction, and negligence. You don’t want someone to be so distracted that they become irresponsible of themselves, but you also don’t want them to be so focused on the challenge that they can’t see a solution.

I’m sure many of you have heard Abraham talk about turning your attention away from what you don’t want. Well, sometimes, we are being called upon to help others do just that. It is not avoidance, but allowance. Accept what is, then turn toward what is desired. The challenges may be upon us, but they are not without solutions. Look for solutions to find solutions.

The Equinox is only five days away, and after that we will enter the half of the year when there is more darkness than light. Plenty out there will need you Raccoons and Possums to help them out, but don’t lose sight of your own limits. We’ve been working on our gifts for a long time; it is only natural that they will be called upon.

Take it one day at a time and enjoy the gift of giving whenever you can... otherwise you might find yourself curling up into a tight ball for protection, just like Armadillo...

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