When the animals come, pay attention.
Even if it is only a bush wren dancing among the branches,
stop for a moment and praise this little being.
She knows a deeper language than you may ever share.
It doesn’t have to be some grandiose, inflated miracle —
the white stag high up against the sky or the house lion
lately escaped from the circus to be a story for your friends.
Just be quiet when it happens and watch gratefully
the skunk’s skillful disappearance beneath the blackberries.
See how the bobcat smiles at you behind her fern,
interrupting a sadness you cannot define.
Go out into the dusk to listen for the invisible lines
of the poem that is the cave bat’s hunger, swooping.
You should know by now that standing armies
can be cut in two by a herd of elk
that somehow know a way across the cliff.
When the animals come, they are a message. Don’t ignore it.
Their eyes and ears know more, unlike us, of what is than isn’t.
They feel what the earth tells them, moment to moment,
and we should listen lest the hot dust that comes from our mouths
destroys it all.
When the animals come, especially the buffalo, hundreds strong,
and the eagles who invite a touch of their sacred feathers,
stop and question everything you thought you knew,
thought was good, thought was progress. In the face of such power,
put down your weapons and heal your fear of all the others,
wait until you truly know what is the right thing for you to do
and once more can live humbly from your heart —
for truly your own heart is first a creature,
the first animal of all that you were meant to know.
— Dan Oestreich
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