The first word I said was “kitty!” – It sounded more like “key-ee”, but my parents knew what I meant. I was five months old, in my father’s arms, emphatically pointing down the stairs at our beloved cats. I do not have a memory of this moment, but my parents assure me that is how it all started. This was the beginning of my love for animals.
Growing up, we only had cats, our house was in the x-urbs (not quite suburbs, not quite rural), and there were animals everywhere. My first jobs were pet sitting the neighborhood dogs, cats, horses, fish, and the rare one-offs like an iguana and a pot bellied pig. I remember the satisfaction of being paid in quarters.
Caring for the animals was joyful for me. I could think at them and talk softly to them and they responded to me with silent energy and attention that was unmatched by the humans in my life.
In addition to domestic animals, wild animals filled much of my youthful head-space.
Nature was the religion in our house. My father was a biology teacher and both of my parents were outdoor enthusiasts. All of our family time was spent hiking, or camping, birdwatching, or identifying plants. I learned how to observe my surroundings with keen focus and quiet appreciation.
We had a ravine behind our house that absorbed a good deal of my attention as a child. When I was alone in the woods, I would breathe deep and extend my awareness all around me. I would try to sense each creature that scampered through the underbrush or flitted in the branches overhead.
I was an avid reader. At a very young age I was deeply affected by Tom Brown Jr’s s novel The Tracker. My favorite part was when he learned to overcome the cold by accepting “cold” into his body and becoming one with it. I tried this and discovered that it worked immediately. This led to my further experimentation with perception and sensory awareness.
One of my big goals was to use senses other than my sight. I would try moving through the woods with my eyes closed, and sometimes even blindfold myself. I would sneak out my window at night and commune with the nocturnal creatures with my energy – using sounds, smells, sensations and energetic perception to lead me through the dark.
I have to admit that closing my eyes is still a trick that I use today when I want to turn on my other senses and become more “aware”.
My early childhood connection to domestic animals, wild animals and nature are present in my daily life. I have animals that I care for and heal. My observation skills have kept me alive and on my toes. My energetic awareness allows me to connect to the earth with every step.