A Mutual UnderstandingJul 31, 2023 06:35PM ● By Shannon Mc Kenzie
This month’s Q&A with Maria Rodale, author and activist in the regenerative organic agriculture movement, spoke to me. In the Wise Words article, Maria Rodale: On Letting Nature Heal Itself, she talks about the importance of understanding what nature is communicating to us. Last week our family camped for a couple of nights on Cumberland Island. The campground and beach are beautiful—and, we all agreed, the animals are bold. We had racoons, deer and armadillos coming into our campsite while we were there. Even the cardinals landed on the picnic table, looking for food, while we were eating. I figured they were used to getting fed by campers.
One experience was different though. As I was walking on one of the island’s narrow trails, I ran into four feral horses. It’s thought that horses were first brought to Cumberland when the Spanish established missions there in the 1500s, and other groups have introduced more horses since that time. Now they are free-ranging and roam the island. We startled each other, and I quickly walked off the trail into the trees. The lead horse wasn’t afraid—as soon as I got out of the way, it boldly ran by. A foal and another horse followed more tentatively. When I peered out from the trees, there was one skittish horse remaining, hopping around nervously. I went back into the trees and calmly said to the horse that it could pass by, that I’ll stay off the trail until it did. It ran by quickly.
It struck me that we communicated with and understood each other: the horse told me, with its behavior, that it wasn’t comfortable with me; I told the horse, with both my actions and my words, “I’ll stay off the trail until you pass by.” It felt good to try to understand this animal, and even better to think that it understood me. I like being more attuned to what nature is communicating.
I did ask one other camper if animals had come into their campsite, and they had not. So now I’m wondering if there was more to our close encounters. Best not to overthink.
Wishing you a relaxing end to the dog days of summer,