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It was one of those days in late WInter when Spring tries very hard to assert herself.  Churchill's fur felt warm, and the bright sunlight bouncing off the croecus caused tiny bits of ice to sparkle like diamonds.  Sitting by the river bank on a large flat rock, Churchill realized that he felt profoundly happy, for no reason in particular, and he sighed.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" a voice said behind him.  He jumped slightly and looked back.  it was the old woman.  She sat down beside him and began to scratch his head.  It was the first

time she had ever addresed him directly, although she had joined him many times before

by the river, rubbing his head as they shared the quiet.

"Yes it is" Churchill replied softly.

"Ah" the old woman replied.  "Just as I thought".

Mildly confused, Churchill asked "Thought what?", tipping his head slightly to the side, finding this exchange in no way unusual.

"That you are one of the Old Ones, one of those now very rare animals who can speak with humans" she replied..

"I would have spoken to you long ago" he chuckled, "if you had opened the conversation, but I was afraid of being intrusive".  Now she chuckled.  Again they fell into a companionable quiet.






A few minutes later Churchill looked directly into the old woman's eye and said

"Why do you think that is?"

"Why what is"  she asked.

"Why very few animals can now speak to humans, even though we converse among ourselves quite easily" he answered.

"I expect it is because most humans no longer believe, much less remember,

that there was once a time when animals and humans spoke frequently.  Not all of those conversations were pleasant, but there was a great deal of respect between species then, and some remarkable moments of cooperation.  Now most humans don't believe animals could ever speak, and most animals who can no longer dare to speak to humans.  That is why, over the millennia, animals have developed the ability to read the pictures humans make in their minds.  Humans have developed no such skill, unfortunately, with some remarkable exceptions".

"How do you know about that!". Churchill knew he sounded protective, but could not help himself.

"Do you think you are the only animal I speak to?"  she replied, and there was laughter in her voice.

"Ah" Churchill said.  "Of course".

The old woman continued, "As humans become more egocentric and less connected to the life on this planet, all of it, the more disconnected they will become from it and finally, from each other.  For animals to survive at all they had to become telepathic.  I believe this will finally be true for humans as well, after some very hard lessons.  Survival requires perceiving intentions before they become actions, and acting appropriately.  In other words, you may not always speak the truth, but you will certainly always think it".

Throwing a playful look at Churchill she then said "So I assume you have been reading my pictures?" she smiled and raised an eyebrow.

"Not often" he replied.  "Your pictures usually look like our valley, or places far away, or the small people up at the big house.  Your pictures look like our pictures", he noted, a small puff of powder-blue dust momentarily floating over his forehead.  "You feel like an animal, a true animal."  And he grinned. "Yes, that's it, isn't it?".

"I am honored" she nodded. "It is among the joys of aging in concert with the natural rhythm of things.  We humans",  she continued, "are making a hash of things on a grand scale, with the result that lonliness is becoming a disease called depression, which is treated with drugs to make us forget we are lonely.  So we become numb to our feelings, and mistaking the absence of pain for joy, we believe we are fully participating in our lives.  The simple solution, of course, is to learn to sit quietly and listen, and gather life with our eyes and ears.  But of course " she sighed "the drug companies would make much less money."

"I don't understand about drug companies"  Churchill replied.

"It is just a human thing, like when you treat a stomach ache with fresh mint, only a lot more complicated" she answered.

"I guess I'm glad i don't understand"  Churchill laughed.

And then they both laughed, and sat together looking at the sunlight turning the ice to diamonds on the croecus shoots, as whisps of powder-blue dust spun lazily in the warming air.


September 2004




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