Open Your Heart

Everybody at some time in their life has a moment of truth, a life changing experience where they begin to see things differently than before it happened. Sometimes it is a huge catastrophic event, while others it may result from the simplest of things.

I have had a few monster awakenings in my rather chaotic life, but the following is way strange for a guy like me, at least for the guy that I perhaps pretended to be. . . .

***
The housing project where I was born and raised sat on the tough side of town. If my dog died, if the big kid next door punched me in the nose, if practically anything happened to me I never cried, and if I did I made sure I was alone because cry babies in the projects were guaranteed to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

I don’t know how it worked for others who have had one, but my first ‘awareness’ breakthrough came during the winter of 1968. A couple of us guys were sitting in the local bar one evening when we decided to drive on down to the country the following morning and hunt up some rabbits. we’d done pretty much the same thing every year we could get together since high school.

Early morning came in cold and there was snow on the ground, perfect hunting weather. We packed up Tom’s old Ford with guns and a couple six packs and off we went down the back road to the farm where we always hunted.

Tom parked off the road. I grabbed my four ten out of the trucks cap and since I preferred hunting in total quiet, I showed the guys my heading and wandered off into the snow alone.

I worked my way down one small hill, walked the ravine for a while and started up a larger hill on the other side. At the top I entered a cluster of naked trees and stopped. There were a few tracks in the snow, but everything was holed up and not moving much in the cold.

I spotted a large brush pile with fresh tracks around it so I snuck up and kicked at it real good. There was a faint rustle on the other side and out popped a rabbit running hard and zig zagging across the small clearing.

Aim . . . squeeze . . . BLAM! . . . YES!

I ran up to the wounded rabbit that was lying on his side in a patch of reddening snow. Watched him kicking away in circles. Watched him slow down. Watched him give a few short shudders and stop. Watched as the brightness faded from his eyes.

What the . . . ?! Huge crocodile tears streamed down my face. Sniff, Sniff . . . . I’m crying!

What are the guys going to say if they find me standing here crying like a baby over a dumb ass rabbit! I’m a veteran for God’s sake! A year or so ago I had been stomping through Asian jungle in the Airborne Infantry. I am a lean, mean, crazy ass killing machine! What’s up with these tears?

I worked hard at it, but finally quenched the sobbing and regained my composure. I picked up the rabbit and returned to the car. The other guys were already there pissing and moaning about how it was too cold to hunt.

“You guys are a bunch of sissies,” I chided in my best macho. “Look at this!” I pulled the rabbit out of my pouch and showed them before I stashed my weapon and got into the truck.

I may have bragged about that rabbit on the way home, but in these forty some odd years later I never went hunting again. The thrill of killing died alongside the rabbit that day. Good riddance.

Although it took many years to fully blossom, that cold winter day had been the beginning of when my heart thawed and I began to realize a connection to the Earth far greater than I imagined there ever was. Since then I have changed my viewpoint about many things, and completely about the animals. In the school of life, I had graduated from conqueror to caretaker.

Today I live in the middle of a couple thousand acres of Eastern forest where I spend a lot of time in the woods observing and trying to communicate with the many critters on my property.

We feed the birds, leave brush piles for the small critters and don’t mess with the deer and turkeys. If you saw me talking to a squirrel you might believe I am just a crazy old man with a white beard who’s gone off the edge. In my world I am having a great time walking the path I’ve created for myself. When I am angry or stressed out or even sick I go to the woods and I talk to my friends. Many times I come home healed.

I understand reality though, the day I stumbled onto a baby rattle snake I didn’t try to pet it, but neither did I hack it to pieces. I merely left it alone. The snake is as important to the ecosystem as I am, probably more so. Why kill it?

Being at one with the animals is quite easy for me, but that is only one step in this ‘awareness’ evolution. I admit to having a much harder time connecting with my own species . . . people aren’t so easy to understand.

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