One of the things I enjoy very much is going for a walk. It’s a peaceful way to quiet my mind and nurture my energy while taking in the subtle changes around me that each day brings. I frequently stroll along a large irrigation ditch snuggled against the edge of a mesa and overlooking the landscape below. Both sides of the ditch are lined with a fringe of weeds and dense plants; safe hiding places for the animals who live there.

By contrast, it’s easy to spot muskrats swimming through the open water. Their brown, scruffy bodies float on the surface while their swift little legs make running motions that propel them forward, leaving a wide wake behind. Usually they duck under the water with a splash when they see me, but sometimes I’m lucky enough to walk along the bank while one glides through the water. We enjoy a lovely companionable stroll in our different elements. Air and water. The muskrat communicates relaxed acceptance of my presence as we calmly move together. Connected.

Mostly my walks are a time for easy, fluid exercise and a slowing down of thoughts and concerns. I guess you could say they are like meditation in motion. How jarring then to suddenly have a skunk pop out of the green into the path in front of me! My fluid forward momentum recoiled into a wary stop about ten feet away from the skunk who was now arching it’s body up like a Halloween cat; the hair on its rigid tail standing on end. The not-so-subtle curve of his rear end in my direction made it clear I would be the target of something very unpleasant if I dared to move. 

I waited, holding my breath. The skunk, satisfied with my response, relaxed completely and continued across my path with it’s tail softly waving. I almost burst out laughing when another skunk bounded out of the weeds to follow the first one! I thought of the school crossing guards who stop traffic so the children can safely cross the street. The first skunk had clearly asked me to stop, using very obvious body language. Some forms of animal communication are just plain common sense and some forms of meditation are best with awareness of one’s surroundings!