There were some hard conversations at Short Meadow the last few weeks. The season has turned, the rain has returned and the thermostat is dipping down into the 40’s at night. That means its time for the orchids, summering on the porch, to come back inside. This was met with great dismay by several amphibians who had enjoyed the ancestral memories of broad tropical leaves. Knowing they were likely in residence, this was a physically gentle but emotionally difficult separation. Sitting in the bottom of the outer pots, frogs looked at me square in the eye and blinked sad eyes. At least one relocated to the only plant staying out, a small fern, where it sat barely hidden by a frond and continued to observe my activities with what can only be described as grumpiness.
The orchids, now back in their winter abode in the kitchen and living room, are still decorated with random deposits of frog poop. Something I never thought I’d be able to identify. They too seem to miss their friends and the bigger community that exists outside. I plan to conduct an experiment of playing them frog noises everyday just to see what happens.
Meanwhile, the chickens still have the same routine, but even if I wait until 7am it is now dark when I let them outside. Also deeply in touch with their ancestors they distrust the dark (wise!) even when it is securely enclosed. They stick their beaky noses out and then turn around and look at me voicing their distrust loudly. It’s made clear that this is my responsibility. All except Daisy of course, who cheerfully and bravely hops out the human door with me to explore, trusting I’ll keep the bad guys at bay. I’m prepared to do that for five feet and ten seconds until I can scoop her up and deposit her back in the pen. She is a most intrepid chicken.
Which brings me to consideration of ‘science’ and the frequent accusation in the world of anthropomorphizing. I recently heard someone on the news say animals have relationships but to say friendship was going too far. Seriously?
There was a time not too recently that the only medical information that had value was what could be stratified on a blood test. Now we’re ‘rediscovering’ intuition and celebrating those that persist in the face of a negative blood test. Which we should, but I’d point out we never lost these skills we just lost the courage to use them. I have a lifetime of friendships with animals that didn’t live with me and weren’t fed by humans, removing most of the motivations the lab coats would recognize. Sure, I add my own interpretation to their actions but heck, I do that with other humans!
I think if we ever want to live well and gracefully we have to live as part of the Earth’s community and not apart from it, and that means making friends with our neighbors.