Friday, February 13, 2009

A Visiting Vulture

I was walking the dogs this morning and when we returned, they suddenly ran to the side of the house as if chasing something. Buddy, the playful one, started jumping up and down and barking, but not in a threatening way. I recognized this bark from Buddy. I'd heard it before and knew he was barking at a large bird...or perhaps something he thought he could eat. Sure enough, there was a vulture on a post staring down at us.

It was a black vulture, and black vulture have been known to eat dogs, cats, deer and young animals. I put the dogs in the house and walked back to the post. The vulture was still there. I said hello and talked to him, but he didn't fly away. He cocked his head from side to side the way Buddy does when I talk to him. I always imagine they hear me the way the children hear the grownups in the Charlie Brown cartoons, a sound that is garbled and goofy. I tried to imagine what the vulture was thinking as he stared down at me. He didn't seem intimidated by my presence at all, but I cannot imagine there is much that would intimidate a bird that size. He was there far longer than I expected, watching me. Then he flew off and his white-tipped wings made a sound very much like boat sails catching the wind. He circled back around twice and I suspect that he still watched me. This time, I didn't back away. I stood my ground, staring up at him unafraid, and I think this made him curious. He finally caught a breeze, flew in a circle and started on his rounds, circling around the house, then the forest, then off into the valley.

In animal medicine spiritual traditions it is believed that once a vulture has entered your life, its totem is always with you. Vultures symbolize life and death. Vultures tell us that no matter how difficult and challenging life may seem at the moment, there is always change, there will be relief, and tomorrow will be a better day.

Or perhaps he was trying to warn me that he planned to eat my cat!

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