Dear Colleagues, I had hoped by now to participate more regularly in conversations dealing with the human relationship to nature, but the press of added workload coupled with reduced benefits has made life much more challenging of late--something many of you may have encountered in recent months and years.
Anyway, my original attraction to Depth Psychology Alliance, among other reasons, is my long-held direct experience with the natural world and its many beings and their role in healing me during times of stress. I wish to share, here, one such experience with a group of javelina with whom we share our high desert forest here in Arizona. We know this group quite well, having spent time conferring with various members of the changing group over the past 19 years. We became so interested in the pig-like (but not pigs) creatures--who also inspired fear and even loathing among other human residents because the javelina are smart and figure out how to share in human gardens and the like--that we edited a book through our little natural history press called Javelina Place: The Controversial Face of the Collared Peccary. (link is: http://www.nativewestpress.com/javelina_place.html ). The book has been well received and it is the only one to have gone into multiple editions.
So, to say the least, we are fairly well informed of javelina social dynamics through watching the group (herd) for years and years. And I have discovered that when I come home from work where my psyche feels roughed up from circumstances there, a few moments in the presence of the javelina works like a balm.
What happened a few days ago was something new and, frankly, heart-breaking. And living through that experience completely moved me out of a funk and extended whining related to work.
We had a very cold and snowy stretch in December and the javelina, who usually do well in such cold periods, simply could not sustain their robust health. One by one, each of the younger ones, ranging in age from a few weeks old to more than six months old, died from the cumulative effects of the sustained cold. This was upsetting to us to watch, helplessly, as the little creatures breathed their last. One afternoon, one of the females we know best had lost her baby just that morning. We watched from the deck as she went over to the small, still form, and lay down beside it and began to massage its bristly pelage with her snout. Soon, her two older offspring (with humans we would say 'children') joined her, and they formed a little circle around the dead young javelina, all stroking her gently with their snouts. They remained there for perhaps an hour. Later, as the whole group left the area for the day, I noticed each one going over to the dead javelina and touching it gently before moving away. I believe we had witnessed what I can only call a rite of grieving, a javelina funeral. Of course this phenomenon does not appear in the scientific literature, and we have an excellent collection to consult.
I am aware that there are records of people observing this form of gentle communication with the departed members of the group, such as in the famous book, When Elephants Weep. I guess the reason I wish to share this here is to underscore the importance of attentiveness--of mind and heart--to what is going on around us in our daily lives. I don't really have to say much about that to any of my colleagues here because you know this. By sharing a story such as this, however, I hope in some way to invite fellow human beings to realize that they live in a truly amazing world, if they will but see it, if they will but open themselves to it. Such attentiveness, I feel, is a very ancient human capacity and I like to remind my students of this great human capacity in my work as an environmental educator. Thank you for hearing me out here. Blessings to you and yours in your own community of all life.
Your story of the javelina "funeral" is quite touching and makes me remember the older traditions within the human family when we were not in such a hurry to bury the dead without a proper ritual. The body was often in the local sacred space or parlor of the family home long enough for all the members of the family and community to truly share their own individual and unique expressions of grief and farewells. Only after such was fulfilled, was the time of burial set. The javelina family has something to teach the human family. Thanks again.