The long winter led to a lot of vivid, wacky dreams and the drama coming out of it also led to some surreal, wacky moments in waking life. While it’s gotten me a treat or two – I’ve seen wild owls in the heart of Minneapolis and received repeated blessings from the same homeless man in a part of the Cities the homeless don’t much frequent – it’s gotten me some spooky moments, like the panther-sized cat ((Some North American panthers are small enough to be taken for steroidal cats)) that I found wandering the hallways of my apartment, systematically shrieking and hissing at each door. A neighbor I rarely speak to and I were in the hall to see it, and both of us said at the same time, “Holy crap, Pet Semetary!”
Each of these incidents, when referenced in a dream dictionary, did have bearing on my life situation at that time.
Normally, I stay away from omen reading. I just haven’t seen enough information about how to distinguish omens from random occurrences. Sometimes a bird smacking into my window is a sign. Sometimes, however, it’s just a stupid bird. Also, I’m accustomed to weird stuff happening. I live in a population dense area; odds for weird increase, and my odds fall just a little above that average.
What I found, as a series of incidents piled up that were just enough out of the ordinary to get my attention, was that I was encountering animal omens. While the books directed at New Age shamans offer some interesting things about the lore around the animals, I found most a bit too sweet and none rang a bell for me. However, as my dreams got progressively more gnarly, I started using the Green Leaf dream dictionary I downloaded on my Droid. It was pretty accurate, which surprised me, as the dream dictionaries printed in the 90s were mostly worthless. Either my subconscious is becoming more Western-standard-thought, or dream dictionaries have improved in the past twenty years.
Note: I hope GreenLeaf offers a paid app version, because the latest one has REALLY annoying ads/mailing list demands as part of the interface.
While I was out for a meditative walk behind the Rose Garden one evening, I encountered a raccoon marching around the swamp, hissing. I decided to look it up on my Droid… and the attached meaning fit a recent incident. Fortunately, other omens – including the live owl – appeared in the course of my walk that evening that offset the message sent via angry raccoon. Context is everything, and multiple omens in the course of a night is like sending a telegraph with multiple messages. It’s hard to do, as most magic communication happens in very short bursts.
So how could I tell it was an omen?
That’s the question to ask over and over, throughout each encounter. What I look for is the following. It must be a yes on ALL of them, or it’s more likely just one of those weird, random things:
1. A behavior or incident that is unusual. If birds land on your patio every day, it’s not an omen. If one of those is a vulture, and you live in say, Illinois, it might be. It also might simply mean a bird got loose from a local zoo or raptor center, or that you have a dead critter in your backyard.
My first omen experience happened when I was driving in a rural part of Northwest Indiana. A red fox ran out in front of my car, and just sat there. It had fully intended to stop my car. This is not normal fox behavior. I have since had this happen with a white fox as well, and most people never even SEE white foxes in the course of their lives. (Sadly, I have not seen a fox in years. I may go to a zoo just for a visit with one.)
Birds don’t normally land on my balcony, except in September, because the roof of my building is coated in pigeon poison. In September, a murder of crows convene in a tree across the street, so I see them then. Most have the good manners not to poop there. A line of crows on my balcony only means that fall is coming and winter is fast on its heels.
2. A sense of time slowing down. I don’t know how to explain this, as it’s not by any means sl0w motion. It’s just a sense that you spent a long time in the interaction, and then you look at your watch or a clock and find little time has passed at all.
3. A mutual sense of awareness. It sees you, and you see it. There is a sense of meaning, message or expectation. To distinguish: you pass people on the street daily, with minimal interaction. But when you see someone you recognize, there is an added emotive response, and a change in expression. To use the vague and frustrating phrase, you “feel the energy.”
About the expressions: Animals also have facial expressions although we don’t always acknowledge them as such. My fox terrier used to laugh at me all the time; it wasn’t hominid laughter, but the dog was laughing, and it was visible in the bouncy body movements. A few years ago, about five years after that dog died, a dog broke his leash and jumped on me while wagging his tail. The owner said that his dog had never, in his five years of owning him, behaved that way with anyone. There was time slowing, awareness – but it was not an omen. In this case, it was a spirit message, in the same vein as omens, but different. Since the dog looked exactly like my departed fox terrier, but larger, I was pretty sure it was a message from across what the hardcore animal lovers call the Rainbow Bridge.
I also want to point out here that all this omen and dream experience happens within an urban environment. We add the connotation of “unnatural” to urban, but that’s anything but true. Cities were formed because nature kept kicking our asses, and this is just a reminder that nature is ever-present no matter where we locate ourselves. Where there is breath, there is nature. We ARE nature. Whether it’s a housecat in apparent heroin withdrawal or an owl in a public parking lot, animals will find a way to reach us and interact. As more animals adapt to urban environments, we will see much more of this – from foxes on trampolines to bears lumbering around and reducing crime in Saint Paul through sheer presence and the occasional mauled gang member.
Reminds me, I should go look for the wild turkeys that maraud in Northeast Minneapolis. I kind of love them.