Years ago, I found a book on animal totems — after pulling an all-nighter with a Navajo friend who clued us in to the shamanistic roots of animal guides and animal medicine. In this Native American spiritual tradition, we each have nine totem animals who walk with us on this life path. They appear when they are needed to guide us at pivotal points.
I don’t know what my nine totem animals are. I’d like to know, but I never undertook the exploration in full. I do, however, feel my greatest sense of connection when I’m with animals, some more than others. And I notice when a single type of animal keeps appearing in my life, particularly if that animal never showed itself previously. If it comes at a particularly stressful period, I pay attention to the lessons or the “medicine” ostensibly offered by that particular animal.
Last week, I started seeing Kestrels. I never see Kestrels close by. I’ve looked for them, hoped to photograph them as more than a speck on the horizon. But in the years I’ve now roamed Bay Area trails, rarely a Kestrel . . . except as a distant blip.
Now, in the span of seven days, I’ve seen four different Kestrels. All close up. All near urban enclaves. All sitting still, showing great tolerance for my presence.
Kestrels are falcons, and lessons of the falcon include balancing speed against outcome, as well as exercising patience in waiting for the right moments to act. If any animal can teach me patience, I’ll embrace it as a totem animal whether or not it wants to be. Kestrels appearing on the cusp between these two years and decades — I will take that as a mandate.