Elk on 1/30/12

January 30, 2012 Christine McDonald Animal ConnectionsDogs and CatsWild Animals

As I walked out the patio door this afternoon I saw a herd of elk across the river. They were about fifty grazing and resting in the neighbors pasture. I had seen a herd in the forest while out on a walk a few weeks earlier and immediately thought they had come for a visit. The morning showers had left a clean bright glow to the afternoon sun breaks. I decided I would grab my camera and get a closer look. I could feel their energy as I walked up to them to get this picture. They are such large animals. Their brown heads held high and yet you could feel the squarish groundedness of their bodies.

I approached them from the river side, with a county road to the north and houses to the east; I left them a bit vulnerable as they would need to cross the river between us to get to the hill for safety. I walked slowly, stopping to observe them and letting them know I meant no harm.

They were curious as me and held their ground as I approached. It had only been in the last couple of years we started to see elk in the lower watersheds and closer to our home. The old timers say it was unheard of years ago. They said feeding the elk herds at Jewel and then relocating them made them used to eating hay and living in pastures. I think there was truth to what they said but I also sensed there was more to it.


I decided to connect with them to get my own perspective after taking a few pictures. I was expecting them to bolt as I came closer but they remained. Several got up and some moved away and some moved closer looking at me straight on. I sensed they were agreeable to connecting with me.

As I connected to them it was like being pulled down a rabbit hole by the strings of my heart. It did not take long to realize I was not just connecting to one elk but the whole herd and so the connection was very fast and carried me deep into the earth. In what seemed a matter of seconds the connected feeling expanded into the pasture, the valley, the river and the adjoining mountains and took up a much bigger space.

I could feel how the herd felt like a community or one organism. It felt very powerful and alive and a sharp contrast to the separation experienced in most human interactions. I stayed with the feelings in my body for awhile. The sense of how the elk were funneling energy deep into the earth felt very stabilizing. I had read that the indigenous cultures in Africa believed the elephants with their massive bodies were stabilizing the earth and wondered if large herding animals like elk did the same thing. I asked them if this was why they were in the lower watersheds and the answer was a simple yes.

My husband and I had been kayaking in the lower watershed a few weeks earlier. The winter landscape was devoid of lush landscape and revealed a starkness that saddened me. There were a few alder and spruce but for the most parts it was willow along the waters edge and blackberry, weeds and grass along the banks. The large trees that help to stabilize the banks are no where to be seen and bank erosion and slumping are common along the muddy waters of the lower rivers.

The lack of trees leaves us vulnerable in a way. Just like a deer or bird or elk would be more vulnerable and exposed to the rawness of the environment. That is how I felt floating down the river-looking for the warmth and security of a large tree. Old growth spruce and cedar were important to the lifestyles of Native Americans who once lived here. How would they feel if they lived here now?

I started to think in the absence of the large trees the elk herds may be doing us a big service. As a herd their energies were magnified and the more I pondered it the more right it felt. Grounding the surface of the earth in the lower watersheds was an important role to take on and perhaps not needed 20 or 50 years ago was necessary now for the many species that relied on it for their livelihood, including humans.
I closed the connection by giving gratitude to the elk herd. I turned around and headed back the trail to my home to leave them to their important work.

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