I have experienced some encounters that seem to belong outside the boundaries of normal communication. Some of these moments of contact have been between me and other humans and some have involved animals, most often wild ones. Before anyone starts humming the theme music from The Twilight Zone, let me clarify that I am not trying to argue that there is some kind of mystical communication ability between me and some animals or with other human beings by a sort of telepathy. This may very well exist, but I am pretty much an agnostic on the subject. I don’t rule it out of the realm of possibility, but I also wouldn’t argue strongly one way or the other.
However, I often ponder what accounts for this connection and why some moments of contact linger in my consciousness for a long time. They feel significant, even though I would be hard pressed to point to anything tangible resulting from those moments.
The concept of “other” has a great deal of psychological significance and is often used in a judgmental way, meaning that someone or something is alien (and therefore usually experienced with fear, hatred or discrimination). This is not the way I am using it here; rather I use it to indicate that the encounter is significant to me specifically because it is with an “other” or in a manner that is outside the usual or “normal” framework in which I generally communicate with the world.
DREAM. A good friend who lives several hundred miles away is nearing the end of her pregnancy. She is the first of my friends to become a mother. I dream that we are hiking in the mountains–something that we had never done together. The trail is steep and rugged. She is struggling and panting and bending over in distress. The next day her husband calls to announce the arrival of their daughter during the night.
THE DEER WHO WAS NOT AFRAID. I am waiting outside for a friend to come pick me up. We have several apple trees in the yard and deer often come to graze there. Deer are skittish and vigilant and even when I am in the house I have to move quietly to the window and stand very still if I want to watch them. My eye catches movement at the boundary of the yard where it meets the overgrown field. Several deer move cautiously toward the trees. I hold my breath and stand motionless. A young doe moves slowly in my direction, eating a few apples as she moves through the trees. Suddenly she notices me and stands still observing me, as I am observing her. Is she trying to decide if I am a threat, or is she simply learning about the creatures that inhabit her world? At this moment my friend drives up the driveway, gets out of her car and slams the door. The deer stays motionless, studying me. I gesture to my friend and she walks quietly to where I am standing. The deer does not run away, but moves closer to us. It is as if she understands that we welcome her presence and mean her no harm.
A GLANCE ACROSS CULTURAL BOUNDARIES. We are in the marketplace in Pisac in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We are there with our first child, a daughter we are adopting from Peru. After several years of infertility, I am ecstatic to be carrying an infant in a Snuggli. The market is lively and colorful, the fruits and vegetables amazing in their size and freshness. I am looking through the eyes of a tourist, someone who has the unearned fortune to live in a rich country and the means to travel thousands of miles to fulfill my dream of motherhood. A Quechua woman, beautiful in her dignity and splendid in the colorful clothing and headpiece that identifies her origin, sits on the ground next to a large array of vegetables. She is holding a child. Our eyes meet and she smiles at me. I smile back. Our lives and experiences are so different that we might be from different planets. And yet in our smiles we speak the same language. We are mothers and we know what that means to the other. It has been almost 30 years, but that smile still brings tears to my eyes.
Why do these and similar moments of connection linger and acquire significance? Is it because we live restricted by boundaries–whether self-imposed or placed on us by the social conventions we are taught? When these boundaries are blurred we are able to expand our concept of reality, see the world from a different perspective, and the “other” becomes simply another.