The Elegance of Spirit Animals

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I wake in a bit of a funk and linger in bed longer than usual. For some reason, I click on a YouTube video about spirit animals, a subject I don’t know much about. The thirty minute video is fascinating and encourages viewers to pay attention to animals that show up in our lives and consider what messages of guidance they may be offering.

My husband strolls into the room surprised to see me still in bed. “What’s your spirit animal?” I ask, fully knowing how he will answer. “Elephant,” Mike says without hesitation. He embodies an elephant’s methodical, steady, and gentle strength.

I sigh deeply, lean back on the pillow, and stare at the ceiling knowing my melancholy is due to worry over some creative projects I’ve recently taken on. As I continue talking to Mike, I absent-mindedly watch a small black spider slide up and down an invisible thread directly over the bed. It stops to dangle two feet above my head.

It takes a few seconds before the spider’s appearance sinks in. Mike peers around the bathroom corner wondering why I stopped speaking mid-sentence. I point to the spider over my head, my eyes wide, not in fear, but amazement.

I’d just learned from the video that spiders symbolize a strong feminine energy associated with creativity, balance, and connection. Charlotte, the obvious name I give the spider, synchronistically dropped in to offer me reassurance and confidence. Just as a spider has the ability to weave beautiful intricate webs, she reminds me of my own innate creativity. On a metaphorical level, the spider guides me to integrate the individual threads of my life into a coherent and meaningful work of art.

I allow Mike to place the spider outside the bedroom window. I tell Charlotte goodbye and vow to be more aware of animals that come into my life and grateful for the elegant wisdom they can bring. §

“Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul.”
~Pythagoras

(Click here to watch Christina Lopes’ video on spirit animals: https://youtu.be/5e00XKNcdCY)

The Elegant Inspiration of Swans

Nature offers us all the inspiration we need to move through life with elegance and grace. Our physical world is filled with breathtaking landscapes, plants, and animals. Consider a majestic black stallion, a dainty gossamer butterfly, or a strong and courageous lion. Among these elegant creatures is the swan, an ethereal bird that graces the scenes of art, literature, and ballet.

My earliest encounter with storybook swans was Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Ugly Duckling and its powerful message of transformation, kindness, and love. Who can resist the idea that, no matter how awkward and rejected we feel, deep down we are all beautiful swans?

Another favorite novel of mine is E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan. It tells the sweet story of a trumpeter swan, Louis (cleverly named for Louis Armstrong), who learns several lessons on his journey first to self-love and eventually to true love with a swan named Serena.

My affinity for swans was sealed when I was a little girl taking dance lessons. My mother took my sisters and me to a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and I was mesmerized. Ever since, a picture book of the ballet has had a place on my shelf.

Seeing swans in nature only increases their fictional dreaminess for me, though they still somehow seem mythical. As I watch swans regally float on the water, I’m inspired by their natural beauty and simplicity. They might be paddling like crazy just below the surface, but they always appear to float serenely through life.

I began teaching middle school before my children were born. By the time they reached the same age as the eighth graders I taught, I had a daily routine of stopping by a park on the way home from school. For ten or fifteen minutes, I would sit in my car and watch the swans on the small lake, while I decompressed, meditated, and prayed.

In the midst of hectic days blessed by teenagers at work and home, the swans soothed my soul and reminded me how I wanted to show up in the world as a teacher, parent, and human being ~ peaceful, placid, and poised.

Now, as I near my sixties, swans seem to have the wise and mature sense of joy I’d like to possess. They aren’t as dramatic as peacocks or as cute and flighty as chickadees. Swans represent the simple deep contentment I seek in my own life.

Most of us feel drawn to certain things in nature. Do you have a spirit animal that displays traits you’d like to emulate? Though it may not be a swan, I’m sure you appreciate their beauty and are inspired by their grace and serenity. No matter what life brings, we can at least aim to effortlessly glide through our days with the elegance of a simple swan.§

“Swans always look as though they’d just been reading their own fan mail.”
~Jill Struther