Most of us have had the experience — wonderful, heart-stopping, sometimes terrifying — of unexpectedly encountering an animal in the wild. It may be the tranquil sight of deer off in the woods, or a hawk circling in the canyons of Manhattan. It can be scary, as in some of the recent bear sightings on the East Coast, or inspire reverence for the raw beauty of the creature sighted. For most of us in the United States, the wild creatures are limited: hawks, coyotes, bears, foxes, wolves, and maybe the occasional snake.As their natural habitats get further encroached upon, close encounters are becoming more frequent, even while overall populations may be decreasing. Still, I was especially shocked to see a wild bobcat cutting through my property several weeks ago.
My first thought was for the safety of my own cats, who are allowed outside, and my second thought was that the bobcat was much smaller than I had expected. Still, I caught my breath at how majestic and wild it looked, with its pointed ear tufts and white spots that looked like a second set of eyes. It paused and looked directly at me and I stood still, both hoping it would stay, and that it would pass by in peace.
I immediately thought of my deep attraction to and affinity for all things feline. I am a Leo, born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger, and I have large cats as my animal totems. As soon as the wild creature passed out of sight I rushed to look up “bobcat” in my medicine card and animal totem books and learned that it is a member of the Lynx family. It represents secret medicine, and the ability to keep secret knowledge. I took this information to heart and, not wanting anyone to disturb the bobcat’s migration, I told no one about the sighting until I knew enough time had passed that it would no longer be in our area.
(For a glimpse of wild encounters in other countries, check out Rory Young’s wonderful story of Patches and Stumpy, the two elephants that touched his heart.)