Lately, I’ve been meditating on the distance between knowing something and believing something.
In some cases, the distance is like a chasm: far, wide, and unpredictable. In other cases, the distance seems tiny, barely perceptible.
I’m beginning to think that there being any distance at all is what determines my lived experience. When I know something to be true, and I believe it, it’s a simple given. When I know something and I don’t believe it, I feel a certain kind of emotional denial. When I believe something, but I don’t know yet, I’m leaning on faith.
I know that I am on a divine timeline, and I believe it. I need no proof that life is full of miracles and catastrophes and randomness.
I know my grandparents are aging, and have cancers in their bodies, but I don’t believe, not really, that I’ll have to live without them.
I believe that it’s all going to work out in the end, but lord knows that I don’t know the details. How will I move west? How will I build a family? How will I make a life? Who knows! But I believe it will come together in perfect timing.
A week or so ago, something inside me clicked into place – a belief – and the alignment of what I had known and what I believed tickled me almost senseless. I snickered and laughed and fell into giggles at the profundity and the silliness of the whole thing. I sputtered as I tried to explain it to M:
A few weeks ago, I came home to find a skunk pelt in the middle of my living room. Years ago, I can’t remember when or why or who or how, I received a gift of a skunk pelt. It is soft and lush, and was so carefully and expertly cleaned. It’s something I’ve moved from house to house, and I’ve kept it safely tucked away. It’s purpose has been unknown to me though I have cared for it like a treasure. I’d been keeping it in a trunk in my bedroom closet on the second floor. And yet, there it was.
Just chillin in the middle of my living room.
As I tucked it away, I said a quick prayer: OH HI, Tunkasila. I hear you. Good one. Fist bump.
I went about my life: work, friends, travel. Conversations, plans, to do lists. Group text messages and house projects.
I often take a story-based yoga class on Sunday morning, and the topics are all over the place. Last week, the instructor started talking about animal medicine. Her story travels a bit, and finally she laments: Is it so important that we identify WHICH ONE it is? Whenever totems come up in conversation, there’s often an urge to pinpoint. If I tell you that I feel a fascination with doves, hawks, and robins, do you start to contemplate which bird is most closely associated with me based on what you perceive of me? Or what you know about those birds? Can we just be comfortable acknowledging that there’s something special about winged ones? Can we acknowledge that the impulse to identify, define, and claim a totem is the work of our ego? As though if we pinpoint it, we will have done the work?
I smiled as she spoke, appreciating the synchronicity of the moment. I remembered a conversation from earlier in the summer on this very subject. I was relieved this was her teaching. (I sometimes feel a sense of vigilance rise in my body: is this going down a path I don’t condone? No? Okay. Phew. It’s hard out here in the suburbs.)
It was later that day that it all fell into place.
- I was gifted a skunk pelt years ago.
- I’d been talking about animal medicine with someone earlier this summer who had asked me: How do you know?
- I asked my mom about it when I was in Portland in August. She reiterated: You have to listen.
- I realized that I wear stripes… a lot… after I cleared out my wardrobe.
- The skunk reappeared in my living room.
- (I’ve been deeply drawn to essential oils, and therapeutic uses of their aromas.)
- (I am often helping others with boundaries and the practice of self-respect.)
- (Nothing turns me off faster than someone who comes on too strong.)
The evidence tipped the scale and I found myself laughing. I’d known – for years. Suddenly, I believed.
I read the description of skunk medicine in Medicine Cards. Ah, yes. I’ve read this before. Yes, of course. But the meaning is totally different now, however many years later.
If that wasn’t enough, some preliminary searching revealed that the Ojibwa consider Chicago “the place of the skunk” (Source). And because this would only makes sense (!!), Chicago-area experts considered 2015 to be a high point of a 12 year cycle of skunk population (Source).
I came across this:
“Tribes with Skunk Clans include the Creek (whose Skunk Clan is named Kunipalgi or Konepvlke), the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw. The Hidatsa also had a Skunk or Pole-cat Society, which was a ceremonial organization of young women associated with the celebration of war honors” (Source).
Alright, alright. I hear you.