Native tribes used to believe that individuals had a “Spirit Animal”. If you were brave, it might be a bear. If you had great vision it might be an eagle. The qualities inherent to your animal resonated with your soul. I am chagrined to admit therefore that if I indeed have such an animal, I believe it is the turkey.
Why? For one thing, everywhere I travel I run into wild turkeys. I don’t mean I see them once a year. I see them often, so often that it has evolved into a family joke. Experiencing nature is not new to us. I come from a line of nature lovers. My Dad, for example, always loved deer. My eldest son frequently sees deer on his wildlife ramblings and relishes every sighting, not just for the beauty and strength he has been lucky enough to witness, but also for the connection with his grandfather. Their shared enjoyment, generations apart, still unites them.
My mother and uncle were bird lovers and their favorite birds will always remind us of their spirits. In fact I once shared my turkey theory with my ailing uncle on the way to a doctors appointment. At first he was mildly amused. Shortly after, he thought it was the funniest thing. I still remember him laughing uncontrollably as we parked by the side of the road not five minutes later to allow an entire flock of wild turkeys to cross the road. Bald eagles will always remind me of that uncle. But no eagles for me.
When my kids look back some day and remember me through nature, they will see a drab brown ungainly creature. And I confess that at first I had a hard time with that. Turkeys are not famous for their intelligence. They certainly aren’t graceful. In fact you can’t really call one attractive, at least not as you might compliment a cardinal or hummingbird. Its not as if they have any obvious sterling qualities of which to boast.
Yet wild turkeys are a quality bird, for reasons less obvious than those of the more ostentatious spirit animals. Like the turkey, I am not particularly flashy. But I am tender. My feet are firmly on the ground but I do fly on occasion, often surprising others when I do. I am a comfortable size. I travel with others as a general rule but am unafraid to strike out on my own. I believe in nurturing my family and the importance of close family connection. I also believe in being grateful for the blessings we share. What animal better represents the spirit of sharing and giving than the bird who resides at the heart of our Thanksgiving holiday ? In fact many serve turkey at Christmas too. Family and friends gathering to share a feast…now that cuts to the very heart of who I am. I could even raise a glass in honor of family, share a shot of whiskey, appropriately labeled Wild Turkey. Yes. I understand now. As the bird does unwittingly, I hope to do with purpose. I hope to nourish. I hope my family members each gather a piece of me to themselves and that piece will bring them strength, warmth and comfort.
You can keep your bears, deer and eagles. I am not embarrassed. I own it. I am a turkey and I am proud.