Consenting Creatures

Last year I read a book called Becoming Nature and reviewed it for Spiral Nature (you can read the proper review here spiralnature.com/reviews/becoming-nature-tamarack-song/). Part of the reason I was interested was that it suggested a person could get to the point of being able to touch a wild animal. I’ve handled mice and birds when rescuing them, and hedgehogs for that matter, but I imagined being able to reach out a hand to a deer, and knowing how to do that seemed really appealing.

The author’s method turned out to be all about creeping up an animal, predator-style, and making contact before they know you are there. At this point I realised that I don’t want to sneak up and touch a creature. If I’m going to touch a wild thing outside of a rescue context, I want the wild thing to have consented.

Most usually what I end up touching – or being touched by – is insects. For them, I’m just terrain, and they land on me, or walk onto my hand if I need to move them. I’ve got some very friendly robins around the flat.  I’ve managed to get within a few feet of them on several occasions. I suspect if I had mealworms, they would come to me. I’ve been within feet of wild deer on a few occasions as well, with their full knowledge.

The idea in Becoming Nature is to be a predator, and to avoid being noticed by your prey. In that system you have to avoid paying too much attention, because the creatures will feel you looking at them and move away. I’m not a predator. So in some ways I’m moving through the landscape more like a herbivore, and I’m paying attention. Frequently, what alerts me to the presence of a deer is the feeling of being watched, and it will turn out that one has been eyeing me up. I often find that regardless of who spotted who first, we can hold that mutual interest for some time as long as I don’t make any threatening moves. I suspect that the deer round here see me often enough to be somewhat used to me anyway.

I would love to touch a wild deer. That’s only going to happen if for some reason, the deer approaches me. I don’t want to steal contact as an ego trip. I have nothing to prove. The odds are it’s never going to happen, and I’m fine with that. I am not entitled to touch anything I want to touch, and for me, consent is an important consideration with any sentient being I engage with in any context.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Consenting Creatures

  • Aurora J Stone

    Well stated. We do harm to ourselves in taking a ‘predator’ stance in relation to our fellow creatures. Since we are the ones coming into their home space, it is fitting that that make the introductory moves.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Only have touched a few wild animals. Two were baby birds I raised.

    One was a new adult bird that had flown into an old cage for rasing canaries and who did not know how to get out in spite of there being no bottom, or door. That would have required flying down. Scared birds have a tendency to only fly up.

    That case was special because his parents came to the side door from the kitchen and made such a ruckus,that I came outside. Then they flew around to the back of the house several times until I followed them and saw the problem.

    One does not get called by parent birds to rescue their young bird very often.

    Outside of that, it is only animals that have come close to check me out. I never made any attempt to touch them. We just checked each other out.

  • roselle angwin

    I’m completely with you. Mutual consent only! If it’s not a reciprocity, a free co-operation, it’s the same old same old human error of taking a hierarchical stance again, forcing ourselves on the other-than-human, isn’t it?

    I have had this kind of contact, amazingly to me, a few times; notably after coming back from a 3-day fasting visionquest on Dartmoor. For two or three days afterwards, much of which I spent outside, various birds and butterflies landed on me, and a hen pheasant took to tapping at my kitchen window every morning for food, which she’d eat out of my hand (she was wild and not farmed).

    Such blessings.

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