Tuesday, July 03, 2007

If I hadn't been born as a human. . .

I'm working on a book that involves animals. . . lots of different animals. . . and the research is slowly taking me over. (Great Gray Owl to the right.)

I'm seeing animals and thinking animals all the time. This is particularly dangerous for me because I have a major weakness for critters of all kinds. . . and a tendency to ascribe human characteristics to animals. As a science type, I know better, but the mom-y and romance-y parts of me do it anyway. I revel in Hollywood's penchant for cute "critter" movies. Give me a Bruce Willis-voiced raccoon or a rat with a gourmet palate and I'm so in the seat with the popcorn. (My formative years included a lot of Wild Kingdom and Disney shorts involving animal journeys. Muppets? I floated through the 80's on a Jim Henson- induced cloud of "cute" endorphins! And those Dr. Doolittle movies-- am I the only one who bought the DVD's?)

Truthfully, I have kind of a schitzy approach to the critters: the science-y part of me loves learning about them and their habits and how they all fit together in the web of life, and the storyteller part of me sees the character potential in them and turns them into. . . characters!

So, when a writer friend told me I was a Golden Retriever. . . I was flattered. And a little confused. It seems there's a whole raft of personality profiling systems that use animals to give humans insight into their own inner workings. Like one test ( link below) that categorizes people into one of four character types: lion, beaver, otter, or golden retriever. If this was the test the gal who called me a Golden Retriever had in mind, I don't know whether to be pleased or outraged. Golden Retrievers are all warm and fuzzy, but they're also resistant to change and generally shortsighted. Excuse me. . . I have more than a little Beaver in me. And some Otter. And a judicious bit of Lion, thank you. (Take the test at: http://www.new-life.net/persnty1.htm )

The old American Indian practice of having an animal "guide" appeals to me. I'm not sure how it worked among The People, but if memory serves, the elders helped the young ones discern their animal guide or spirit as they came of age. I like that idea. I think we should all have an animal guide. . . which could help us understand and focus ourselves and also anchor us to the rest of the natural world.
I think if I had an animal guide, I'd want it to be either an owl or a jaguar. But I suspect that if my family and the village elders had given me one, it would have probably been a ringtail or a raccoon. . . something suitably inquisitive and full of mischief and mildly annoying. But there are days, I feel like a pocket gopher or the little rabbit cousin, the American Pika. . .

I'm a great admirer of wolves-- which are very social creatures. They mate for life, you know. As for domestic animals. . . I'm a dog lover. One one of the tests I took recently, I discovered I'm a Border Collie. . . which is fine with me. We had border collies when I was growing up and they were wonderful beings. . . smart, loyal, tireless. And as time goes on, I've developed a fondness for moose. . . in spite of their surly attitudes. There's something both stately and also deeply comic about them. . . a contradiction I find fascinating.

What about you? What kind of animals interest you? Keep any animal "totems" around your house? What kind of animal guide would you/did you give to your children? What animals do you think you most resemble? Which are you drawn to? If you had to BE an animal, which one would you choose?


Michele Hauf said...

Hmm, very interesting, Betina!
I once went to some kind of new-agey workshop (don't recall the focus) but part of it was learning our animal totems or guides. We were talked through a sort of visualization thing, and I recall a huge dragonfly emerging as mine. I've always had an affinity for them. Think they are gorgeous and smart and wise, even. Otherworldy.


Kathleen Eagle said...

Well, you know me. Drawn to the horse, of course. I've noticed that dog people seem to be horse people and cat people seem to be...well, cat people. Cats have very little use for other critters, Divas that they are. I no longer have a dog, and I miss that companionship. For lots of reasons I haven't gotten a dog since our Aussie died. My critter companion is a cat.

So I imagine myself being a majestic wild horse. But I'm not exactly majestic. I'm probably more turtle or spider. Not so romantic, but I have lots of turtle representations around me--tiny carvings and pottery critters. I don't know what the connection is. Maybe someone who knows me can figure it out.

I'm always telling people not to kill the spiders. Kids, hubby. "The spider is our friend," I say. "They eat mosquitoes." I love to watch them spin a web. The spider is sacred in many cultures. Grandmother Spider is important to the Lakota as well as Southwest nations. A female persona. I feel connected.

Among the winged creatures I love to to watch the hawks that nest in our woods. Eagles are glorious, and MN boasts more nesting pairs than any state except Alaska. Cardinals are so romantic. The owl's call, the dove's coo--wonderful! My favorite birdsong is the meadowlark. When we go to the Dakotas I sit outseide and just soak up that sound. I miss that here in MN.

But the winged ones that fascinate me most? Bats. I love to watch them dart overhead at dusk. They're our friends, too. And, no, I have no interest in vampires. They give bats a bad name.

lois greiman said...

Horses are my thing, too, of course, but all animals fascinate me. I think we're all basicly beasts at heart, but elephants are some particularly favorite beasts. They're very family oriented. Babies stay with their moms for years and the whole herd guards the little ones. I talk a lot about adopting elephants, but so far we're still filled up with horses.

Betina Krahn said...

Michele, I've always liked dragonflies and we see a lot of them down here. . . I get frantic when one gets trapped in our cage and I always try to get it back out into the wild.

Kathy, I'm sure you'd be a magnificent horse. . . because you already make a fabulous Eagle! Do your kids have animal guides?

My sister's grandkids all have animals attached to them. . . parents and grandmother decided early on to call them by certain pet names. One is a ladybug(called, yep, "Bugs"), another's a bear, one's a bird, one's a bee. I think it's a great custom, but somehow my grands haven't gotten animal-connections yet. Hmmmm. . . may have to remedy that.

My own mom said that a spider hung above her bed while she was in the hospital having me. . . and the nursing sister said it was good luck. She taught me to respect spiders. . . said they were good luck for me. And I always have.

And Lois, I can see you with elephants. Though, clearly dogs and horses suit you fine.

Debra Dixon said...

I took the test. I'm a lion and then the graph goes straight down hill from there to like a 6 on the Golden Retriever. Apparently I really don't have that nurture/caring thing going on.

In the recent YA fantasy story I did, an animal familiar was an important component of the story and I really enjoyed the research into the traits ascribed to the various animals.

We've always had animals in my family. We were always draggin' something home when we were kids and my parents never complained. We've had everything from a racoon to a bat.

Helen Brenna said...

I'm a beaver, per the test. Busy, busy, I suppose. Strangely, though, I'm fascinated by snakes. I love the cool feeling of their skin and how calm they seem.

I don't need any animal totems round the house, have too many of the real things. Aside from two dogs and three cats, we've had hamsters, and a lizard named Joe.

My daughter's an animal freak. I've said no to rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas, ducks, geese, guinea pigs, rats, mice, and horses.

If I could BE any animal, it'd have to be a bird, maybe some kind of hawk. To be able to fly at will. Can't imagine anything more marvelous than that.

byrdloves2read said...

Ooooo animals. I have been fascinated with otters for many years and have sculptures, plushies, t-shirts, pins and cards with otters on them. Love their playfulness. If I could pick my animal guide, guess that's what I'd pick.

I grew up with AA Milne's wise old Owl and always thought of owls in that way UNTIL visiting a raptor sanctuary in England where they told us owls are the least bright of all birds. (to put it kindly) *grin*

I think I most resemble a cat because I tend to be aloof and independent.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Took the test--yep, lion. Too damn bossy, as everyone knows. Interesting that my other 3 scores are equal.

Betina Krahn said...

A couple of lions in the convertible. Yipes! And me-- the proverbial Golden Retriever-- stuck in the back seat with a pair of major carnivores!

Ooooo, byrdloves2read. . . I'm devastated to hear owls are so dumb. I was thinking of them like parrots-- which are quite brainy. sigh. Well, I'll just have to find the "exceptional" owl for the book.

Helen, I guess your accounting background ties in with the beaver type. Order and consistency. Do you write that way to? Are you a spreadsheet plotter?

Lover of Books said...

I know I am an otter. My mom did something similar with me and my brother when we were younger. :)If I had to pick which kind it would be a North American River Otter.

Helen Brenna said...

Funny, Betina, I'm not a spreadsheet writer. I don't generally even do an outline and writing synopses before my books are done takes a lot out of me.

I am, though, a linear writer. I have to have my beginning right before I can be successful on the rest of the book. Need to know where I'm coming from to know where I'm going.