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Archive for Thursday 15th August 2002 - Lonely hermits and their animal companions

Last week's subject was hermits. I ended on a sour note, calling them pushy for concentrating on success in the next world, rather than taking their chances in this one. But there is one aspect of the hermit's life that I greatly admire and would love to share. That is, their friendships with animals.

In their lonely hermitages, with no human company, the Celtic saints became intimate with the creatures around them. Bears and wolves were their companions and shared, meat with them. Like St Francis in the twelfth century, they could talk with birds. They befriended snakes and even insects. That is how they managed to exist in barren places.

I was reminded of this by reading a book, Kinship With All Life by J. Allen Boone. The stories he tells are simple but amazing. They are about the true, equal friendships he has made with all kinds of creatures. The secret, he says, is to be still and quiet, and let them make friends with you. The relationship then develops on their terms, without you being the boss.

One of his stories is about a fly he made friends with. A famous Hollywood actor got to hear of it, and wanted to see for himself. But while he was in the room the fly ignored him and stayed up on the ceiling. The handsome actor was adored by fans everywhere, but his vanity was disturbed by the coolness of a fly. As Mr Boone says, you can learn a lot about people if you watch how animals relate to them.

John Michell

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