A Gathering Time

“Gathering Time,” mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam

The squirrels are at it again — scurrying about the wet leaves under the dwindling tree canopies, gathering and chomping through chestnuts, digging up bulbs in our gardens, climbing thorny rose bushes to eat the succulent rose hips. And they’re especially fast little creatures this time of year. It’s like the Squirrel Olympics in my neighborhood. I saw one squirrel carry an extra large bagel in his mouth while skittering across the top of the neighbor’s fence. That, most certainly, should win him some kind of medal.

Besides the spectacle of squirrel-hood this time of year, what message can we glean from these ever-active, super-gathering creatures?

In Jamie Sams’ & David Carson’s Medicine Cards, a divination deck and book, squirrel medicine offers wisdom about the power of gathering what is necessary and true and letting go of what is not. Carson writes, “The gathering power of Squirrel medicine is a great gift. It teaches you to gather and store your energy for times of need. It teaches you to reserve something for future use, whether it be a judgment, an opinion, a savings account, candles, or extra food. To put it in a nutshell, Squirrel is the Boy Scout of the animal kingdom–always prepared.”

I think about the “nesting” feeling that often reveals itself to me in autumn. I’ve been stock-piling tea so much that it won’t all fit in the kitchen cabinet. I’ve also been carrying my comforter around the house with me so I can curl up with it wherever I am. I suppose there is a part of me that wants comfort all around me: warmth, softness, and calmness.

This idea of “storing up energy” for the future is certainly at play with me now, too. What about you? One gift of the darkness of autumn is that it often slows many of us down. It’s as if we’re storing up our energies for when the spring returns. This time might also be teaching us a lesson in slowing down, especially if we’ve been overextending ourselves.

Another gift of squirrel medicine has to do with preparing for change and embracing what is to come. Carson writes,”If Squirrel has scurried into your cards today, it may be that you are being told to honor your future by readying yourself for change. The message could be to lighten your load if you have gathered too many ‘things’ that do not serve you. These ‘things’ can include thoughts, worries, pressures, stresses, or gadgets that have been broken for years.”

In your life, what is accumulating to the point of stress? Too much clutter in your environment? Too much worry? Too many obligations? Too much of saying “yes” to others and not to yourself? What can you do to honor what’s important to you as well as what serves you? When you see yourself in the future, do you feel heaviness or lightness?

The final gift of squirrel medicine, according to Carson, is about creating an “untroubled heart and mind” in which to place your gatherings. In other words, remember that anything you gather needs a safe place to rest until you need it. Squirrels are experts at finding safe places to store their goodies for the winter. Be conscious of not only what you gather (i.e. positive thoughts vs. self-destructive thoughts, etc.), but also the environment in which you store these things/thoughts (this environment is you!). Squirrel wisdom asks you to be open and loving toward what you gather, for the more you nurture what you’re storing inside you, the more powerful and meaningful these things will become in the future when you need them.


About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
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