One of the great delights of living on this land is getting to know my neighbors—the plants, animals, and others who live here—as they introduce themselves to me in their own time, on their own terms. The bears, for example, weren’t shy, showing me their scat immediately and their bodies soon after, standing on hind legs to put muddy paws on windows and look inside, or showing glimpses of furry rumps that disappeared quickly whenever I approached on a path through the forest, or walking slowly like black ghosts in the deep gray of pre-dawn. Though I am used to them being so forward, it is always a gift when they reveal themselves even more, as one did recently when he took a swim in the pond in front of me.
Robins, flickers, hummingbirds, and phoebes all present themselves, too. Or rather, like the bear, they present the parts of themselves they want seen. I see robins often, and a couple of times I’ve seen fragments of blue eggshells long after the babies have left, but I’ve never seen their nests. It’s the same with the others.
These encounters—these introductions—and so many more are always on terms chosen by those who were on this land long before I was: they choose the time, place, and duration of our meetings. Like my human neighbors, and like my human friends, they show me what they want of themselves, when they want to show it, how they want to show it, and for that I am glad. To demand they show me more—and this is as true for nonhumans as it is for humans—would be unconscionably rude. It would be arrogant. It would be abusive. It would destroy the others’ trust. It would destroy any potential our relationship may once have had. It would be downright unneighborly.
This presumes I’m interested in relationships. If I were more interested in control than relationships, I might act differently.