Pollux, one of my dogs, is whining, ears pricked, tail wagging, and staring directly at me. I can tell he is desperately trying to tell me something. Is he hungry, thirsty, in need of a trip outside, just bored?  Are the squirrels on the porch bird-feeder too exciting for him to handle quietly? Or is it something else completely?  

I FEEL that I should know what he is trying to communicate, it goes beyond a wish to make my little dog as happy as he makes me. We are talking about one of those persistent aches, like a missing limb I can feel but not use.  

There are others out there with this ache, trying to fill it in any way we can. Religion, science, philosophy, a more vague spirituality. It seems to have been a common theme for humanity over the millenia. A search for some thing, some understanding of ourselves and our place that has been missing.  

We have been denatured, “deprived of [our] natural character, properties...”  Somewhere over the tens of thousands of years that our species has been on earth, we have cut ourselves off from our component parts.  

Once human civilization became efficient at taking care of our base needs, food, water, shelter, we stopped paying much attention to anything other than our minds. In fact, in the lucky first world cultures, most people forget that our super-organism, that which holds our brain, is something to take care of at all. We are so immersed in our mind that we seldom notice our body, nor appreciate and nurture it.  

But there is another property of the human being that all but a few societies and individuals have forgotten. There are an infinite number of names for that quantity we ignore, that “where we fit in the universe.”  Animal, Soul, Intuition, Self, God. We’ve created arts and culture, science and philosophy, spirituality and religion to help us understand our place and function. But these are still constructs and understandings of our mind.  

There is a place we fit in the universe. It’s here, we have just forgotten. We are looking for our animal. Not our body, the chemistry, hormones, or physical needs. Not our minds, that higher function.  

Every other species on earth integrates and interacts intimately with their environment and the other organisms in it. It goes beyond our intellectual understanding of animal behavior. Yes, predators practice mutual avoidance, marking trees to let others know who, what, where, when they were there and where others should go to avoid a confrontation. It’s more than that the duck sees me and the dogs coming and explodes out of the pond, alerting the other animals to our presence. It’s understanding nature, animals, plants, the environment. My horses know that the coyote trotting through their pasture is not interested in them, but in taking the shortest route. The sparrow and chipmunk scratching in the leaf litter under the feeders are aware of where the other is going, and they rarely meet. The trees know what is going on, by a fungal communication system, but also in ways we can’t scientifically comprehend yet. Animals will play with each other, forming interspecies alliances or friendships.  

I feel that I am part of that great understanding. Or should be. I should be able to communicate with the trees, the moss, the chipmunks, my dogs. There was a time when humans weren’t so alienated from their environment. Long, long ago. But there is still a pathway to that “natural character.”  It’s that missing limb, that hole we search to fill. If we can feel it, we can find it again.  

We have been denatured. We need to renature ourselves, unite our parts to create a working whole: mind, body, animal. How do we get there?  That is my quest-ion.  

You could say that my life’s goal is to be able to know for sure if it’s just that the squirrel on the porch is thumbing his nose at Pollux.