Standing around the morning campfire, talking and laughing, I saw a flash in the dead fall of trees on the beach. There’s a short-tailed weasel! She’s almost playing, hopping sideways in the sand and then darting off like kittens do. Then she creeps along under a log and pops her head out a yard from my feet, pausing to look before she darts off again. She hung around for a while and even came back later when the fishermen were there to let them watch her, too. Matt, our guide and native Alaskan, exclaimed that he’d never seen a short-tailed weasel before. “Really?”, I say surprised, “I’ve seen one every time I’ve come to Alaska.” He remarked matter-of-factly that this must be my spirit animal, then.
On our previous trip to Alaska we were staying at a cabin in Hideaway Cove across the bay from Homer. While sitting outside the dining yurt, enjoying a beer and waiting for dinner, a short-tailed weasel came out onto the deck. It stopped to look around some, allowing for some pictures, and then disappeared as quickly as it came.
On our first trip to Alaska we spent a night at a bed and breakfast on Lake Hood in Anchorage. They have a balcony where guests can sit and watch the seaplane traffic come and go (and even head phones to listen in to air traffic control, if you’re so inclined). Scurrying to the top of the woodpile below was a short-tailed weasel. She paused at the top of the pile to look around, lingering long enough for me to take some pictures. Then she was off and over the fence going about her business.
I had another encounter with a different kind of small weasel several years ago in Grand Teton National Park. Rob and I sat on an old bridge over a braided river in a wide, gravelly riverbed. The day was drawing to a close, a good time to sit quietly and see who might show up. We saw an owl fly along the treeline at the edge of the riverbed. Then, out of the woods came a pine marten! It bounded along the opposite rail of the bridge, equal parts kitten and ferret! We sat frozen and silent. It stopped a couple of yards away, sizing us up, sitting in the sun for a photo and then darted past us to the other side of the riverbed to disappear into the forest.
The best animal encounters are just like this one – where the animal knows I am there and chooses not to alter their behavior because of me. I can be one with the natural environment.
Maybe Matt is right about this spirit animal?
(According to Native American tradition, a totem animal or spirit animal is one that will accompany a person throughout life, acting as a guide. With this one animal, a connection is shared, either through interest in the animal, dreams, characteristics or other interaction. This spirit animal is said to offer power and wisdom to the individual.)