My friend Kate told me that one of the ways you can identify your spirit animal is if it appears to you frequently. For years my spirit animal has been the Great Blue Heron. Everyday when I walk on Lake Washington near my house I make it a point to see a Great Blue Heron. Usually one just appears like she's been waiting for me, but in the last few months I've not seen herons as frequently. Last month I was feeling particularly stressed and I took a walk. I got it in my head that I would feel better if I just saw a heron. But there were no herons in the usual places. In a desperate effort to find one, I walked seven miles (3 miles more than I usually walk). I finally found a heron but my stress level did not diminish. I'd simply traded in the stress that I started with for a new stress to find a heron!
Lately on my walks I've been seeing lots of turtles. Turtles are prolific in Seward Park and I often see them but I don't usually stop and look at them. They frequently dot the rocks between my house and the park, but I usually just notice and continue walking. Today it seemed that every rock, and submerged tree I looked at had a turtle or two sitting in wait for me to notice them.
That's when it dawned on me that maybe my spirit animal has changed. When I got home from my walk I looked up the symbolism of a turtle spirit animal and learned that when a turtle spirit animal appears to you it is time to slow down. The turtle totem offers an invitation to stay focused on one's goals, but to take it slow and steady. For me, one who does most things at warp speed, this is a new approach, and a welcome invitation.
Having looked up my Turtle spirit animal definition, I needed to look up the symbolism of the Great Blue Heron to remind myself of what I might be leaving behind. The Great Blue Heron symbolizes self-determination and self-reliance. The indication for those who carry this totem is to follow their unique wisdom and path.
All day I've been thinking about the significance of this shift. For years I have been working hard to connect with my intuition, to make my own voice the strongest in forging my true path. And for most of this time the Great Blue Heron has been appearing to me. I love the Great Blue Heron and I felt kind of sad that, for whatever reason, the Turtle now seemed to be replacing the Heron. But the truth is that at this time in my life I do feel more connected to my intuition and my path feels grounded in my own truth. Though I'm sad to leave the Heron, it makes sense that I am being visited by the Turtle-- invited to slow down, quiet down, and stop racing.
Not everyone in my life believes in the symbolism of spirit animals. I get it. It's not based in biology or psychology or physics. It's possible that spirit animals act as a kind of placebo-- offering meaning and context to a situation one is already experiencing. That works for me. The Heron and the Turtle and all the other spirit animals that visit us help connect us to the big picture, they offer explanation outside of our own heads. They remind us that there is wisdom everywhere if we look for it.