The concept that all beings on Planet Earth are related comes easily to me. I have a huge family, and though I’m hardly related to any of them by blood, they are my family through and through. I’m thinking about this today, because it is my Nannah’s birthday. Lazelle Simcox Atkinson-Bontrager has been my grandmother for 37 of my 44 years and I can’t imagine my life without her. It was at Nannah’s farm, Anchor Hill, where I first fell in love with horses. I learned to ride, went to horse shows, and attended my first foaling with Nannah by my side. I loved Nannah because she was unique: While most of my friends Grandmothers’ were wearing polyester slacks and getting their silver hair permed every week, Nannah was riding horses in blue jeans and cowboy boots, her sandy hair tucked beneath a Western hat. Best of all, Nannah reminded me of me: Determined, opinionated, and in love with life – and the similarities weren’t just on the inside. More than once, when we were out and about at horse shows, people would come up and say, “Zelle, this must be your granddaughter. She looks just like you!” Nannah would smile, hug me, and say, “Yes, this is my granddaughter and I think we look alike too!” It was our little secret and it meant the world to me.
When I think about my family and the love we share, I know what native people mean when they say, “We are all related.” Being “related” has very little to do with genetic material, it has to do with love. When we love someone or something, we are bound together eternally. The Greeks broke love down into four different types (brotherly, parental, friendship, and romantic) and other customs and cultures had similar distinctions, but in the end, love is love. It is an emotional bond that unites two spirits, regardless of age, race, gender, or even species. The rest is just semantics.
I love the elusive wolf and the bawdy raven – they are my brothers and sisters. I love the burly oaks and slender maples that grow around my house – they are my aunts and uncles. I love the earthworms who give life to my garden and the spiders spinning silver webs – they are my children. I love my Nannah, my Grandma, and my Gran – they are my wisewomen. I belong to a family that outnumbers the stars, for in the end, we are all made of that cosmic dust, I am part of the family of The Wild.
Photo: Pileated Woodpecker by Julie Atkinson