Llamas As Teachers and Allies
© Hannah-Leigh Bull, Llama Deara Ranch: October 2002
"Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we will
harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the
history of the world, humanity will have discovered fire."
-Teilhard de Chardin
In building the foundation at Llama Deara Ranch, I certainly have focused on
managing the elements, not quite mastering them, but learning about their
vagaries and gifts, smiling at their beauty, picking up after the damage from
the natural wakes. In a state as dry as New Mexico, I've had my fair share of
water-related challenges, from the flooding of the house during a monsoon when
first I arrived, to the breaking of the river canal and subsequent flooding the
next year, the watery milieu of emotions and feeling has been a focus of this
I will forever remember the sight of my llamas, then a herd of six, smart
enough to create an island for themselves in the corner of the corral, as the
canal broke and sent a deluge of water along the barn into their corral,
through three acres of pasture down to reunite with the Rio Chama. I was just
coming back from a business trip to California and sensed the canal sounded too
loud. When I got down to the llamas and our eyes met, the llamas seemed to be
saying, "Hey, look what you missed and what we did while you were gone, and
will you please do something to stop this now!"
With a water table as high as four feet, and the Rio Chama in my backyard, this
land is blessed with water, and of course the ubiquitous wind. I've both
laughed at myself and my gravity and run myself ragged, meeting the challenges
of wind and water while creating a home for my llama family. Then unexpectantly
this winter, I discovered I had cancer of the breast, the very symbol of
feminine sexuality, creativity, nurturing, and love. It stunned me and many of
those around me.
Too much cancer in our news these days, too many of us rising to the challenge
of this mysterious disease, too many of our families and friends mobilized to
help, support, and grasp the vast spectrum of feeling that cancer generates.
Its rampant assault in our society makes the question why almost superfluous.
Still we ask, look to our environment, and pray.
And through the chaos and groping, my beautiful llama herd has been the most
sublime teachers and support. I call them my munching mavens; they always seem
to be casually munching, whether it's the apple trees that I eventually learned
to protect, their hay, or an interesting grass or shrub in the pasture or
corral. They are endlessly curious, inquiring into almost everything they
notice, which is quite a bit. Our attention to each other and the time spent
together have cemented genuine interspecies relationships of trust and caring
among us. The interspecies understanding about which I once dreamed continues
All of this took earthly time and an approach independent of outcome. We spent
lots of moments together; we learned each other's personalities; we observed
each other intently; we laughed together; and when I cried, at least one of
them stood alert, abandoning his or her munching for a moment, witnessing the
sadness, not attempting to change or avoid it, just being present to the
experience of this one human friend.
The llamas continue to share their apple grove with me. I'm spending more time
there these days, laying on the earth under the trees, talking with the fauns,
listening and taking in the Earth's healing energy, absorbing her quiet rhythms
and nurturance. Sometimes I feel I could lie there for weeks on end, the llamas
couching or munching nearby. Often I gaze at them in wonder, grateful for the
extent that my heart has opened since their advent, from their presence, from
our shared community, from our mutual affection, from the patience we had to
grow close to one another, from the missteps we took. We must be harnessing the
energies of love, as Teilhard de Chardin suggested. And isn't this fire I feel
the warmth of our support of each other, the experience of shared trials, the
power that lets us face our challenges as united?
Without the fire our love has kindled, I might be unable to face a diagnosis of
cancer. With the llamas as witnesses, teachers, and allies, with my human
friends and family sorting through their own feelings and misgivings and
allowing mine, with a circle of health-care professionals giving me the space
to make my own decisions, my cup seems more than half full, even overflowing.
This time it is the flood of compassionate connection and caring. This time I
hear the tap of sanity from the hooves of my furry companions, from the Spirit
who inhabits our groves and souls, from our sighing Mother Earth. As we harness
the energies of love for God, Goddess, Universe, or however we call the guiding
force protecting us, let us consciously, each day, act in some small way to
reverse the damage to our ecologies and environments so that we might one day
walk freely beyond the specter of disease.
Director, Llama Deara Ranch