Susan with one of her spirit animals, a turkey vulture

Book Cover

Deciding what to put on your book cover is a big deal. It should be attractive but not too busy, it should let the words stand out, and be clearly seen when it’s viewed as a smaller image on Amazon’s online site. We went through many different versions and most of my ideas weren’t quite right.

I needed to remember that sometimes less is more. So, when I thought of the silhouette of a bird flying through sunrays it felt like I had hit upon a winner. The designers assumed an eagle would be an obvious choice: a grand and majestic bird. But when I said no, I wanted a turkey vulture, I think it was a bit of a surprise to the people I was working with – except for Logan, my son, who was helping with the cover design.  He knows me by now – I never make the obvious choice. But its true, many people think of turkey vultures as ominous, dark, and scary. Why would I want that?  

I wanted a turkey vulture because I think of them as one of my spirit animals. And as I learned more about them, I just became more and more amazed. I knew nothing about turkey vultures for most of my life. I don’t think they were in our area when I was growing up. The first time I remember seeing them was when Jeff and I were in Oregon filming ravens for our BBC film, ‘Birds in Black’. We were out with a man who studied ravens, and every time he looked up and saw a turkey vulture, he would call it a TV. “Where there are TVs, there are often ravens” he would say, “because they share dead animals for dinner”.

Now many years later turkey vultures have started coming into my life at very special moments. The first time was when our family was building the cabanas for our retreats and five turkey vultures arrived. I looked up and they were gliding around weaving effortless circles across the sky. They seemed to be almost touching the tops of the fir trees, like they wanted to be noticed. I did notice them and felt a wave of excitement in my heart. There were also five of us; Jeff, Logan, Chelsea (my daughter), Marcus (Chelsea’s husband) and myself. We had all come together to create something meaningful on our property. 

When I saw the five turkey vultures, I took it as a sign that what we were doing was meant to be. Since then it seems that whenever we are creating something in the gardens I look up and there will be turkey vultures gracefully catching the wind under their wings. When we were building the labyrinth, the chakra gardens, moving the sheep cottage, and even when we were in Victoria buying our red English phone booth, turkey vultures would be there. 

When I was wanting to connect with Spirit to get reassurance that I was making the right choice for the phone booth, I walked up on a small hill overlooking the ocean. As I stood in contemplation a lone turkey vulture came into view, circling above me. It seemed to be letting me know I was making the correct choice.

The scientific name for turkey vultures is Cathartres aura, this means Golden Purifier. Isn’t that beautiful? They received this name because they purify the landscape. Turkey vultures do not kill or prey upon animals. They only eat the flesh from animals that are already dead. They find carcasses with their incredible sense of smell. They can even eat animals that have died from disease. What’s most amazing is that their digestive system kills viruses and deadly bacteria and what they poop out is disease-free. In this way they purify the environment and make it healthy for all other animals including humans. In many cultures, turkey vultures represent purification.

In Tibet, and in other cultures where they sometimes practice Sky Burial, they take the bodies of deceased people up on a mountain for the vultures to eat. This allows the soul to be free to enter heaven and as the vultures eat the flesh and fly into the skies and up to the heavens, they are getting the old body ready for reincarnation. The vulture, or the Golden Purifier, in Buddhism is a symbol of compassion. My thought is that in caring about our eternal journey the vultures help in the transformation of our deceased bodies to our heavenly body. They help in the journey of our soul. 

For me turkey vultures feel like messengers from Spirit, letting me know that all is well. They have become quite magical to me and, with child-like joy, I welcome them every time I see one. They move with such ease, no resistance, just allowing themselves to be carried along, calm, steady, and strong; seeing all, soaring above the beauty of the earth. They emulate the energy I would like to have on my spiritual journey. 

I guess I did make the correct choice for the cover of my book. 

By chance?

I think not.

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