I remember each Christmas, a delightful story told to me when I was a child. According to the legend, at midnight on Christmas Eve, animals were able to speak to us with human voices. How I wished I could stay up to witness this miracle, but a good little girl needed to be tucked in her bed so that that Santa would stop by while I was sound asleep.

How wonderful it would be if this parable of talking animals came true! Or would it be?

What would the animals say to their human cousins if they could plainly speak their minds for even a few minutes? Would wild animals chastise us for acting as if we humans are superior to the rest of the animal world? Would they blame us for ruining their habitats and for taking their lives beyond verifiable human needs?

Perhaps we would fare better with our beloved pets that we love and treat like members of our families. They would, no doubt, thank us for caring for them. And we could, in return, thank them for the many moments of laughter and companionship they have provided to us.

Lately, I have been saddened and outraged to hear on the news about the many pets that have been abandoned during recent hard times. Their owners have left them to fend for themselves in dire circumstances; and sadly many have died, not only because of neglect but also, I suspect, because of broken hearts.

Often, when photographing animals in the wild, I wonder if I am disturbing them and try not to do so. Looking in their eyes and watching them as they go about their daily lives is a wonderful gift that I would not want to abuse.

Recently, I spent some time sitting quietly in the dunes on the beach, gazing at the ocean when a tiny sandpiper slowly approached. Since I did not speak or move, it decided to investigate this strange human interloper and circled around me until it was within inches of my knee on the sand. I must have stirred a little, and it scurried away.

Had that tiny, lovely bird been able to speak, what would it have said to me? On this eve of Christmas, a time of love and joy, I can only hope that we would have both remarked how lucky we were to be alive on a glorious day, sharing together a place that we both cherish.

Alas, I will never know, since talking animals remains only a sweet story. Humans can, however, speak kindly and reasonably for the rest of nature, and can show by our actions that we want truly to share this beautiful world with all.

Merry Christmas! Lyn

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