A Winter Story

As I sit huddled under a blanket and reading a book, I look out the window at the piles of snow that have collected around the house and up pops a memory from somewhere deep within. When I was in my teens, I had an evening job at the mall…B.Dalton Books, I think, or the calendar kiosk they set up at Christmas–I cannot remember which. At that time, I lived with my parents in the country–rolling hills and small-laned gravel roads that were typically deserted on cold, winter nights. One night as I was driving home from work, snow began to fall. As a new driver, I was terrified of sliding off the road. I remember my heart was beating really fast and my hands gripped the steering wheel as I drove. I was probably going only 15 mph, so I don’t know what I was afraid of…if I had to guess, it was likely just pent-up anxiety from working retail at Christmas. Anyway, the snow began falling a bit heavier and just then an enormous buck walked out of the woods and stopped in the middle of the road to stare at me. I stopped the car and stared into the eyes of that deer in awe and disbelief. Of course, I had seen deer before, but this felt personal. Time stood still and suddenly the space around me became magical and mystical. I have no idea how long I sat there. The silence of that experience was so deep. I still remember that feeling.  The feeling of communion.

This is one of the blessings of winter, the time to be idle, wrapped up and cozy, allowing the mind, memory, and imagination to wander. I hope you are taking advantage of this time to BE.

Bear

A bear is a furry person, a relative, that goes underground when the earth sleeps and emerges when it wakes. Giving Voice to Bear, David Rockwell.

BEAR

For my birthday this year, I have started a Facebook fundraiser for the Appalachian Bear Rescue. I have always felt a connection to bears. I have a collection of bear figurines from all over the world. I have been gifted bear images, wood carvings, and journals. I have never seen a bear in the wild, but it terrifies me to think of a world without them.

Some years ago I read in Living with the Himalayan Masters that my guru Swami Rama had a pet bear named Bhola for company as he wandered through the Himalayas. His own guru called Swami Rama a “bear charmer.” 

Bears are honored across the world. Indigenous populations in North America have said that bears are half human because of the similarity to humans in their physical structure. They stand on their hind legs and occasionally walk upright. They stand and reach for berries and have amazing dexterity in those large paws. The blackfeet word o-kits-iks means both hand and bear paw, and the Ojibwa called bears anijinabe, which also meant Indian. Several tribes claim to be direct descendants of bears…that the spirit of the bear is there in all of their gatherings. Remember the Disney film Brother Bear? The bear and the boy were one. Bears can shapeshift into anything. The bear’s fierce maternal instinct, their diet, their knowledge of plants and herbs all were revered by native people. Because of their knowledge of plants, the bear is associated with health and medicine. If you are suffering from an illness, you can call in the spirit of the bear to help you find the right medicine. 

Bears encourage feelings of security and grounding. Did you have a teddy bear as a child? Just looking at images of bears is enough to feel more stable. I carry a silver medallion in my wallet that has a bear carved on one side and on the other it says “Draw upon your inner strength and potentials.” This is the energy of the bear…strong, patient, and resourceful.

There are an infinite number of stories about bears. They have their own mythology in which they display all of the characteristics of human beings, yet remain godly. Bears in these stories are kind and generous or fierce and destructive, depending on the intent of the speaker/writer. Do you know the myth of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming? It varies in detail from tribe to tribe, but essentially some children were running from bears and the Divine saved them by lifting up the earth and raising the kids to the sky. The bears were left to claw at the sides of the tower as they tried to climb up. It was easy for me to imagine this happening as I stood in front of Devil’s tower years ago. It is a sacred place. 

Bears can be dangerous, it’s true. They deserve our respect. They are also wonderful gentle giants that need our protection.

Please, donate to my fundraiser.

If you are interested in reading the book Giving Voice to Bear, you can find the link below.

For further reading: