My spirit guides tend to be very, very polite. They’ll rarely smack me over the head with a message; they’ll usually wait until I ask explicitly for help or direction with something. And sometimes they’re evasive or silent even then — especially if they know I won’t like what they have to say. But if they have something important to communicate, and I’m not tuned in, they’ll coyly slip me hints and synchronicities until I finally wake up and get the message.
The Bear, it turns out, is one of those. She has been dropping me hints and signs for twenty years, and I’ve never picked up on it — until last month.
It started when I was in high school, with a dream I had. I grew up in Greensboro, NC, which by coincidence was the home of one of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card; and when I found out that he was actually teaching courses in writing fiction, I jumped at the chance. I learned some great things, but I’m a little wistful about the whole experience: if I’d been older, I would have learned a lot more.
In any case, I naturally looked up to Card as a sort of mentor / father figure, so it’s not surprising that he appeared in a dream of mine around that time. He was leading myself and a bunch of other boys — a scout troop, perhaps — as we were climbing a mountain. We got about halfway up and stopped to rest at a grassy, sunny field, and while it wasn’t at the actual top, there was a great view and it seemed like you could sit there forever.
“Yes, your father thought this was a good place to stop, too,” said Card. “Then the bears got him.”
I still don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, even though I’ve pondered it on and off for two decades. It was only recently that I wondered why it was bears that got him.
Bears On My Trail
Since then I’ve had close encounters with wild bears probably half a dozen times. I think the first time was while hiking with some friends on a mountain called Old Rag in northern Virginia. Not long after that, I was hiking with my uncle, also in northern Virginia, and we saw a bear that was so small it must have been a cub, dashing across the trail and into the undergrowth. The next year, my friend and I accidentally camped in New Mexico in an area that, unbeknownst to us, had been closed off because of a bear sighting. (We didn’t see it — but it probably saw us.) A few years later I was driving in New Hampshire with the family and saw a bear by the side of the road. And that same month I saw a young bear romping and climbing trees while I was hiking alone on the Appalachian trail in Massachusetts.
Most people don’t see so many wild bears. And it’s not like I’m out hiking and camping all the time — I go maybe one or two times a year, tops. The closest I’ve been to one was probably forty or fifty feet.
It never occurred to me to wonder why I was seeing so many bears. And did I ever ask myself whether the bear might be a totem animal or something for me? I did not.
The Finding of the Second Temple
I don’t remember, now, exactly what my purpose was — I think I was just exploring — but a few years ago I was surprised to stumble on a second temple to Apollo in my inner landscape. It was located just about as far as possible from the first one: somewhere deep in the mountains way out past the World Tree.
Like the first one, it stood at the edge of an oak forest, with dark shadowy trees on one side and an open sunny meadow on the other. Bees hummed among the flowers there. And like the first, it was round and carved of white stone and covered with a dome supported by pillars, with a small pool of water in the floor. But this temple was, for some reason, dirty and abandoned, with leaves of past autumns layered on the floor, spiders everywhere, and a sense of mustiness, lichen, and aging stone. The pool was muddied and cloudy.
I sat for a while with it, and tried to get a sense of the place. Apollo’s presence was still here, clearly, but it had simply been ignored. I could not get a clear idea of why this was here, what its purpose was, or whether there was something I was supposed to do. I did a little sweeping, but decided that perhaps it was someone else’s temple — after all, I had another — and left it alone until I could figure out more about it.
(to be continued)