Once upon a time, I was terrified of bears. Actually as a kid, I was pretty terrified of a lot of things. Bears ransacking our campsite didn’t help. And my two older brothers, who delighted in terrifying me even more with horror stories, finally left me anxious camping and absolutely refusing to camp in obvious bear country like Jasper National Park. Ever. Again.
And then one day, many years ago, I took my daughters (at age 4 and 7-ish) to the Shuswap Narrows camping by boat access only. Back then it was still ‘wilderness’.. only the occasional private houseboat, and the adventurous boat campers. Yes, brave for a bear phobic woman… but it’s too amazing at the Narrows not to go.
I won’t make this first bear story a long story.. although it is long and the telling, I think, is entertaining.. but that’s just me. This post will be long enough without all the details! Ha. But you see, I need to feel brave right now.. and, like magic, today a bear helped me. First, though.. the first bear who changed my life:
Suffice to say, we arrived at the Narrows, set up tent, and went for a walk. My daughter Megan said, “Oh look, Mommy, a bear!” and there, 20 feet away, sat a giant Grizzly. Sitting, she was about half the size of the outhouse beside her.
I said to Megan, “Take your sister’s hand, walk down to the beach. Walk right into the houseboat that is on the beach. And wait until I get there.” ( I knew there would be people to look after them!) Megan and Courtney did exactly that, bless their sweet selves. Even Frosti the dog went with them, apparently unaware of a bear in her midst.
I stood still. I was not afraid: ‘Mommy protective instinct’ was in full force. If the bear was going to attack, it could attack me, but not my children.
The Grizzly walked towards me, and still I wasn’t afraid. As she came to the path, she simply crossed it.. looking at me calmly. Her fur swayed golden as it caught the light through the trees, and I thought she was one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen. Surreal. Awe Inspiring… as I felt a bond of motherhood between us.
As it happened, she was the first Grizzly to be spotted in that area in 10 years. I felt honoured.
A few years later I was sitting on my sundeck at home asking myself, “When did you stop being afraid? When did you stop worrying so much? When did you get brave?” (Having lost my Mom when I was 9, and my brother when I was 26, had simply fueled the excessive fears I seemed to have been born with.)
And it struck me that so much fear had left me the day I encountered my Grizzly. Besides the fact that she didn’t kill me, I had realized that all of my years of fear and worry about bears had been wasted “thought-energy”because the day I actually ran into a Grizzly turned out to be a memorable, extraordinary and sacred experience.
That day on the sundeck I realized that my shift in thinking from fear of bears to something so sacred, had unconsciously flowed over into the rest of my life. Worry had faded. I was pretty brave in many aspects of my life, and it felt good. The Grizzly had given me a very empowering life changing experience.
The Bear became a sacred symbol of Motherhood, Strength and Magic. (Okay, along with my other symbols… for those who know more of my wild and crazy story.. faeries, merlin, stars, the night sky, tall ships and a touch of pirates) It’s the Bear that I wear on my finger every day.
Sooo, fast forward past other bear stories to a couple of years ago. My daughter Megan was diagnosed with a rare cancer. She is healthy and wonderful and well now. At the time she went through very aggressive chemo, had some life threatening events and suffered two strokes. Let me mention again: She is sooo well now, got married last summer.. and we all danced gloriously in celebration. (Update 2016: she now has two beautiful daughters)
As you can imagine, during her treatments was a very difficult time. One day I sat at the top of a mountain and sent messages to the universe, the gods, the goddesses, the family on the other side, the faeries, the angels, the guides, “and all who are good and listening whether I believe you exist or not” (Okay, I was desperate and not about to miss a single helping spirit) to help my daughter.
As I walked the path down the mountain, I turned a corner and there was a Momma Black Bear and her two children. My dog gently sat beside me and watched – which in itself signalled a magic moment. My hiking friends watched. And I started to cry because I knew the Bears were a sign that the Universe was listening and my daughter and family were supported.
And now.. fast forward to yesterday. On Wednesday, I will be having a second surgery for breast cancer. In many ways, this was feeling easy. ‘Ridiculous!’ and some “WTF’s,” yes, yet in comparison to what Megan went through, my diagnosis seemed simple, and still does. But results from a lumpectomy weren’t ideal and this past 10 days, as I wait for a masectomy … well, actually, I’ve kind of filled the days with beautiful things, with the help of my family and friends.. spas, hiking, paddleboarding, games, dinners, sketching, writing, even having my breasts painted by artist friends (thank you), playing with grandchildren … I’m doing what I can to connect to energies that feed my soul, to hang onto as I heal.
A series of events evolved into my sharing what was happening on facebook, (I hadn’t intended to share.. that seemed very hard for me) and now I’m in awe .. total awe.. at the spirit lifting support from friends and family a result. So, yes, I am feeling supported.
And it is a bit scary anyway. But here’s one more thing for you to imagine. Imagine my awe once again, when today, a large beautiful black bear with a rich brown snout, bounced across our path. This time, I was in my car with my 4 year old granddaughter, driving back from a hike. (That’s good because there was no houseboat to send her to.) I gasped in delight, and she gasped in delight: ” a real bear! I’ve never seen a bear in real life!” I stopped and watched the Bear run up the mountain side, pausing, graciously to allow a photo. I don’t know why the photo is blue tinted.. except perhaps that the spirit of my Dad happened by. He’s all about ‘blue.’ I do know that the Bear was ever so kind to show up and remind me that I can be brave. But I don’t always have to be. I am supported. There is magic.
And they all lived happily ever after.