Photo: Eric Regeler – U.S. Fish and Wildlife
She came to me
in a dream
under the shadow of a ripening moon.
Wet fur shining
great paw extended
gently nudging me
my shivering body
sapphires on the run
spinning a crown
over her head.
The space in between
cracked awe and reverence,
I felt my heartbeat quicken
as I slipped through
the color of eggshells.
The ragged hole
in the Bear’s neck
healed on my return.
We breathed deep
struck earthbound feeling.
Right relationship is All.
As a woman with Native American roots and one who is also an animist I believe that humans and all living creatures have a spirit and a soul. The spirit is transcendent, the soul embodies the more personal aspects of the animal or human.
I suspect that the spirit and soul reside in the instinctual realm of the “unconscious” body. In humans having access to our instincts allows us to live authentic lives.
However, in western culture people are taught to suppress instinct/feeling and elevate the mind. This cultural process cuts us away from both spirit and soul on a bodily level. In the process we may lose track of ourselves. This poem is about what happens to one woman who is cut away from her instinctual body as a small child and learns to fear it (perhaps as an infant).
When I finally understood what had happened to me I hoped that the conscious decision to return to my abandoned body/spirit/soul would be possible. It has taken most of my life to heal this split and even today my natural tendency is to leave my body when fear strikes. Unlike humans, animals are automatically attached to their spirit and soul through their instinctual bodies so it is not surprising that animals, especially bears and dogs have been my most powerful teachers…
A few weeks ago I lost Snowy, a dog that I loved that didn’t even belong to me (see last essay about Snowy). Death always pulls my spirit and soul out of my body. I know it’s happening but I am unable to do anything about the involuntary splitting. During these periods I feel like I have lost myself. For the last three and a half weeks I have not lived in my body. Yesterday I went with my friend to pick up a new puppy. I was not sure if I was ready to see a new dog of the same breed, but the decision was not mine to make. Much to my amazement I immediately fell in love with the new dog who looked like a little white bear. I could sense that she had her own powerful personality which became apparent almost immediately as I held her in my arms all the way home. We communicated directly through words, unspoken body language and touch. She did not remind me of Snowy, for which I was deeply grateful. When we reached my friend’s house the little white bear dog solemnly approached each of the five children and the three adult dogs introducing herself to her new family. I had the uncanny sense that she knew exactly what she was doing. No one mentioned Snowy. Yet strangely, last night I had a one line dream – a pronouncement which stated: “Snowy is coming back!” In the dream I experienced a moment of pure joy, which awakened me quite suddenly. When I got up this morning I was full of energy; I felt whole, – like myself again. I sensed that somehow Snowy must have returned…
In my experience at the time of death the spirit and soul leave the animal body behind… Depending on the circumstances this process usually takes a few days during which time it is possible to feel the spirit/soul presence of the animal (or person), have vivid dreams or visions etc as I did with Snowy. What happens next is something of a Great Mystery. It may be that if the animal has lived a full life the soul and spirit of that animal moves on, but if the life of the dog is cut short as Snowy’s life was then the spirit and the soul may need to return to help those who have been left behind.
I think the powerful rush of energy that I experienced when I awakened may have been Snowy returning to heal my broken soul/spirit body connection. Her gift to me.
When I next visited my friends I was thrilled to see that the little bear dog seemed fully integrated into her new home although she appeared quite indifferent to me. It was hard to fathom that she had been with her new family for less than 24 hours. I noted that the terrible emptiness that had permeated the house since Snowy’s death had lifted. Could it be that the little “white bear” dog that has joined my friends manifests the more impersonal spirit of Snowy who will remain with them throughout this dog’s life time?
There are no answers here, only more questions but I am adding these working notes the day after I posted “White Bear” and before and after I met the little “white bear” dog….so for me at least, all of this writing is intimately connected.