When I was two my mother left my father. She took me and my sister with her, fleeing without being seen and without a note of where we could be found. She took only the 2 of us and a duffle bag of our belongings. For 6 months the 3 of us hid as members of the Hare Krishnas, first in Seattle, then in California and finally in West Virginia, where the the Palace of Gold was being built. My mother, when I have asked her about this time, of which I have only muted memories of landscapes stored, does not like to share our experiences in hiding.
When children are 2 yrs old, they are learning language in the form of voice; they are learning how to control their bodies; they are learning independence.
My first clear memory was formed when I was about 2 yrs of age. It is not of a time when I was with the Hare Krishnas, but occurred just before or after. Growing up I would sometimes replay the movie inside my head, wondering if it was an artifact of a nightmare. A few years ago I discovered this memory was created out of an actual event.
In my memory I am sitting on my Grammy’s blue and white checked sofa with my sister and my cousin Lisa. Lisa is in the middle, reading us a picture book. Above our heads hangs my favorite print, “The Fairy Tale” by Sir Walter Ferle. The 3 little girls in the print could almost be us, but I am frozen in a scene of terror. Outside the room I can hear the voices of my mother and my father. I imagine my mother running across the halls of Grammy’s house, my father chasing after her. I imagine he catches her and she falls. I imagine he hurts her. I want to run and save her, but I am frozen on the sofa.
The details of my memory are not a complete match with the events of that day, as they were, in part, created inside my 2-yr-old imagination. What matters is what I kept. What I learned. What stayed with me. And, what I lost.
The loss continued and grew with the life we formed after my mother left my father and replaced him with a man who took away my voice.
Last night I dreamed I was hanging off of a large boulder at the edge of a forest. Below me was a steep decline leading to the forest floor. If I looked down I could see trees through the twilight, and in between the trees I could see animals. In my dream I was wearing only a shirt, naked from the waist down.
As I clung to the boulder with my 2 hands, a bear appeared above me, standing on my rock. The bear was large, but not immense, with dark brown fur. The face of the bear was so close to my own, that we were peering into each other’s eyes. In that moment I knew I should be afraid, in fact there were people above me on the lawn warning me to be careful. Instead, I felt my heart open to the place of love, willing the heart of the bear to open in return. She was there to teach me something, and I wanted to learn.
Below the bear I saw her 2 cubs, playing among the trees. A spotted cat (a panther or a leopard), passed nearby me, 2 more of its family playing among the trees. According to Ted Andrews, Bear teaches us to go inside and find the source of our inner power and creations lying dormant. Panther/leopard/jaguar, is symbolic of the dark, female power. Moon energy. In his book, Animal Speak, Andrews writes “…longstanding wounds will finally begin to heal, and with the healing will come a reclaiming of power that was lost at the time of wounding.” (p. 227) According to Andrews, Panther is a symbol of rebirth, “Those things of childhood and beyond that created suffering, and which caused a loss of innate power and creativity are about to be awakened, confronted and transmuted.” (p. 299)
Don’t forget your dreams.