She had two bush dogs, Jed & Jessie that would lie on the porch with me when I was a child. Bundled up bear bait in the biting cold and scorching heat.
This scarf, her scarf is one of my favorite things. I will give it to my daughter someday and tell her of my cabin in the woods—how I learned to use an axe, heat my home, live in solitude, caulk a sink. I’ll smile as I recall midway through morning meditation having to set an air horn off because there was a black bear below my deck.
I’ll tell her of the cougars who were found stalking children at a playground in broad daylight in town the week I moved in, and how I struggled with my fear at night when I would come home and it was so dark that I couldn’t see my hand directly in front of my face. Of my cold toes and nose and struggle to keep a fire going my first months, where my daily attire was a wool sweater as thick as a grandmother tree.
I will tell her of the celebration yips and howls coyotes made after a kill, and my struggle to let go of controlling nature. Of resisting the urge to put on a cape and rescue whatever animal was taking its last breath, realizing coyotes have babies to feed too.
I will tell her with joy of the mornings where I would walk barefoot in a gentle haze in the mossy, lush woods behind my cabin. How liberating it is to pee outside, and feel the connection to the earth in doing so.
I will tell her of my dance with bears and boundaries. Of that time a black bear tore the cedar siding from my cabin and pulled a pipe out of the wall, twice. Of the time I stood naked on my deck banging pots and pans when my eyes were barley open in attempts to claim my territory with a black bear sitting in the sunshine eating huckleberries, and how it simply looked at me with stubborn nonchalance and continued eating.
Of the time my mother told me not to wear my nice city clothes at my cabin, and I did so anyway and they all now lay with cedar and soot stains, unwearable, except when alone.
Of the joy I had each day waking up to the hemlocks swaying and the creek babbling. Of my bedroom, in the loft of the cabin with windows filled with trees and my balcony that was home to a kiwi tree gone wild.
I will tell her of the mornings I made time to meditate, and sat on my balcony starting my day in stillness and silence. The treat of not being badgered by the noise pollution of the city.
I will wrap this scarf upon her neck and tell her to live wildly, freely, stubbornly and fearlessly. I will tell her to get dirty, play in the woods or the city and whistle whatever tune draws joy from her heart.
I will read to her the works of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Khalil Gibran, Pablo Neruda and all the other greats that bled and left their souls behind. The moment she has ears they will be filled with words such as these:
“I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.”
I will tell her although we all must battle fears, that she should strive each day to not live from a place of fear in her heart. That everything we fear is everything we long for, and to live from a place of love is much more worth while.
I will tell her that she has resilient blood and that I will try my darnedest not to roar and fend off her fears but let her maneuver her way through them. But that if she ever does call that I will come running through the woods with the ferocious might of a mother grizzly bear and dissipate anything that tries to harm her soul. That although she will need to learn to awaken her own strength that lays sleeping, that I will always have some to lend.
If I have one wish it will be that she is stubborn, for children that are stubborn grow up to bash their way fearlessly into this world.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photos: Top Photo—author, bottom photo—Jed, Jessie & author, Whitehorse, 1990