Women and Bears…

This is an excerpt from Terry Tempest William’s book “An Unspoken Hunger” – which is a little jewel of a book and a great way to introduce oneself to her writing, which is creative non-fiction. She is smart, funny and passionate.

At least I think that is the title — I cannot check. The book was lost in one of those parcels that was angrily sent back in the mail – “here take your damn books”. One first edition Mary Oliver was chewed up by her dog, the whole package ripped open en route and my copy of Unspoken Hunger was lost.

I’d love to blog about her sometime (but that is not my style) but leave it to say she is a lesbian therapist who learned about me and began scheming through her clients. That is the funny, sad part – that I responded the insane part. Of course it was not ethical.

BUT onto Terry Tempest Williams – who really must be read and I return to her work over and over again as it always inspires new thinking on my part and much of her work serves as a spiritual guidebook for me.

The next morning, I walked to the edge of the wash, shed my clothes, and bathed in the pumpkin -colored water. It was to be one of the last warn days of autumn. Standing naked in the sand, I noticed bear tracks. Bending down, I gently placed my right hand inside the fresh paw print.
Women and bears.
Marian Engel in her novel Bear, portrays a woman and bear in an erotics of place. It doesn’t matter whether the bear is seen as male or female. The relationship between the two is sensual, wild.

The woman says, “Bear, take me to the bottom of the ocean with you, Bear, swim with me, Bear, put your arms around me, enclose me, swim, down, down, down, with me.”
“Bear,” she says suddenly, “come dance with me.”

They make love. Afterward, “She felt pain, but it was a dear sweet pain that belonged not to mental suffering, but to the earth.”

I have felt pain that arises from a recognition of beauty, pain we hold when we remember what we are connected to and the delicacy of our relations. It is this tenderness born out of connection to place that fuels my writing. Writing becomes an act of compassion toward life, the life we so often refuse to see because if we look too closely or feel too deeply, there may be no end to our suffering. But words empower us, move us beyond our suffering, and set us free. This is the sorcery of literature. We are healed by our stories.
By undressing, exposing, and embracing the bear, we undress, expose, and embrace our authentic selves. Stripped free from society’s oughts and shoulds, we emerge as emancipated beings. The bear is free to roam.

If we choose to follow the bear, we will be saved from a distractive and domesticated life. The bear becomes our mentor. We must journey out, so that we might journey in. The bear mother enters the earth before snowfall and dreams herself through winter, emerging in the spring with young by her side. She not only survives the barren months, she gives birth. She is the caretaker of the unseen world. As a writer and a woman with obligations to both family and community, I have tried to adopt this ritual in the balancing of a public and private life. We are at home in the deserts and mountains, as well as in our dens. Above ground in the abundance of spring and summer, I am available. Below ground in the deepening of autumn and winter, I am not. I need hibernation in order to create.
We are creatures of paradox, women and bears, two animals that are enormously unpredictable, hence our mystery. Perhaps the fear of bears and the fear of women lies in our refusal to be tamed, the impulses we arouse and the forces we represent.


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