I got up early this morning to see if the horses had come home. My herd can come and go at liberty at our place. During a damp bug-laden night like yesterday they wander many miles through the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies to brush off annoying horseflies and blood-thirsty mosquitoes. Often they choose to come to the barn in the morning: to dry off, to have bug spray applied, to get brushed and mostly to nap and rest from the night’s adventure of constant walking and sharing the wilderness with predators such as cougars, wolves and bears.
When I approached the barn and its adjoining meadow, I found the place occupied. However, it wasn’t the horses, who had come home, but a family of female deer, with a newborn fawn tugged safely away behind a barrel near the round pen. I didn’t want to intrude and therefore stopped and exhaled, allowing the magical scene in front of me to flood my senses. The early morning sun was just rising over the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and silhouetted the quiet deer family against the fog that rose in gentle wisps from the meadow. As the family of three started the day with playful exuberance, they were necking and teasing each other, chasing and running, hopping and kicking – and in between enjoyed essential licks at the horse’s salt block. They noticed me eventually and all the activity stopped. I turned quietly around and walked away, marvelling about the joy that I had just witnessed – a powerful reminder to stay playful in the midst of a task.
I walked down to the creek and then headed into the mountains behind our house. The branches were dripping heavily from last night’s drizzle, with the water drops sparkling like diamonds, reflecting the sunshine back to me. Following the old watershed road, I sank into the rhythm of my own steady mountain walk – a practice learned ages ago during my childhood in the Alps. The soft forest ground underneath my feet was saturated with water and the air palpable with olfactory forest-overload. As I approached our watershed, I suddenly noticed a small, but distinct trail, branching off into the thick brush to my right. I had never noticed it before and was intrigued to follow this new path. It was definitely a horse trail and the moment I stepped onto it an almost magnetic energy seemed to surge through me. I felt drawn to follow it with such intensity that it simply appeared crazy to not do so.
Like being a drop of water in the flow of a vibrant mountain creek, the path wove its way through the mountain matrix, pulling me powerfully and yet ever so gently with it. Every fibre of my body recognized and identified with the maze and followed it with an ease and an inner knowingness that defies words, but communicates nevertheless the absolute clarity that the flow with the now was the purpose and the destination of this journey. When the trail finally joined another old logging road, I felt a bit disoriented, like coming out of a deep dream or a trance. I took a few deep breaths, milled aimlessly around and then checked the ground for horse tracks. I only detected old ones, but realized that it didn’t matter. I was here for my own purpose today, following the call of my inner wild nature.
As my dog Sunny turned to the left, so did I and once again we followed a pathway that somehow seemed to be mapped out internally. With the hot summer sun quickly climbing the horizon, the air warmed up and I inhaled deeply, my body basking in the joy of the promise of a warm summer day. All of a sudden I sensed something else, something so subtle that I almost missed it. It was like the sensation of a raptor quietly sailing over me. And yet it wasn’t coming from above, but from the hillside to my right. I looked for Sunny and she confirmed with her alert body position that she had sensed it too. Walking along the road, I kept scanning the grassy hillside. What was it, maybe another deer or an elk? And where was it? And then I spotted it! There was an effortless, almost gliding quality to the movement of the dark shadow above me. An ease about how it wound its way around trees and shrubs, following its own path on the invisible net: a big mature and jet-black bear.
He didn’t show any signs that he had spotted me, but there was no doubt in my mind that with only 75 yards between us, he was highly aware of me and the dog just as we were of him. Having grown up in a country without bears, every bear encounter is usually filled with a lot of trepidation and intense hot-shot rushes of adrenaline. In mythology and aboriginal tradition bear represents many things. To me it represents fear, fear of the unknown. However, this time my experience was different. Staying connected with my body, I was highly aware that both, bear and I utilized and were linked by the same network, but chose different pathways. Separated by a big mountain meadow we kept moving quietly and casually into the same direction, with a high awareness of each other’s presence. We both kept doing what we were doing: he picking early summer soap berries and me enjoying a morning walk with my dog, letting nature lead me to a place that was yet unknown to me. Oddly enough, it felt safe to walk with an animal which for so many years represented so much fear for me. The physical distance between us combined with the knowingness of each other’s presence created a sense of safe space for me. I wondered, if fear is simply a part of every human’s life, then maybe the ability to walk with it, in respectful distance and with connection without being run or dominated by it, might be a way to embrace the darker aspects of the soul, a new and powerful way to embrace my own wild nature and the unknown powers that are imbedded in it.