I have always loved bears, especially brown bears. When I was young, I used to go to my grandparent’s cottage in the north woods of Wisconsin, for summer vacations. On several occasions during those summer visits our family made a very strange pilgrimage. We all piled into two cars and drove to Boulder Junction. There wasn’t much of anything there when you got to Boulder Junction, and in fact I can’t remember ever seeing any main downtown area. It could not have had more than two streets crossing, but it was a half-hour drive through majestic pines on back woods roads.
Our destination wasn’t the town anyway. We were going to the town dump. And we were not going to dump garbage.
This was back some thirty or more years ago, when they still had open-air dumps in northern Wisconsin. You could drive your car into the wooded plot. You drove down a dirt road to the top of a small ravine overlooking the garbage piles in what was an otherwise scenic wooded grove of pines. If you were dropping off garbage you could take another little road on down to the dumping area where there was a little shack that was presumably occupied sometime during the day. I was never there during the day.
We were often there two hours before sunset. The dump closed just after sunset and we wanted to be sure and get a parking spot at the top of the “scenic” overlook. Sometimes there were as many as four or five cars parked there, but most often we were the only ones there, or we had the company of just one other car. All the people in the cars who parked here had one thing in mind. We all came to watch the bears pick over garbage.
One night I saw three of them at once. My parents even let us sit on the roof of the car so we could see them better. This was a magical place at summer sunset as the bears came out to forage. Some even brought an older bear cub, to learn how to sort and pick. I was fascinated, excited and entranced. When we spoke, which was seldom, we whispered so as not to disturb them. We often watched for an hour or more. As full dark descended, we piled back in our cars and started back to the cabin by the lake which was my grandparent’s retirement home.
On top of getting to watch the bears, we got to stop at the drive in A&W for root beer floats. And with that extra sugar rush I remember dreaming bears at night.
I still dream bears. The dream I remember most is the one where a great mother bear, about six and a half feet tall, held me in her arms like a mother. Whenever she comes, she keeps me warm at night and protects me in my dreams.
I consider the Bear my first totem animal. I have had other dreams and visions of the Bear since then. One came to me during my shamanic soul retrieval, where the guide told me I had lost my power animal in my youth and that it was time for it to come back to me. I have honored Her ever since, especially while picking berries!
Another vision I had in a trance working, Bear came and told me it was my totem animal of the East. Many Native Americans put the Bear in the West, as an introspective animal, one who “dies” and is reborn in the spring.
For me, the Bear specifically told me that it was from the East, and would be my “journey animal and protector” whenever I had need of ally in trance work, or a journey in the spirit realm. The best of all messages is that I could ride my bear, and she would carry me where I needed or wanted to go. And so, when I journey now for others, Bear is one of my two guides to the upper, middle and lower worlds.
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