Friday, October 06, 2006
A story about love and protection, this reflects my feelings about being a mother of two children and numerous adopted animals. When I wrote this story, I was working on a sculptural art piece that is part of my Shafeshifter Series. The story is mounted behind the copper repousse' door in the back of this sculpture. I don't remember which came first the story concept, polar bear mask, or mother & child clay sculpture. As with most of my sculptural art pieces, it seemed to evolve on its own. If you'd like to see more pictures of this piece or the rest of my Shapeshifter Series, you can visit my website at susangt.com.
I hope you enjoy the story.
Story Title: Mama Bear
Sculptural Piece Title: SHAPESHIFTER #2
POLAR BEAR C Susan Gallacher-Turner 2006
Sometimes we don’t know how strong we are until we have to be strong.
I had my baby in the late autumn. The tribal midwife was there to help me with the delivery and my mate was there for me, too. Several days after the birth, he followed after the tribe to continue hunting for game while the rest of our people gathered fruit and grains for the winter months.
The midwife stayed at my side until she was called to help another. I was not ready to move yet, so I waited with supplies of food; wood and blankets until my mate finished hunting and came to take me back to the tribe’s winter home.
It wasn’t until several weeks later, that I knew something was wrong. I woke in the dark, restless from a dream, and knew my mate was dead. On his way back to me, a bear killed him. I would have to remain in the cave, alone all winter.
One love was gone. Another was in my arms, and depended on me for all her needs. Like every mother, I knew the fear of birth and the awe of responsibility for a new life. I knew leaving to go back to the tribe would risk both our lives, but especially hers. I wasn’t afraid of being alone, snowed in the cave for many long months but of sickness, injury, attack or anything that could hurt my little baby. I knew, now, I must live to keep her alive.
And so I lived in rhythm with the new life in arms. When she slept, I slept. When she ate, I ate. I had plenty of food for myself from the tribe, and my baby had plenty of food from me. Water would be as easy as melting snow over the fire. I had already moved rocks in front of the door to keep out animals and drafts while still leaving room for fresh air. So we lived sun-to-sun, new moon to full moon and back again. The world went from golden to white to green and soon it would be time to travel back to the tribe.
On one of those early spring days, just as the snow was starting to thaw, I wrapped my baby up snuggly and went out to enjoy the warm sun. I heard a crack behind me. I quickly put her down under a thick bramble and turned to face the biggest, fiercest beast I had ever seen. The bear was twice my size, with paws the size of my head and claws like daggers. It lunged at me, swiping a huge paw just past my shoulder. As I ran swiftly around a tree, I felt a surge of fear and then, anger. I would not let anyone or anything hurt my baby.
I came out from behind that tree with a force I had never known before. Suddenly, I had power in every part of my being and I was ready to fight. I turned toward the bear and swiped back. My nails tore across its neck and blood poured down. My only thought was for my baby. As I turned back around to pick her up, I looked down at my hand. It was huge, with strong, sharp claws and savage power. Then my hand changed again…soft, reassuring fingers, reached out to pick up my baby. I cradled her in my arms; the world became so quiet around me, not even the smallest scuttle or chirp sounded. I didn’t think about it at the time until the next twig cracked and startled me to move around again. There on the now red snow, was the big, white bear being nuzzled by two cubs.
Aah, I should have recognized the passionate protectiveness of another mother. She and I had seen in each other only what any mother would have seen: danger. To save my baby’s life, I had killed her. And now her twins were back, nudging her still body, trying to stay alive, too. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I knew I had done what I had to do. And I knew I now had more to do.
Once more, I put my baby under the safety of the brambles. As I turned back around, my shape changed once more. My hands became paws on the ground; I went over to the twins still trying to nurse from their dead mother. With a giant claw, I stripped the fur from the still body on the snow and offered nourishment to the cubs. I settled them down under the large pine tree snuggled inside their mother’s fur. Then, I turned back to my own baby. As my shape changed once more, I took her back to the cave, fed her and put her to sleep. Before nightfall, I went back for the twins and herded them back to the cave, too.
And so I became a mother of three instead of one. I fell into a new rhythm of nursing, eating, and sleeping until it was time to make my way back to the tribe. I left my baby with the midwife and headed out, shape changed again, with the twins, to the spring feeding grounds of the polar bears. I taught them to hunt, in ways I did not even know I knew. They grew bigger and capable of surviving on their own in one season but I knew my other baby would take many more seasons. When my work with the twins was done, I changed shape again and headed back to the tribe.
That is where I am today. I sit holding another baby of mine, by the stream looking into the water, remembering. Many times, I wonder, was it real. But when I look into the stream, I see my true reflection. There I am,’ Mama Bear’.