She woke with a start, sweat dampened the warm sheets. Once again, she heard the noise at the edge of her hearing, what was it? Perhaps shouting and arguing in the distance, maybe the angry ones with words as weapons who disturbed her sleep and clattered through her dreams. Sometimes they come in the daytime too, stealthily and unexpectedly they changed the midwinter festivities plans on her calendar, sometimes they locked her in. She knew there was chaos and change happening but she was tired to the bones with it all. Now her life was spent gazing out of the one small rectangle window that was where the world came to her. It was where she saw her family, they appeared and disappeared at set times, magically coming to the window to chat. Her work had gone to the window, her limitless creativity crushed into only things she could post through that one wee window. Her life felt condensed into a busy rectangle of glass through which she could see everything and yet nothing. Its frame held her vision and slowly blinded her inner eye. All that she heard through that window, behind the locked door jangled her nerves. All the love and confusion, laughter and tears sloshed in her ears like a cacophony soup. No one else with her and yet so much noise! No where to go, yet always rushing back to the window in case she missed news of the coming change, or what they had to say about it.
There were sweet times when the doors were unlocked and she went outside. Then she would stretch her limbs and really see the people around her. She loved that the world looked the same, in some places it even looked better. She filled her lungs with winter air and smiled. She wondered what change was coming her way. The smiles of her neighbours were hidden behind the mask of change that was happening. They rushed hither and thither, with buzzing busy brains searching and seeking and stocking up.
One dark cold winter evening she sat staring at the window with a ticking heart when the door to the house swung open letting in a blast of chill wind. She jumped up and ran to the door to shut it quickly, but what she saw through the open door caused her to pause and look. The world outside was coated with frost, frozen and glittering. The sky was sprinkled with stars and the air was a freezing fizz that woke her lonely skin. She glanced back inside at the window; it was empty! It had never been this black blank before – where was the world?
Again, the chill air tugged at her attention, and she drew on her warm coat and boots and stepped outside. Beneath her feet the ground had turned to glass, the bright shiny surface of the ice coating the path reflected the twinkling stars. She looked down into the ice mirror and saw her own smile reflected back. Unlike the hidden smiles of the people rushing her reflection was crystal clear. She could see herself sharply outlined in the glistening ice. And behind her she saw a bear, a huge white polar bear. It stood silently behind her as she continued to goggle in cold disbelief at her reflection – now no longer alone.
It took her a moment to take the next step, then slithering and skittering on the clear new ice she tried to run. She tried to escape this huge white presence, she rushed from her fear. Her feet slipped from under her and she went down crack black out cold in the winter night.
She woke with a start, sweat dampened the warm fur. Her eyes opened and her heart woke to crystal clear silence, the fur wrapped solitude and the rhythm of stillness. Beside her slumbered the great white bear, she looked at the bear, looked fiercely at Her. For this giant bear was a she bear, this bear was bone bear, the magical she bear who comes at winter solstice.
She saw into her ancient bones, for bone bear lives beyond her own knowing of time. Her breath is the shrill cold wind that sings the primeval stories across the bare winter land. The woman looked and saw Bone Bears giant knife edged claws gripping the ice. And Bone Bear opened her eyes and looked at the woman, she looked fiercely at her and saw her frenzied frazzled mind, she saw her breath strangled by her unspoken story, she saw that the world was always slipping away from her and she often lost her footing.
Bone Bear stood up and the woman noticed how slowly she moved, ‘follow me’ said bone bear. They walked out onto the ice white landscape where all was revealed in silence. Then, for lifetimes they sat, expanding into the stillness, the woman on Bone Bears lap sinking into deep white warm fur. Parts of the woman that had been frozen by staring into the window dissolved and dripped out of her, then solidified into wondrous new ice shapes on the cold land. And Bone Bear waited, not an aimless waiting, but a waiting that pierced the woman’s bones with its sharp edges. Bone Bears silence rang with the wisdom of stones and stories in the woman’s ears. After forever and in the sharp threshold of a moment the woman felt rested deep inside.
This was the moment and Bone Bear felt it, with one great paw she dug down into the ice sending splintering shards into the crisp air. She dug below the ice into the rocks, cracking them open and time yawned out from the depths of the land.
Bone Bear plunged her paw into the ice hole and pulled out an ancient bone. It was from one of her ancestors. She placed it in the woman’s heart and then the woman knew the wisdom of waiting, of patience, of clarity and of the old stories within the very marrow of her own bones.
I often wonder if she walked with the slow sure footed step of that world on her journey home, and what she saw when she looked through the window once more on her return from the winter land.