I was trying to help Misses Poe. I worried that nobody had ever told her that she was mis-pronouncing the word. I thought she’d be glad to learn the correct pronunciation. I was four and it didn’t occur to me that I might embarrass her by pointing out a mistake.
Our dachshund had escaped, pulled her clean laundry off of the line, and trampled it leaving muddy paw prints. Mom and I put the dog away, gathered Misses Poe’s laundry up on the porch for re-washing and she’d offered us a “cheer.” As I explained that the word was pronounced “chayer, not cheeyer.” I remember how my mother’s body stiffened. She inhaled; nose rising, looked at Misses Poe and me through the lacy screen of her cigarette smoke and her eyes said, “I have no idea who this is” as they searched for a secret port-hole beneath the boards.
The consequences of my having voiced what I thought to be the benign truth included being unplugged from a love source. Pronouncing words in her dialect was a part of Misses Poe’s identity and I had dishonored her identity. I hadn’t come off as helpful, rather as a toddler with a superiority complex.
My suffer-battered relationship with the truth came up in my psychic reading with renowned guru; Prince Hirindra Singh. He wore a white holy man pagri and plastic sandals. He had given up his family fortune in pursuit of learning and teaching from the world’s religions . He lectured to Fortune 500 companies and gave past life, numerology, and psychic readings.
His guidance from my session was: “Do Not Be Your Face.” “Your face says you are in love with the truth.” “The truth gets you into trouble.” “Nobody cares about your truth.” “The saints lie all the time.” “When you expose a truth to someone before they are ready, it’s like a cruelty.” “Their hearts cannot take it, so they blame anything that goes wrong on you.” “You will not win at this.” “If you want to succeed; do not be your face.”
I’d seen a mountain lion at the edge of our fenced area this past August. She was the color of the crate of rusty chains by the tool shed and the size of a buck. She was panting from the suffocating humidity. The dogs must’ve chased her around. They were panting too. After carrying a bull horn and big stick wherever I went for a few days, I stopped looking at her as a bodily threat and began to think of her significance on a mystical level.
Such an anomaly; seeing a mountain lion. They are so private that local game wardens get away with refusing to admit they exist. I searched mountain lion on SpiritAnimal.com. It said “If you see a mountain lion, the message from the universe is to lead without expecting anyone to follow and to love the sacred knowledge that only solitude can bring.”
I often go for days at Bohemian Farm without seeing another human. Alan works out-of-town; I stay home writing and mucking stalls. We don’t have television and our mailbox is at the main road. My initial fears of solitude have been exceeded. My unaddressed wounds have worked their way back up into the epidermis all at the same time.
The sacred knowledge has revealed to me how often I do not show up for my own life. I constantly cede my rightful power in so many little ways. A wounded child survival skill no longer needed.
A stocky man, his stocky father, and a stocky friend drove over from Oklahoma to buy our tractor. When it came time to pay for my father’s tractor, he handed Alan a check. I said, “excuse me, you plan to pay for this item with an out-of-state check?” This was terrifying for me; knowing I’d committed some cruelty for speaking a benign truth and would be instantly unplugged from any support system. I viewed him from Misses Poes’ front porch. The other men kicked the dirt and the buyer explained, “Oh yeah, it’s fine. I’m a teacher and a youth pastor, and I drive the school bus.”
I explained that I did not want to have to drive to Oklahoma if his check bounced in order to retrieve my property. “You’ll have my father’s tractor and I won’t be paid for it
for three days, as this is an out-of-state check.” I looked at Alan as if to say, “is this what you agreed on?” He mouthed an “I’m sorry.” They had not discussed payment. Why should they? Any option they decide will work best for them is the only one considered.
What’s mine is his and what’s his is mine, so, I trust Alan to handle these things. But, I would’ve clarified payment instructions knowing someone was gonna drive from Oklahoma on a Sunday when the banks are closed. Had I handled it we would not be in this position right now. But I hadn’t. And now, in order to circumvent taking a risk, I have to speak the cruel truth to someone. My honest question, aside from caring for myself, implies that he is self centered, thoughtless, and thinks the world revolves around him.
The amount of energy needed to deflect the pain and anger that gets projected onto you as you as you rightfully defend yourself while being a woman is just too much for me most of the time. My caring for myself causes others pain, anger, and terrifying self-reflection; like it did for my father. My knowing that these others have no regard for me causes me exhaustion and crushing self doubt.
Alan hadn’t tried to walk over me; I’d shrunk into the back ground of my own life. And when I’d spoken up I had been completely dismissed while standing on my own land, and handling my own business.
As a result of shrinking from inevitable pain; I’ve stuffed my soul into a tiny hole at the base of a juniper tree. I’ve broken my own jaw in order to keep my voice from eking out. I’ve compressed my spirit down into a flat sheet of paper. I’ve put myself inside a secluded garden surrounded by a fence of swords. I’ve allowed so much of my blood to flow out that my arms are too weak for embrace.
I wait for someone to find my sacred knowledge of interest. I listen carefully. Someone is there struggling to free themselves from a thicket of thorny vines growing up into a chinaberry tree. I hear them straining to escape. Last night I thought I heard them splash across the wet weather creek.
I woke up at midnight and sat on the porch crying over some long repressed wound. I hoped that the owl hooting close by would land on the railing and drop the keys to my life on the front porch. I told Alan over breakfast about having heard it and looked up its spirit meaning. “Death and new beginnings.” “The ability to see through the darkness.” I thought of the owl that fixed his eyes on us the day that our house burned to the ground over a decade ago.
I went out to feed Catalunya at 6:00am and the same owl swooped right in front of me and landed on a branch. I dropped the crate of hay and stared at it. A blue-jay attacked it’s left wing. The raptor brushed the jay away dismissively then flew to a branch of one of the giant oaks. The wingspan was like a giant kite made from a chinchilla fringed cape. I moved quickly towards it to get a better look. It sat perfectly still and allowed me to suck in its wild serenity; its eyes so perfectly round and black like ebony buttons.
Tears escaped and I no longer felt alone. I felt immense gratitude for nature’s willingness to interact with me. This owl sees me. Wants to be with me. Wants to bring me a message. He is unafraid of my truth. Something is dying. Something is being born. Something is coming.
Being in solitude has given me the space to be able to learn to care for myself. To walk in my own truth is becoming important for my well-being. If I continue to stuff back my soul she’ll disappear beneath the hot tub to be gobbled by frogs and moles. Cutting myself off from those who do not value me is not a loss. It’s a gain. Even if my only friends are owls and mountain lions, donkeys, goats, and dogs.
Now that I finally choose to be my face; the face that trusts her body for important messages, the face the animals come to see, the face that guards her own jaw, the face that sets how transactions are handled; now that I can finally be my face, I am no longer afraid of the mountain lion. I am the mountain lion.