Spirit of the Bear

As late as 1910, Sophia Street was home to black bears. Today, we share the street with fellow mammals coyote, raccoon, and skunk.

Last night, as we continued to learn about our street’s history, a spirit of her past joined me in my dreams:

It’s my first day on the job as a new professor at a university. The mission of the university is vague. It seems the professors are supposed to research, create, and innovate.

A bear of uncertain species enters my office. She is the color of a grizzly bear, and the size of a black bear. I exit quietly, leaving the bear in the office with the door only three-fourths closed.

My office is in the basement. As I ascend the long spiral staircase outdoors into the light, I chat with the colleague whose office is next to mine. When I tell him how I dealt with the bear, he disapproves strongly. “Oh no,” he says, “You can’t let him stay in your office. These kinds of bears develop habits.”

Who is this bear? And why is she visiting my new office at Creative U?

Perhaps she is one of our students, come to my office for guidance. She is an adolescent, a young adult, shape-shifting as she finds her identity. Some days she is a mild black bear, quietly checking out the landscape of adult responsibility. Other days, she is an angry grizzly, attacking its boundaries. She’s just entered Creative U to learn about herself. And I, her terrified professor, have already abandoned her.

She’s come to my dreamscape to tell me: Hang steady, mother of adolescents! You’re new at the job, but you can do it!

Perhaps she is the inner spirit of the faculty at Creative U. She is the spirit of creativity, the impulse to dance across boundaries, to soar above the earth. She is small, just a seed of great things to come. She can be dangerous as a grizzly, easy as a black bear.  Perhaps I should contain her, but why not just leave the door open a crack, too?

She’s come to my office to remind me: Have fun with your work! Escape your job description, create a blog, enjoy the outdoors, and expect the unexpected. And don’t believe the sour voice that preaches about the importance of austere habits!

Perhaps she is a wild spirit guide. She sees that I am new at the job of life on this earth, and that I really do not know what my job description is. She knows that the companion animals who share my waking life often travel with me in my dreams. But she believes they lead me only on paths already well known. So she seeks me out in my confusion, and points me towards the light.

She’s come to increase my wonder: I cannot tell you what to do, or even what sort of guide I am. You know that wisdom comes in fits and starts, that the path is never the straight line you expect. Go ahead, ascend the spiral, take a walk on our Sophia Street.

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