In the midst of a delightful discussion about Midsommar on pal Carol’s FB wall, a few memories have bubbled up. One of them is the gas station we always stopped at on the drive up to our cabin in Kaleva. It was a long drive and we knew every turn of it. I always knew my mom hated the cabin: her frequent comment upon arrival was ‘Oh, it hasn’t burned down!’ Recently my dad told us how he hated it too, because it was so much work.
Us kids loved it of course. We played in Bear Creek and wandered the overgrown christmas tree forest and along the railroad tracks and through the swamps. We would catch crayfish and explore the rocks under the bridge. It was worth the three hour drive. But the gas station we always stopped at was the last before ‘leaving civilisation’ or at least highways. I’m not sure why it was always there we stopped except habits were a thing with us.
It had a bear in a cage.
I think now: how could that possibly be legal? At the time it was just sad. Even as a kid I hated to see anything in a cage. Like most terrible things in childhood, you didn’t want to look directly at it but you kind of had to look out of the corner of your eye because you couldn’t just pretend it wasn’t there.
(One of the first songs I learned on kantele was Karhunpeijaispolska).
When we left the cabin we always piled up the linens on the beds and then covered them with a quilt — or in the case of my little room, a bear rug. A real bear pelt rug. Here’s a funny thing: the fuse boxes were also in my room, so you’d go in there to turn on the power when we arrived. One time we were there with out cousins. My uncle went in the room with a flashlight to flip on the power. He turned around when the lights came on and thought he saw a bear, yelled and ran for it.
We all laughed.
The Wildwood Tarot has the Bear as the symbol for the Queen of Stones (stones being equivalent to Pentacles in other decks). Caitlín Matthews writes: ‘The end of hard winter, at the beginning of February, is marked all over the northern hemisphere by the emergence of the bear from its hibernation.’ Matthews develops a few possible resonances for the card, and ends by asking questions that I am pondering as I drew this card yesterday in the midst of all these bear thoughts:
How can you best promote well-being here? Where can you make space to care for yourself or others? What needs to be preserved? How can you improve standards or make things better?
Of course as we learn in the Kalevala, you don’t refer to the honey-paw by its name: fear and respect when dealing with this power.
It is about time for our neighbourhood bear to wake. Spring is coming, probably. So is the bear, probably.