Last night at the first Bluebeard workshop, we started to work this myth. We built the altar and I told the story and there was some journaling and sharing- that may have been my favorite part... but no. It was watching the predators come alive.
We were working predators as part of a hypothesis, that the complexity of the wild is the antidote to patriarchy (see that post here), and that real predators are good allies to women. Every woman drew a predator card from a bowl. Bear was there, but not drawn. So was otter, dragonfly.
But mountain lion was drawn. Mountain lion is the predator I am most scared of in real life, so of course I worked with her for years, especially right after my son was born. It is so easy to get lost in early motherhood. I read Craig Childs chilling essay about being stalked by a mountain lion in the desert for three days. I wanted the searing clarity of being willing to stalk something for that long, of evolving so that my teeth fit between the neck vertebrae of my prey. I wanted my actions to fit my desire like that, and I wrote and I dreamed mountain lion.
I remember that around that time I went into a coffee shop in Greenwood to meet another mom. We met there often, and I realized they had a frequent buyer program. They kept your card for you in one of those old rolodexes. You could pick a category. Wizard. Geek. Extra Terrestrial.
I flipped through the cards looking for my category. "Oh! This is me," I said brightly to the 20-something guy behind the counter. I looked up. "I'm a cougar."
I had just turned 40.
I really meant mountain lion. You know. As opposed to women over 40 who want young men. But I was so insane with insomnia and cabin fever, I didn't even know what "cougar" meant. My friend started choking on her latté. The barista dude looked at me like I might come over the counter after him.
Yes, cougar wants what she wants. Yes, cougar fixes her eye upon something she deems delicious and doesn't back down. I know what that feels like, not as the cougar, but as the meal. I was stalked by a mountain lion in the Sierra Nevadas with my friend Tracy, when we went down from our campsite into a wooded hollow, deep in the dark night, to do ritual. It was end of summer, the leaves were dry, and we heard her, heavy-footed and circling our small fire as we did our tiny human attempts at magic in the vast and carnivorous bowl of the wild which is where the real magic lies, which is her home. We heard her and we looked at each other and we began to sing loud and walking almost back to back- because I had read about how cougars like to attack from behind on account of the neck vertebrae thing. We sang as loud as we could and slowly walked together up to our campsite and our voices made me feel braver in the vast darkness. I like to think that as a witch, the dark woods are my home, but sometimes I am just a soft-skinned mammal, wishing I had night vision and incisors like knives and a gaze like a guillotine.
Sometime I wish that when I am not in the woods, but when I am in a conference room. Or a bar. Or a city street.
And now there is a woman I know who is brave and fierce and large-hearted and she is courting mountain lion on the journey inward to who knows where this myth takes us.