When Lion Comes

Lion by Laura Smith-Riva, Oil

There is a solitary lion who walks the landscape of my dreams. He does not roar or snarl. He is silent on padded paws. His eyes are yellow gold and his tawny coat ripples like the surface of a vernal pool.
I see him sometimes when I journey to the grove. Often just out of sight, tracking me. Sometime he sits by the lake, cat paws crossed. He yawns and turns to glance at me as I pass. Languid or bored, he licks his cat paw and cleans his ear.

I shed the last vestiges of a civilized world and sit before the fire on the shores of ancient waters. I inhale the slowly curling smoke of cleansing herbs that have been prepared just for me. An Undine splashes near the shore, sending a rainbow spray of water the lifts my skin in shimmering back arching waves.

When I enter the sacred grove, I am greeted by the old one with the antlered crown. She uses her fingers to paint ochre on my belly and breasts. I receive. She leads me to the temple.

The drum is distant, holding me, containing me, tethering me. I lay on the thick sheep hide inside Mother Tamarack. Her boughs are the bright green of early spring and soft as goose down.
My eyes lift and I see the chrysalis that is me hanging above on the stone lintel. I close my eyes and fall below the drum, below the journey, beyond the grove.

I am a warrior, young, strong and curious. My people are celebrating, the revelry of the harvest moon. The Watcher stands tall, her mature warrior’s gaze lifted toward the distant horizon. She must hold herself above the revelry, listening, watching. I, watch the Watcher.

We see. We see the riders, like distant fire flies etching the darkened landscape, before we hear the thunder of their hooves. Chaos, battle cries. I reach for my weapon. And like a rabbit in a snare I am caught, entangled. Heart beat keeping time with the leaping fires and cries of the wounded ones, I sense the dissolution, the coming, the ending. The Tamarack’s bright green boughs are turned brilliant orange, falling.

There is a solitary lion that roams the dark reaches of my deep. He does not roar or snarl. He rises silently before me, impossibly tall, five cubit, white belly sailing over my head. Black toes, cat paws on my spine, blood welling, sooty tear stained eyes slowly close. Surrender.

When I return, all is quiet in the grove. The Antlered One listens as With down cast eyes, shy, I reveal what I have come to know. She stays firm when I hold onto her, trembling as the snake rises, her breath a small gasp of shared knowing. We are carried deep into the sea, a tsunami lifts us, ecstasy.

There is a solitary lion that lives deep in my heart. His teeth drip with the blood of my thoughts. He is a devout connoisseur of demons, breath stealers, whisperers and ghosts of dead heroes.

Laura Smith-Riva is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner from the mysterious Green Mountains of Vermont. www.archetypaldreamworks.com.

Good Company in the Snowy Field

"Holly Berry Deer" by Brenda Thour

There is a moment before the white tail lifts in a short, sharp, shock and she disappears in silent bounds into the forest. In that moment, there is an inquisitiveness, an ears forward fearless gaze. Glistening snow holds the space her hooves once occupied.

An old red fox crosses the field, her broken tail askew. Head down listening, listening to the soft rustling of life beneath the snow. She pauses, still, creeping, still and pounces her headlong abandonment into the deep drift. Coming up short, she trots to the large pine and rolls in the snow.

She is in good company.

Fox, artist unknown

Bear Cry

Primal Bear by Laura Smith-Riva

In the dream, I see some deer coming out of the woods, followed by a coyote and a bear. They are being “pushed” out of the woods by a man who I believe is a hunter who is baiting the bear. I can feel how in the dream, I have the story of the hunter in my head before I even see him. Nothing in the dream supports the story I have about the hunter. The animals are calm, the man looks like a carpenter in overalls and a straw hat. He is carry a bucket, and now as I remember back into the dream, perhaps a pole as if he’s been out fishing.

My story is that he is a bad guy who is tricking the bear towards its death.  This is a place of trauma for me. I know this story well. Being tricked, betrayed in the place of decency and vulnerability.

In the dream, the creatures come down onto the wrap around porch that I am on. The porch over looks down onto a wide field and forest. The sun is near the horizon. There is another man with me now. Is it the fisherman? He feels supportive, tells me to perform a ritualized cry which I believe is about moving the bear along so she won’t be caught. The bear is next to me and I cry out. The man directs me in the cry which becomes more like a primal scream. High pitched and yet guttural. I feel a pushing energy in me, push this scream out. First towards the bear but then just out over the field and forest and sky. The bear stands next to me and looks out towards the expansive landscape. And I continue to scream. I send all of it out into the infinite cosmos where there is room for all of it; there is no more room in me.

This is the cry to heaven, the release of something. Anger, grief, fear...An acknowledgment of all that I know and all that I feel in the acknowledgment of my own places of trauma. What has happened, what is right and what is wrong. How I do know and it’s not me. I am not what is wrong. 

I belong with bear, coyote, deer. The fisherman knows about all of this. He understands the vulnerability of deer, prey. He understands coyote, a different kind of trickster, and how he survives. He understands Andarta, Bear Goddess of my North, and her great potency. And he understands me in my grief and anger.

There is no trick. Deer, Coyote and Bear are coming to me and there is nothing to do except lift my voice in the full throttled cry that connects me to the cosmos...and know that this man, the fisherman, is not here to trick me.


dream inspired poem
I had my place at the ancient
Colosseum. A seat right up front...
until the horses thundered by
all froth and supple violence
sending shit-mud-water
raining down.

I simply cannot abide. I cast
a final gaze at vacant-eyed
corpses lifting delicate parasols,
colorful, dripping brown.
The spattered faces of my
family, so enraptured.

They did not see the sky
turn to lava, alien drones
opening fire. Do they even
know that they are dead?
I cannot not go back.

Instead, taking up arms, a tired
rebel, adrenaline junkie
lifting sword and shield.
Broken glass, stumbling,
black-toothed railroad ties.

I yield to a stony bank,
rough kneed, blood in my
palm, dusty sandpaper eyes.
Raven, dark winged
shawl bows my head.

And we make our escape toward the
bright forest, where the moon sheds
her clothing on oak, ash and thorn,
yew and cedar, my ancestors.

Death Valley Dreaming

Death Valley

The wind howls across the spine of shale and abraded 
rock ridgelines where Sentinels stand tall in the twilight, 
Gods watching the story of the desert night unfold.
I reach out and touch the lovingly placed stone
whose countenance reminds me of home fires,
moonlit snow crunching beneath my beloved's footstep. 

Am I too safe, too protected in the womb of this slumbering
mountain? Who am I? Bared bones, desert dry skin, with wild hair, blue dress dancing, voice lifted in song: 

Sister Wind, Brother Stone...marry me home...

Reeling starlight peeks through the crevice doorway straight
into my broken heart. It shines coolly down on the desert washes
where hours ago I wandered in the blazing sun collecting
fossils and dreaming of discovering the crescent moon
curve of the magnificent Big Horn sheep, fallen among the 
shattered rocks, creosote scrub and red fruited desert holly.