In the dream, I am standing beside a beautiful bengal tiger. I am twelve years old. the age when girls enter the space before womanhood, which is, I believe, one of the most powerful open spaces of their lives.
For it is here, in the birth canal between child and adult that little girls make big choices which will impact the rest of their lives. Choices toward or away from their natural selves. Choices toward or away from their giftedness, their intuition, their creativity. Choices they make as if sleepwalking, while being pulled by inner and outer forces they cannot possibly understand.
At least being 12 was like that for me.
So I’m not surprised that ‘She’ – my inner 12-year-old – has returned. For though I abandoned her as I turned down the dark alley and away from myself, she never – not for a minute – left me.
I was sleeping in my mother’s empty apartment – where I’d taken myself for a writing retreat. Where I hoped to pick up and reweave the lost threads of a book project. I’d made many changes during the 12 months prior: I’d laid my father to rest, quit my job, finished college and completed the yoga teacher training. I’d made new friends. I’d launched new online classes. I’d lost 30 pounds. I’d remodeled the living room.
Along with all of this, I’d developed new habits – life-affirming habits which would support the next changes, the next unfolding.
It was dawn when I woke with a gasp of surprise. Clear as a bell, I heard a voice. A woman’s voice. The tiger is here. That’s when I saw them: the girl-child and her tiger, my tiger. They’d returned for me.
For the playful, vividly creative, wild and willing human animal who sat in the tall grass of my mother’s garden, the eight-year-old who talked with chipmunks and bees, the ten-year-old who lay on moonlit grass whispering to stars, the six-year-old who walked barefoot on pine needle paths and swam naked in green, light-streaked lakes.
She was Me, fully inhabited, fully present and fully alive.
I saw in the new morning light that this dream was part of a chain – a series of ‘cat dreams’ which had stared years earlier: when I’d shared a telepathic relationship with our family cat, Tomasina at age 7, 8, 9. When, after being hit by a car, Tomasina had guided me straight to her body – lying beneath a pile of leaves in the woods.
And later, the cats who walked with me, who snuggled with me as I read or scribbled in my journal and, who annoyed me, threading round my ankles as I tried to make tea.
My first ‘cat dream’ came when my son was in his first year of college. Back then, I’d dreamed that I was driving. He was in his car, headed for school. I was in mine, following.
Suddenly, I became so hungry that I HAD TO stop – I pulled into truck stop and went inside. In the next scene, I was walking back to the car. Which is when I noticed two black cats walking beside me.
“We are the books you will now write,” they told me telepathically.
I woke up. My time of mothering was coming to an end, my time of book birthing was just beginning – and that it was good.
Then, this summer, I dreamed that a nasty cat had tricked its way into our home. It was eating my gentle cat’s food – and snarling at her, chasing her out of the kitchen. I captured the nasty cat and managed to get it out the back door. Whew, I thought. But as I shut the door, I was swept with a wave of concern. Would the nasty cat be all right? Instantly, I saw them: a beautiful blonde lioness, a sleek black panther, a magnificent leopard and many other wild cats, forming a circle round the ‘nasty’ little cat. We will take care of her, they promised. We’ve got her. We’ll teach her our ways. Just before I turned back to the house, I noticed there was also a tiger, striding toward the circle.
I woke up. Now the ‘cat dreams’ are crossing into waking life – and so is their support and guidance.
As they approach, I am ready. I am willing. Of course I am. Isn’t that why the dreams come? To encourage me out of the doors of myself – back into the wild.
This is my image:
12-year old me and our tiger, standing before me as I wake – and rise – from sleep.