Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Post: Author of Her Frozen Wild, Kim Antieau - Related to Bears

Related to Bears

By Kim Antieau

Last night in the rain and the near dark, my husband Mario and I went out into the forest with our tracker friend, Linda, and a friend of hers. We went deep into the wild. We were looking for wild things, and we were hoping to find bears.

We walked until Linda pointed to a dark place under some Douglas fir trees and said to her friend, "You sit there. Click with your tongue if you see something."

Then the three of us walked until Linda said to me, "You're small. Crawl in through there." She showed me a rip in the metal fence. The tear in the fence was rather alarming since it looked as though some comic book character had come and pulled apart the fence to create an entrance or exit into or out of another world.

I went through the rip and sat under an evergreen tree. By or upon elk poop. It was raining, and I was dressed in a plastic bag and three layers of coats, a shirt, a camisole, and two pairs of slacks.

Mario and Linda walked on, but I didn't see where they went. I sat in the falling darkness, alone, still, quiet, watching and listening to the forest, the meadow, and the sky. I looked out at the forest and the giant hemlock trees that towered over all the other trees, slightly bent at their tops, as though they were bowing in prayer.

It grew dark. The rain began earnestly, drifting down from the clouds like a veil, a veil that fell again and again, gorgeously, sensually. I had never heard anything quite as wonderful as this rain falling on the forest. I watched the hemlocks take the rain, breathe it in, and I did the same.

I wondered if we would see any bears. The thought of a bear encounter made me nervous. I had dreamed about bears for years, until I wrote my novel Her Frozen Wild where bears and bear-people were central to the story. In researching the novel, I had learned that many indigenous people believed humans and bears were related. Before they hunted bears, Siberians and Native Americans followed elaborate rituals to honor the bear.

I’d also discovered stories about humans giving birth to bears in European, Native American, and Asian folk tales. In many different cultures, people often believed that humans could shape-shift into bears and vice versa. The great warrior berserkers were thought to shape-shift into bears when they put on a bearskin. (The word berserkers means “bear shirt.”) People believed this accounted for the berserkers fierceness and bravery in battle.

On some of my hikes in the forest, I had encountered signs of bears. I’d seen two short horizontal lines on  tree trunks which I knew were teeth marks of a bear trying to get to the cambium. Linda had pointed out claw marks on trees that were either bear or cougar. I had also seen a black bear in these forests once. I was in a car at the time, and the bear away faster than I’d ever seen anything that big run.

When I was a child growing up in Michigan, I heard about grizzly bears eating people in Yellowstone. Mario and I stayed at Yellowstone Park one night. There were “beware of the bears” signs everywhere. I was terrified. We decided not to pitch a tent. Instead, we slept in the car. I had a very realistic dream of a bear trying to get into the car. I woke up gasping for air, my heart racing.

The idea of encountering a bear in the woods did not fill me with happiness. In fact, it frightened me. I wanted bears living in the forest, of course, just like I wanted cougars in the forest. But I didn’t want to run into either of them during my treks. I imagined they wouldn’t be that thrilled to run into me either.

Once I dreamed I was a grizzly bear; I looked down and saw bear claws instead of hands. It seemed quite natural and right that I was a grizzly bear.

This day, as it grew dark outside, I sat on the Earth amongst the wild things. I hadn’t heard anyone click their tongue to let us know they had seen something. I wondered where my husband was, but I figured he was safe with Linda. She was powerful enough to scare off any bear. Or at least she’d be able to get the bears to engage in a conversation with her until everyone understood we were all related.

I smiled at my imaginings. Somewhere in these woods, bears wandered. Or sat underneath trees to get out of the rain. At least I hoped they did. I wanted to close my eyes and sleep with my body next to the Earth. If I did that, maybe when I awakened, I would have bear claws again.

Too soon, Linda came and got me. As we all walked back to our cars, Linda told us that bears had ripped the hole in the fence I had climbed through. "The forest service comes out and fixes it,” she said, “and the bears keep ripping it open."

I shivered as I listened to her. Had I known who had created the rip in the fence, would I have sat so near it?

Yes, I decided, yes, yes, yes. And I was ready to do it again and again.  Eventually I might run into a relative of mine.

copyright © 2012 by Kim Antieau. All rights reserved.

Kim Antieau has written many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s SF, The Clinton Street Quarterly, The Journal of Mythic Arts, EarthFirst!, Alternet, Sage Woman, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. She was the founder, editor, and publisher of Daughters of Nyx: A Magazine of Goddess Stories, Mythmaking, and Fairy Tales. Her work has twice been short-listed for the Tiptree Award, and has appeared in many Best of the Year anthologies. Critics have admired her “literary fearlessness” and her vivid language and imagination. She has had nine novels published. Her first novel, The Jigsaw Woman, is a modern classic of feminist literature. Kim lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.
Her latest book is Her Frozen Wild.
Learn more about Kim and her writing at http://www.kimantieau.com/.
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About Her Frozen Wild

Scientists in the Altai in Siberia uncover the 2,500 year old frozen mummy of a tattooed priestess or shaman. This mummy has the same mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) as American archaeologist Ursula Smith whose mother disappeared in Siberia 30 years earlier. Ursula travels from the U.S. to Siberia to unravel the mystery of the “lady” and meets Sergei Ivanovich Polyakov, a Russian doctor who graciously invites her into his home. After they become lovers, she discovers he has the same tattoos on his body as the tattooed lady. He tells a disbelieving Ursula that they have met before and she is destined to save the ancient People, considered as devils by some and shape-changing gods by others. A shaman takes Ursula to one of the sacred timeless caves where Ursula’s mother supposedly disappeared. When Ursula allows the shaman to tattoo her, she is thrown back in time where she must unlock the mystery of the People and their link to her past in order to save them and Sergei—even if it costs her her life.