Ward Chronicles - Volume 8
I chased my first dragon when I was nineteen and spent the better part of my adult life with a monkey on my back. By the time I hit bottom I had almost lost it all. Thankfully my family was what I had left and they kindly invited me home. As I said goodbye to my ex-partner he pushed a gift into my palm. It was a Zuni fetish- a carved wooden bear. A fetish is an object believed to have magical powers. According to Zuni mythology, the bear fetish is the guardian of the west and has the power to heal and transform. They believe the bear is invaluable whenever you are faced with transition and that it can be your ally when you are attempting to forgive yourself for errors of the past, or when you are faced with new challenges in your spiritual path. My ex chose the bear because he is a wise man. The best part of this gift, however, were his whispered words, which made me sob when I heard them: "Please know that your life is not over. You are merely going into hibernation to heal.” The bear sat patiently waiting in a "God box" for the three years it took me to get one year sober. My hibernation ended when I left my family’s home and came to be with my new family at Easton Mountain, and, again, there were tears. The bear has seen me cry twice. The second time was the day I placed him on the altar in the temple at Easton with my good friend Freddy Freeman as witness. Freddy was hosting "Bear Your Soul" that weekend and I was a volunteer. My intuition told me the time was right. The altar was right and the event was not only right, it was perfect. There are quintessential moments in your life where the universe speaks…this was one of them. And I listened. I no longer regretted my past or feared my future. I had the newly found desire to live in the moment. It was time to say goodbye to the bear and leave him in peace in a place where he will bring others solace too. No longer mine, he now belongs to Easton, where like me he is never alone. I was not the first to start this tradition. The altar in Easton's temple is a place where men leave their fetishes. Much like the rest of this mountain the temple is a place I have come to know and love. I spend a lot of time in its sacred space meditating, writing, working out and have even attended two dances there. It is a place where l celebrate both mind and body. It is also a place where I sometimes go just to say hello to the bear...and the other fetishes too. When I do, I silently surmise the significance they held in the lives of the men who placed them there. There are gratitude stones, Buddha’s, a statue of Priapus, a small sea turtle, the cast off skin of a snake (perhaps symbolizing new life) a volcanic rock, crystals, a bluejay’s feather, beads, a photo of Matthew Shepard, a bust of Confucius, and, perhaps my favorite, a carved wooden statue, a Santos, nobly depicting the agony of Saint Sebastian- considered by many to be the patron saint of gay men. As gay men we have all suffered slings and arrows. We learn to heal in places like Easton Mountain. I am not in early recovery and I don't recommend that those who are begin here. I spent a year letting others love me before I learned to love myself. I began my second phase of recovery the day I placed my Zuni bear on the altar at Easton. I love that a place as wonderful as this exists. It has been, from the start, a place for men looking to heal- no matter what the trauma. It is the place where with the help of the Easton community I have begun to learn to live again. It is a place of exploration of mind, body and soul. I often tell a very crude joke saying that if I were to find my spirit animal it would not be an eagle, panther or python- it would be the pubic louse! That's the kind of life I have led. It is not the life I live now. I connect with men on a much deeper level. I am the bear who has woken from his slumber...and as long as there is an Easton Mountain the Zuni bear who watched over me as I took my first steps on this journey will rest on its altar.