Di Rivers lives with a grizzly bear who gives her hugs.
had come to her as a cub, a squirming dark brown furry bundle with a
black button nose and blonde jaw. Her father said she'd been left
behind in their wooden hut after he disturbed two big intruders.
Their chair cushions were dented, their bed sheets rumpled and their
bowls of porridge eaten, but in their hurry to flee they'd forgotten
their baby who he found fast asleep in a drawer.
that day on, that abandoned bear went everywhere with Di. She carried
her father's made-up story within her for she had the gift of inner
sight. A gift which she projected out and which turned Ursula from an
imaginary cub into a living, breathing bear. Ursula had shielded her
from monsters and nightmares, and had made her less scared when her
father shot his rifle in the air. And she was there when Ursula
caught her first salmon which her father cooked over a camp fire,
although Ursula ate her share raw. As Ursula grew tall and broad, Di
found comfort in her all-encompassing hugs for she had no mother to
turn to and, aside from the occasional pats on the head, her father
was not demonstrative.
wrapped up in Ursula's hugs was reassuring; Di released her fears and
her body relaxed its usual tension. She loved to try to stretch her
arms around Ursula's soft, but solid girth. But there comes an age
when girls neglect their imaginary bears and dismiss their hugs.
young woman, Di had little time for Ursula. At first, Ursula was
confined to their wooden hut, but with each day that she was thought
about less she faded until Di found she could no longer call her up
at will. Ursula simply vanished as quickly as she had appeared.
many years, Di barely noticed. Ursula was her childhood; resigned to
a chunk of memories she dredged out when she was reminiscent or
melancholic. You can't deal with the real world with an imaginary
bear at your side adults had told her.
through her precocious adult years, not knowing what, but feeling
that something was missing. She quickly tired of jobs, friends and
boyfriends and moved around a lot. Employers took her for granted,
friends demanded she socialised, and boyfriends cheated. In her 30s,
in a space of a few months, she'd had a string of dismal jobs, cut
herself off from her friends and jilted three men. And then her
distant father died leaving her nothing but their remote wooden hut.
up; gave everything up, no looking back. She was unsentimental about
life's trappings and didn't care one jot for material success. She
resigned from her part-time jobs, sold her city apartment and donated
her possessions to charity shops, and returned to the only place
where she had felt loved and protected: to the mini-world she had
created in childhood. Aged from life's monotonous blows, she set
about reclaiming the forgotten child within her. First of all, she
dyed her greying raven hair the colours of the rainbow, then she
brought herself a motorbike with a side car.
as Di grew accustomed to her new-old life, her body loosened its
rigidity and she felt lighter. She let down her guard and was
welcomed into Ursula's waiting arms; received into a comforting and
restorative bear hug.
at last. Di was home