Thursday, 10 July 2014

Bear Hug

Di Rivers lives with a grizzly bear who gives her hugs.
Ursula 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.
From 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.
To be 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.
As a 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.
For 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.
Di went 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.
Di sold 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.
Gradually, 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.
Whole at last. Di was home