Well, then there are those moments that are anything but subtle. Moments that blow up the pieces. Leaving not baby steps, but in the case of my first meeting with Death, horse hooves.
It started as a regular evening. In fact, it was so regular, I don't remember much of anything about it. Other than the fact that it was early 2009 and it was snowing. A lot.
My memory kicks in after I had gone to bed. It was about 3 in the morning. The no-color-time of the day, as Peggy Lee once sang. The betwixt and between time, the shamans say. A time that is neither light nor dark. The moment between the exhale of a lived night and the inhale of a new day.
I woke up wide awake. Because my husband is a light sleeper, I got up and went downstairs to the guest bedroom. And stared straight up at the ceiling. The wind was howling. The air was moving. Inside and outside. Betwixt. And between.
Suddenly, I heard a chorus of voices whisper, "Curl up in a ball."
OK, I thought. It's 3 am. I'm wide awake and there isn't much else going on. Why not? (Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you hear voices in the middle of the night?)
Now curled up in a ball in the middle of the guestroom bed, I sensed a presence surrounding me. Actually, a lot of presences. It was a pack of wolves. Beautiful red wolves. I could feel their breath. "Do not move," one of them said. His voice was firm and quite serious. Dead serious you might say.
Serious enough that I did what I have always struggled to do. I became completely still. My mind, my breath, my body. Even time it seemed like, was still.
I have no idea how long I was like this. All I know is that, at some point, the wolves grew anxious and tightened their circle around me.
Again, I heard, in a whisper that was almost as still as the moment, "Do not move." Followed by, "He must not see you move."
I didn't move. Not at all. And then I felt him.
He was on a horse. Wearing a top hat and cape. A tall, imposing figure. For a moment, I remember thinking "Who knew that Death looked like Abe Lincoln?" But it was a brief, fleeting moment.
Mostly I was just terrified. And still. I
felt like I was in a horror movie, hiding under the bed from the serial killer. Except, in my movie, I was on the bed. In plain sight. Of Death. Who was towering over the wolves and me. Leaning over. Staring.
All of us still. Death. The wolves. Me.
And then, he turned and galloped away. There was no sound, but you could feel the movement as the horse parted the air.
The wolves eased out of their circle. "You can move now," one of them whispered. "Easy for you to say," I thought.
I did not move the rest of the night. Not until the sun came up. And the color returned. Signalling the birth of a new day.
I went downstairs, made some coffee, and opened the back door to let the dog out to play...and poop...in the now frozen snow. Standing on our back deck, I looked down at the ground.
There, glistening in the morning sun, were the frozen imprints.
Of horses hooves.
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