Where the Lions Are

  My mom and I when I was 4, with big, wild cat sunglasses

My mom and I when I was 4, with big, wild cat sunglasses

My husband and I went to a concert earlier this week and the music fused through me, shook me, held me. I still have it in my blood and skin. I don’t understand music. I can’t clap in rhythm. I can’t sing on key. I can’t tell the difference between notes. I don’t recognize harmony. I don't understand music but I love music the way I don’t understand God, but love God.

Our seats were right up front, as in there were no other bodies between me and him and his three magnificent guitars. I could see beads of sweat fly off his forehead through the shimmer of the stage lights. I could see the texture of his red velvet vest. I could hear his voice reverberate through my solar plexus. He'd turned into an old man, stark white hair and the face of an elder, but his voice held all of the resonance of a young and passionate man.

  View of Bruce Cockburn from my seat, 4/18

View of Bruce Cockburn from my seat, 4/18

I cried a few times during the three hours that passed without any internal recognition of time. Once was to a song I listened to over and over again on my dad‘s record player when I was a little girl. First, I would pull out the Leonard Cohen album and listen to Suzanne sitting cross legged on the floor, return the record to its sleeve and then listen to Wondering Where the Lions Are by Bruce Cockburn. I can still vividly see the pattern of colors on the album holding it in my hands. 

When I was four, I dreamt there were lions wandering through our neighborhood and for a long time I didn’t understand that this must have been a dream. I was terrified to leave my screened in front porch, playing ship and ocean and mermaid and pogo stick from the safety of our cement steps as often as I could. The cars that drove by where the sharks and the people were the fish, and our yard was a forest of seaweed with ever changing leaves. In my underwater ocean world I know the real danger lurked above, stalking me on dry land.

Bruce Cockburn's song, Wondering Where the Lions Are, made me feel like I was safe, at least for a while. Yes, they'd been there and they may well return – but they weren't here now and it was safe to come out to play.  

I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

  Painting by my Great Aunt Eva hanging in my son's room above his bed

Painting by my Great Aunt Eva hanging in my son's room above his bed

This song was also the soundtrack of falling in love. When we met, my husband loved Bruce Cockburn, too. Was it safe to love someone else so completely when I'd been ripped, shredded and torn apart before?

Yesterday I woke to loud and expressive crunching right outside of my bedroom door and was afraid that Sun, my girl cat killer, was eating another bunny, severed in half from the inside out, internal organs scattered across our floor. But it was only our dog Virginia eating a generous portion of nachos abandoned by my son the night before. And just as the relief sank in, I saw it-- the naked, featherless baby bird, alien in his translucence, tiny, perfect, still embryonic or else skillfully defeathered. What do I do with my vicious killer when I love her so much?

Two nights ago I cuddled Sun and our bearded dragon in my arms at the same time reveling in the absolute joy of their embrace. After eating all of the kale he could off of the perch of my chest, the dragon lept off of me, onto and over Sun who startled, much more accustomed to hunting prey than being trampled by it. That night I dreamt my mother was cradling a lion cub swaddled in a baby blanket on her lap, the soft, soft fur an alarming contrast to the bright gleam of sharp white teeth. I think that must have been what it was like for her, in many ways, to raise me. Her child who lashed out and bit and roared and wandered, before coming back home. 

Up among the furs where it smells so sweet
Or down in the valley where the river used to be
I got my mind on eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are
I'm wondering where the lions are

The lions are still here. But so am I. So are we. 

 

Valley Haggard2 Comments