I wake up a few hours before dawn, something that’s happening with increasing frequency, leaving me staring into the blackness, the void. Tangled with doubt – doubt about everything and anything including my ability to actually complete the book I’m writing, my son’s transition to a new school, the current rate we’re all consuming resources, and the divides that exist in our country, in our world. Some nights the dark wins and I succumb to the easy way out, that it’s all too much for me so I turn away.

That night I decide if I can’t sleep at least I’ll spend the time writing so I drag myself to the living room. Even though my eyes are still half closed, I can see the full moon shining through the tall pines that guard my house at just the right angle to illuminate the deck outside my sliding glass door. The moonlight lights up his blue-black coat so that it glistens. His small round eyes meet mine, and hold my gaze. I can see his espresso-colored snout, his round ears pointed up as he turned his head from one side to the other, as if accessing me. He was the size of a golden retriever.

A cub.

Then mama bear steps out from where she’s been looming in the shadows. The light of the moon makes her fur glow, shaggier than her cub’s and a shade lighter. She stands on all four legs with certainty, knowing that this is her territory, emanating power. Her grounding force makes me stand up taller. The cub stretches his body long. The mama bear pierces me with her gaze and then raises her front paw with such deliberation and purpose that I am transfixed by the gentle way she placed it on her little bear’s back, as if saying, “Time to go, our work here is done.”

I walk toward the sliding glass door, and watch the mama bear guide her cub down the deck stairs and into the forest. I look up what a bear represents as a spirit guardian and read what I already know, what I already feel. The bears left me with an expansive feeling, that I possess the tools required to take down my doubts, that if I dare inhabit my body in the expansive way of that mama bear I’d know my purpose.

It’s tempting to explain away their visit that night, to tell myself they were on the prowl for food and it was a coincidence that I woke up at precisely the time the moon shone at the particular angle when the mama bear and her cub paused on my deck. Then the image of the bears pops into my brain, giving me the courage to string one word and then the next, to show up for my son, to reduce my consumption, to bridge the divides. The mama bear’s penetrating eyes challenge me to make the most out of this day, to take deliberate and purposeful action.