Once upon a time, there was a poetic tiger that hunted the wood for obscure phrase and juicy metaphor. This muse of fire wore a black fedora hat and a Carhart jacket with a pouch of Drum rolling tobacco in the breast pocket. The tap of her leather boots was heard at all hours of night through the quiet streets and graveled back roads of a scenic Cascade town, and when she emerged from the wood to prowl the neighborhood she was welcome in most homes. Carrying a bag of notebooks and at least two pens, occasionally a few beers to keep them company, she was known to wander moonlit pathways and perch on the bridge when the sun was just right.
This tiger was solitary, preferring the chuckles of a river to the laughter of campfires. Silence was golden in her green utopia, but not in the mind that held her words. Always twisting, moulding, contorting and exposing her reality, shaping her perspective until her pen was finely honed on the stone of logic.
Knowledge is lonely. When one sees life so grandly, so all encompassing, so much more multifaceted than those around you, it is hard not to make yourself smaller in order to comply. This is what the tiger did. She hid her teeth, covered her stripes in secret pages, and tried to blend in with the herd, but her eyes still shone when the moonlight filled them. Her footprints still showed claws, and she was known to ‘chuff’ or growl beneath her breath. The stretching of her limbs bore a subtle menace in their gracefulness, and she was known to lurk at the edges of the fire light.
The habits of the tiger were still firmly ingrained, and it did not escape the notice of those few she allowed near enough to see her. Rabbits, cocks, dogs, sheep, snakes and pigs, all ran away from the shadow of the Hunter. Something in her demeanor made them uneasy, but they could not say what it was. They asked her to be smaller, normal, more like them… But you can’t teach an olde tiger new tricks. She would just flick her tail with annoyance and pad back into the hills, shooting derisive glances over her shoulder with a green eye- until she crossed the path of another tiger.
She had gone out hunting a bit further a-field that day, in the high desert 4oo miles from her poetic den. Free as a breeze, red hair tied in a warrior’s knot, green eyes flashing mischief, his bold stripes were bared for all to see. She spotted him in passing, but pretended not to notice. She let him stalk her through the jungle of craft booths and tepees, strolling her own path with a hidden smirk. He circled, he analyzed, and at just the right moment, he pounced. She feigned surprise.
He walked with her for a while through the wild unknown, padding behind her through the loam, but never at her side. He listened raptly to the words of Truth that fell from her lips in the moonlight, and growled sweet nothings to her when he thought her asleep. She matched him and transcended him, was captivated and honored by him, but such an offering was too heavy for him to bear… Tigers are by nature, solitary.
She was not surprised when he slunk off one grey morning in the wee hours of dawn, and did not believe him when he said he would return. She was not crushed, she did not lament, but a small piece of her went with him on his travels. She cherished the gift he had unwittingly given her with his companionship, the simple understanding, a person who had “actually seen past the mirror she wore on her chest into the trueness of her eyes…” These and other words did he brand on the surface of her heart. He had SEEN her, and in seeing had allowed her to see herself. Had given her a strength, vindication, acceptance of her self.
The six to her nine, the yin to her yang, the sun to her moon, the sky to her earth, a re-balance of all that had been blurry before. She thanked him in the privacy of her heart, and wished him well.
These days she claims a much different hunting ground, across oceans and mountains she has prowled and sang. Countless starry nights and wayward dreams have come and gone in the passage of years, but she still holds the memory of that tiger. Somewhere, she knows, he holds a hawk on his fist and a bow on his back, slinging arrows over someone else’s ramparts. The thought makes her smile.
She sings “Freedom, oh freedom, well that’s just some people talkin’. We’re prisoners walkin’ through this world all alone…”
Her sandals go flip-flop, the sun tans her hide, and she has no regrets at all.