The Lioness

I got a new tattoo the other day.  It’s my fourth, but the first I’ve had in 8 years, and the first that is in a highly visible area (on the underside of my right forearm.)  All of my body art has deep meaning to me, and this one is no exception.

This lioness has a story.  Last summer I was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail,a 1,200 mile trail that goes from Glacier National Park to Olympic National Park.  I made it 800 miles before I suffered hike-ending shin splints.  I’ll go back next summer to finish the last 400 miles.  But I digress…

The trail travels through some very remote sections of the Pacific Northwest, along old trails, some maintained and some disappearing into the forest, some areas with no trails at all, paved and dirt roads, and along old class 4 roads.  It was on one of these old jeep roads, steep as hell and not made for hiking, that I encountered a mountain lion.  I was walking uphill, just trying to get to the top of the climb.  There was meadow on each side of the road.  At the exact time I looked up, a mountain lion, known as a cougar in those parts, leapt into the middle of the road from my right.  She was only about 50 feet in front of me.  We both stopped dead in our tracks, and unbelievably made eye contact.  Amazingly, I felt not fear, but kinship with this majestic animal.  We gazed at each other for several long seconds, neither sure what should happen next.  As I started to reach for my camera, she bounded across the road into the adjacent meadow, ran up into a tree, down the tree again, and continued downhill away from me.  Judging from the squirrel sounds coming from the tree, she missed her mark.  I had always wondered what my spirit animal was, and here, in bold relief, was my answer.  I continued on, looking behind me a few times, but did not see her again.

Interestingly enough, my trail name is Pounce.  Trail names are nicknames that are (usually) bestowed upon a person by the hiker community when hiking long distances.  My trail name is a play on my real first name, Cathe, which was being shortened to Cat by some lazy hiker friends who apparently thought that two syllables was one too many.  The significance between the cougar encounter and my trail name has not escaped me.

Then there’s my spectacular friend The Bobcat, who’s approach to life is no less than absolutely inspiring.
Let us not forget my amazing cat Rocky, who, at 18 years old, is still going strong.  Anyone who has met Rocky – even those self-professed cat haters – has remarked on his special nature.  He’s been my primary caregiver during these weeks of being laid up with a back injury, cuddling up and purring in an effort to heal me.

There are apparently many feline influences in my life.  This tattoo is for my lioness friend in eastern Washington.  It is for my trail name and the friends who named me.  It is for my very special feline companion.  But most of all, it is a reminder of the bond between all animals and humans, wild and domesticated, imaginary and real.  (And yes, that applies to the humans as well as the animals.)  May we all live in harmony, peace, and love.


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