Wrestling Saints

animal spirit family homestead story

We are Dragons

resting at the end of one age,

and the beginning of another.

Our two year old has developed a seriously respectable roar in the last few months:

“WWROOOOooarrrrrrWWWWWWWW” – her tea-cup face scrunches up into the most terrifying seriousness she can muster.  Tadg leaps down on all fours, menacing her only half a breath away.

“RRRRrrrrrrRRRRROOOOOOOAAAARRRRRR!!!!!” His wet snarl parts her hair. Smiling, she leans in closer.

“WWWWWWWrrrrrrrooooaaawwwwwwwWWWW!!” This will go on until one of them ups the ante, playfully grabbing hair, nuzzling into a belly, climbing on top of the other, or some other irresistible invitation to mayhem.


True is clearly satisfied that she’s fulfilled the childhood requirement of learning to roar. Of course every child has such a requirement, lucky for her she has an older brother to teach her the finer points early on. A good education must begin at home.

I join them in their tussling, but not often enough. Crouching on the bed, extending my imaginary claws, I unleash a guttural growl directly at Tadg while True sneaks up behind me, screaming with delight, flinging all of her plumpness on top of me with no concern for anyones well being. Wrestling the two of them is like juggling an over-stuffed giant laughing caterpillar and a large bag of short 2×4 planks of wood (a bag of wood that snarls, giggles, and occasionally gets so excited it bites.) Inevitably someone gets a bonk on the head, signaling time for a break.

My favorite part is the beginning – when Tadg and I are facing off and he is so filled with glee at the prospect of going at it full tilt with Papa, he is overwhelmed with hysterical laughter. He tries to be ferocious but is laughing so hard his head threatens to pop off. He needs to wrestle, needs to be fierce and challenging and vulnerable and happy and nervously excited all at once. He is, after all, raising up his own, proper animal-self.

Wrestling Saints
Wrestling Saints

We have young, wrestling kittens living in our hall closet, just turning four weeks old. Three are doing great, but the littlest grey is tiny in comparison. She won’t take bottle feeding, so we hold the others at bay and hook her onto a nipple so she can get a decent feeding at least a few times a day. Her siblings frequently pile on top of her, pushing her out from food and survival. This morning was the first day I found her resting in a prime location, just below her mothers neck. We’ll see.

When we wrestle we are crucibles for each other, some struggle seems to be part of the process of bringing our spirits more fully into the world. We press into each other, for strength, clarity, testing, to find out who we really are. Sometimes what needs to be born makes its way into the world, sometimes not.

I’m wrestling with

twin Dragons

they battle within me,

not wanting victory,

but freedom.

There have been feral cats on our land since well before we moved here. I tore down an old shack, once a home to farm workers and livestock, that had become a breeding chalet for cats. I remember finding a small altar someone had made there amongst scattered feed, a worn picture of a young daughter framed by Mary’s arms. This land is marked with the struggles of many families making their way in the world.

One other kitten died early on, the mother being so small (a semi-feral cat who adopted us late in life), she simply could not feed them all. There came a moment when she decided her last born would not only not make it, but threaten the future of the remaining kittens. She nuzzled it aside to let it die quicker. My attempts to feed that one failed, as if it simply could not digest food. It may never have been suited for life.

I learned a lot from that last birth. How the presence of death is part of what makes birth so compelling. How the burdens of the Mother are so great she can make a decision quickly, certainly, to let one go so that the remaining can survive and thrive. She worked efficiently to minimize her struggle for the good of all. There are a million tiny deaths we all move through to bring our spirits into the world.

I always check in with the spirits when I bury an animal on our land. I usually call out to the spirit of the land to ask if there’s something this soul needs, some way to hold it now. When that first kitten went into the ground, eyes and ears still closed, the spirits told me, “nothing for you to do here, the mother already took care of it.” That was it, just clear open space. The tiny body tucked into the soil I parted with my shovel – warm earthen hands.

Tadg has learned to take these passings in stride. He no longer needs to see them, but does want to know how they went, if there was much struggle. The fortune of farming families is that death will be woven into the hearts of their children from a young age. Perhaps thats why he does not play at death or enjoy really violent films. He loves being terrible ferocious, but knows the edges that separate play from living and dying.

My beautiful wrestling saints gain strength from each other by pushing their souls into the world. Thats one of the reasons why True’s new roar is so important. Its an expression of a soul fire thats growing inside her, one that can sustain her through the coming challenges of life, one that when confronted will have the innate tendency to grow stronger. She has a deep attachment to all things wild right now, especially our young kittens. She likes nothing more than to lay across our big dog Bella, nuzzling her and breathing her fur in. She is still living from her own wild self, able to be feral or civil when she wishes.

Yesterday I heard Terry join the kids on the bed for a wrestling match. Her time starting up the farm and her graduate program have cut seriously into her playtime with the kids, that tide is now turning for the summer. Let me tell you, nobody wrestles like Moma. I can’t wait until True is old enough, so Terry can finally unleash her full roar. Truly epic.

Wrestling Dragon Saints have no fear of passion.

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