Years ago, my husband gave me for Christmas a badger skull. This might seem like a strange gift, a not entirely appropriate Christmas present, and certainly, if you think about it in the context of the kinds of gifts that tv and magazines advertise from the beginning of December on -- you know, diamond earrings and cars and perfume and such -- well, yeah, then I guess I see your point.
But the truth is that a badger skull was a perfect gift at that time, when I was really working on my animal skull collection (yes: that). And then there were the words on the card,
for my sweetheart: also low to the ground and fierce.
True: badgers, and their cousins wolverines, are my favorite animals. Or should I say Most Favorites, since I tend to have a lot of favorites when it comes to animals. Seeing badgers where I live is rare -- although my husband did once race home from a bike ride and drive me 45 minutes to the spot where he'd seen badgers denning in West Marin, only to find them vanished. I treasure their markings, their glorious long noses, their teeth. On a trip to the French Alps some years ago, we spent an hour on a roadside examining a poor dead badger. Gorgeous.
But it's that low to the ground and fierce that runs like a refrain through my mind, and not just when I happen to see that gift-skull, now displayed, with the rest of the collection, in an illuminated glass case inset at eye-level in the bookcase on my side of the bed.
In so many ways, badger, c'est moi.
* * *
I was grumpy a few mornings ago, coming to the end of an almost two-week holiday break. I'd had a lot of ideas about all that I'd accomplish during time off from working for clients -- 2014 review, 2015 planning, sewing, sorting, shelving, that kind of thing. And yet because the holidays are so filled with other doing, with social engagements, I hadn't gotten around to what was most important to me. I'd started, but not completed, what I'd most been looking forward to.
Which set off a whole round of scribbling.
Of course I had had a wonderful time with family and friends. Of course. I love Christmas. Love it. Yet underneath that, was this other thought, low to the ground and fierce, that really, to get to the things that I want to do this year, that I need to do, then guess what:
really, I have to be a badger.
That is, I need to fiercely defend the territory around the work I want to do in the world. I need to patrol the boundaries and keep them. Sure, badgers are gorgeous animals, but they are also these teeth, these claws, this drive in defense of what's theirs.
And I need to be a little more anti-social. I need to keep a bit more to my own badger-y kind, the others who are obsessed with an idea and want to work on it 24/7, others who have calendars packed with self-made deadlines and world-building and den-maintenance. I need to stop sacrificing what I want and can only accomplish in the early morning hours.
I love all the animals, including my humans friends, but this year is definitely Year of Badger for me. I need to set my long nose and claws to digging and making.
* * *
According to wikipedia, "The badger is the emblem of the Hufflepuff house of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the J. K. Rowling Harry Potter Book series.... because the badger is an animal that is often underestimated, because it lives quietly until attacked, but which, when provoked, can fight off animals much larger than itself." Bears, for example.
I don't really intend to be underestimated, but I will be working quietly all year, whenever and wherever possible. What I want from this year is too big to do otherwise. If not now, then when?
So badger-y I'll be, keeping low to the ground and fierce, devoted to my list first and foremost, showing teeth as needed. If you need me, I'll be in my den.