Getting into the spirit of things

  • Animal magic: in northern Minnesota, Nina London met her totem animal (Photograph by Bill Rosser)

    Animal magic: in northern Minnesota, Nina London met her totem animal (Photograph by Bill Rosser)

If someone were to tell me this fantastic story I would say it cannot be true.

But it happened to me in August four years ago. We spend every summer on our island in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. This remote outpost is in the heart of the wilderness.

Tiny, curious squirrels jump on the railing of our cedar deck, stop and raise their fluffy tails and, with an intense stare, give loud and stuttering cries. They look at us challengingly as if to say, “Out! Out! Out! This is OUR place!”

We always laugh and think that this is their declaration to us that they are the true owners of this pristine island, and we have a lot of nerve to be staying here for so long.

On the glassy lake below us, the loons cry haunting melodies in the purple sheen of twilight. At night, we hear the resident wolf pack mournfully howling at the rising moon, and the Northern Lights dance in green and silver shafts above the dark, deep waters.

The stillness is thick as velvet until the north wind stirs the noble pines in a distant roar. Then we feel the empty land beyond us and the chill of Arctic tundra.

My morning starts very early at 5 or sometimes 6. I love this calm and quiet time when no one can bother me and I can write in peace. So it was that morning four years ago.

I made a cup of strong coffee, sat in my favourite leather armchair next to a picture window and composed my thoughts.

Something was different. Do you know the strange and uncomfortable feeling of being watched? I raised my eyes and looked out towards the lake. Less than a metre away from me stood a bear in all its enormous height.

He was on his hind legs and put his huge front paws on the glass in front of me. We stared straight into each other’s eyes.

I was completely numb, as frozen as a snow sculpture.

Thoughts slowly surfaced. “What will it do next? Will it crush the glass?”

I remained sitting, as if hypnotised, afraid to move. We looked at each other for … a while.

Then it slowly sank back down onto all four legs, turned, and with calm dignity walked around the corner of the outside deck.

I looked across the living room at the other picture window. The bear appeared there, massive and unperturbed. It rose again to standing height and placed its paws on that window. Once again, it looked with great directness straight into my eyes. I breathed very slowly.

I felt it was more than curious. It did not look around the room, only at me. It seemed to be an introduction. It wanted to remember me. And for me to remember it.

Again, the bear walked away. I started to shake from shock. I called Bill on the phone. He was asleep in the nearby cabin. “A bear came to me!” I screamed.

He quickly walked over. He was smiling and didn’t seem to mind that we had company. He went out on the deck and gave a low whistle of astonishment. There were big, clear paw marks on both the windows.

“You are so fortunate,” Bill said.

“I’ll say!” I shot back.

“No, that’s not what I mean,” he said, taking my hands. “The bear is your totem animal.”

I’m certain I looked perplexed.

“Your totem animal is a spirit animal that has your back. Many Native Americans in the far north believe that your totem animal accompanies you through life, acting as a guide, helping you achieve your goals and warding off any bad things headed your way. I discovered my totem animal here at the lake many years ago.”

I considered what the bear represents to me. The bear was fearless and confident. Like the bear, I will stand up for myself and gaze into new realms. I will stand up for my beliefs and my rights and my power as a sovereign being of this world and the world of spirit. I will stand up for myself and for all women. I will not be afraid. Sometimes, only a thin and fragile barrier separates us from the power we all have within ourselves.

Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at

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Published Oct 3, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 3, 2019 at 8:38 am)

Getting into the spirit of things

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