This week Kellie Elmore provides us with the image below as a writing prompt- too good an opportunity to miss.

Source: We Heart It

When Annabel was a child she talked to bears. Well one bear actually but she could remember it distinctly. She’d found it sitting in a corner of her grandma’s roof garden. She was staying there because her mother was ill and in hospital. When she grew up she learned her mum had ‘mental health issues’ but as a child all Annabel knew was that her mother was often ill and that she, Annabel was often sent to stay with grandma.

Her grandma was some kind of urban nomad and frequently moved from one house to another and one suburb to another in a way that Annabel found perplexing. She never knew just where she’d end up when she got sent to grandma’s.

The time Annabel talked to the bear her grandma lived in a rambling, crumbling house in the dry bush that fringed the outer suburbs. It was a hot summer and the leaves and twigs cracked beneath their feet as she and her grandmother made the long trek down to the shops to buy supplies. Grandma worried about the heat and the chances of bushfire. ‘I’ve got to get out here,’ she mumbled as she brushed away the cloud of flies that had congregated around her floppy yellow hat. Annabel knew then that the next time she got sent to grandma’s she’d go to some other house in some other suburb.

Perhaps it was this sense of transience that made the visit to grandma’s house in the bush all that more intense. The setting was so unlike the barren expanse of the new housing estate where Annabel lived with her mother and her father, a jovial yet somehow remote man who was often away on business. Grandma’s place in the bush had been designed to blend in with the landscape and the roof garden where Annabel found the bear jutted out into the tree canopy. Annabel saw the bear sitting in the shadows at the back of the garden. He was a very friendly bear and he and Annabel had a long chat about the oddity of a grandma who moved around every six months or so, a mother who spent half her life in hospital and a father who disappeared on business for weeks at a time. It was a very satisfying conversation that put Annabel’s mind at rest.

‘There’s no accounting for the behaviour of grownups,’ the bear told her. ‘Your best bet is to just to accept things the way they are.’

Annabel agreed and made her way back down to the kitchen where her grandma was rattling dishes around in the sink. When asked what she’d been doing Annabel spoke about the bear. Her grandma gave her an odd look. ‘There’s no bear on my roof,’ she said. She sounded kind of angry so Annabel decided then and there to keep things like conversations with bears to herself from then on. Grownups were so unpredictable and got angry at the strangest things.

It was a lesson she never forgot. When she grew up herself she discovered a lot of the mysteries she had encountered as a child had a rational explanation but conversations with bears on rooftops was something people still didn’t want to know about. She kept the story to herself until she learned about vision quests and earth magic and other stuff too strange to be discussed in most suburban living rooms. On her first vision quest she met people who called themselves shamans and spiritual healers. They were people who saw beyond the veils of logic and straight into worlds where spirit bears reassured lonely, frightened children. For the first time in her life Annabel felt she’d come home to a place she could rely on.
rooftop bear


23 thoughts on “Annabel

  1. Love this story and the connection to animal spirit guides. My mind was there somewhere instantly on seeing the photo – although my freewrite came from a completely different place 🙂

  2. Oooh, love this. You’ve read my bear story so you’ll understand why. Still, there’s another component. I had a transient grandmother. She was a restless spirit ~ a self-protection mechanism after an abusive 27-year marriage. I can recall at least seven different places she lived in during my formative and early adult years. Like the little girl in the story I often had no idea where I’d be seeing granny next. … I’m sure she was running away from her pain, but I know it haunted her until the day she died. … Thanks for sharing this lovely story. It has helped me understand a little more of mine. … Be well, Dorothy 🙂

    1. Thanks Dorothy. There’s a large element of autobiography in my story here. My grandmother moved around a lot after her husband died. Not through any trauma but more because she had something of an itinerant soul I think. She was very creative and marched to the beat of a different drum. A quality I inherited from her.

    1. one of the things I love about writing is how readers sometimes guess where a story is going before I do. I didn’t figure out that the bear was a spirit bear until I got to the end of the story.

  3. I believe that children are naturally spiritual beings. Unfortunately, the “REAL WORLD” has many ways of stifling this part of all our souls. I love this story for both the realism-Annabel’s not so ideal childhood-and the magic. Glad that she journeyed back to it in this story!

  4. A lovely story… there’s something more to the animals than we know that’s for sure. Human’s tend to think they know all but those who are in tune…well I do believe in bears on rooftops! I thoroughly enjoyed your story. 🙂

  5. Thanks Skywalker. I’ve sworn off book writing for a while after all the stress of getting my first novel written and edited earlier this year. Maybe sometime next year I’ll begin collecting short pieces together in some kind of publication. For now I’m happy to know that if and when my writing strikes a chord with others. 🙂

  6. That was such a sweet tale, made me smile and truly lifted my spirits. It would make a WONDERFUL children’s book – with your own illustrations. You could do it as an e-book even! As there are templates for children’s picture books. I really enjoyed the reading – you are a very talented writer.

  7. Goodness this is rich. You drew me in so powerfully with your visual and audible details and with the build up to the conversation. You lay out a clear scenario and characters in such a short piece really very effectively and then concluded powerfully with a realm that delves into spiritual understanding, (a realm that I recently have become more aware of as far as animals are concerned, certain animals appearing for me, and want to know more about…). This is such an enjoyable work…thank you.

    1. Thanks Hannah. I’m so glad to hear your reaction to my story. Exploring animal symbolism is a subject I am really interested in. Bear often symbolises the need to find that quiet place within away from the outer world. The world where you find you can hear the voice of your soul and find your own answers. Just as the bear hibernates we sometimes need to withdraw from the outer world and find inner peace. 🙂

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