This column was composed for the Winter 1997-98 edition of SageWoman, its theme, Angels & Guardians.
As I prepare to post this essay, I am blown away. For in my recounting of the final story below, I did not recognize until just this moment that “Bo,” the black German Shepherd that my nemesis then-husband Phil had brought into our lives, was a guardian, indeed that Bo embodied the Wolf that had flashed through in my Big Dream six years earlier! In telling the story for SageWoman, I had not mentioned Bo, in the interests of brevity (I thought!), and focused only on the theme of the Yellow Eyes from the dream image of the Wolf, rather than on the magnificent animal form from within which they shone through in my time with Phil six years later! In other words, though I didn’t realize it then, my love for Bo had already eclipsed, or maybe I should say transformed, my fear of the dream Wolf. And yet that transformation had to be demonstrated in action. Which it was, as you will discover.
BTW: As you can see above, when telling stories of angels and guardians, it’s often the case that we must somehow relate, cross, blend several dimensions at once. This makes these stories difficult to tell, and so most people, programmed to live in only one dimension at a time, don’t tell them, for fear of being called “crazy.”
ANGELS & GUARDIANS I have known
by Ann Kreilkamp
Usually when we consider guardians and angels, we ask, “Do they really exist?” And I imagine that only those who have not experienced the presence of a guardian or angel would ask such a question.
If we put real flesh and blood people into the category of guardians and angels, then of course, I doubt that anyone would deny that there has been at least one time when he or she had not been helped in some way or other by someone else.
Usually, however, we think of guardians and angels in metaphysical terms, by which I mean “meta” or beyondthe “physical.” Guardians and angels are supposedly entities that appear in one’s dreams — or daydreams. Others may tell us we simply have a “large imagination” — implying that the imagination, of course, is not real — but we know better. Something is at hand; “it” walks by my left shoulder, or leads the way. It appears and disappears at will. Sometimes there are lots of them, sometimes only one; sometimes I feel utterly abandoned.
Not too many people talk this way, however. Most people are more rational, and would try to “prove” the actual, real, or at least quasi-physical existence (i.e., it takes the form of a “cloud,” a “burning bush,” a “bright light,” a “ghost,” etc.) of any supposed guardian or angel. And most people wold also require that for even any quasi-physical manifestation to be “verified,” there must be at least one credible witness to the event; otherwise it is not “objective,” but imaginary.
This makes the existence of guardians and angels difficult to “prove,” since, almost by definition, they are present, as a kind of ally, in private, for the individual. Indeed, it is often the discovery of such allies that helps a person feel not so alone in the world. Once one has understood, through experience, that one does have guides, life changes irrevocably. The rational mind gives up control, and we surrender to mystery.
Rather than asking “do guardians and angels exist?” a more fruitful question might be, “If there are guardians and angels, what possible forms might they take? How might we know their presence? Once we ask this question, we might find that even the disbelievers “in such nonsense” changing their minds.
Can anyone truthfully say that he or she has not been “helped” in some way at some point in life by something that cannot be rationally explained?
A typical experience: I am driving my car along a straight stretch of highway; my body is on automatic, my mind somewhere else. All of a sudden, something makes me turn my head slightly to the left. A deer comes into view, running straight for the road. I have exactly enough time to slow down so that I do not hit the deer.
Why did I turn my head at that moment?
Anyone who drives a car has experienced this process of going on automatic, using the body to direct the car’s course, knowing that something (what? the subconscious? But what is that? Maybe the subconscious, among other things, is everybody’s guardian angel) will catch your attention if there needs to be something attended to. I honestly don’t know any driver who “keeps his attention on the road” at all times. And I feel that unless we did have guardians of some kind, watching out for us with their 360° vision, there would be many many more car accidents than there in fact are.
Here is a more dramatic example:
I am visiting my parents with my children at their cabin in the mountains. My nine-year-old son Colin decides to climb the high hill in the back of the cabin with a younger cousin. Two hours later, I feel a powerful impulse to run several miles around to the back of the hill. When I finally arrive, panting, I see the two of them about to try to slide down a steep, slippery, rock slope. From where they are, they cannot see the whole situation and are unaware of the danger. I direct them to a safer course of descent.
In this case, I am acting as my son’s guardian in the physical world. But where did this message, to run around to the back of this huge hill, come from? Many would say it is the strong psychic bond between mother and child that accounts for such a situation. But Colin was not aware that the situation was dangerous. Though he was not internally calling for me, it appears that his guardian was, and luckily, I was accustomed to following inner directives. (And what isthis mother-child bond anyway?)
One more example, this one from my dream life, in which a figure appears which I instantly know (how do I know?) is identified, in world mythology, as the Guardian of the Gate.
In the dream, I am a child, riding the horse I owned as a child, towards the rising sun. Goldie wants to go home again. Reluctantly, I turn her around, to go in the opposite direction. We come to a huge stone wall. In front of us is a gate, guarded by a wolf with gleaming yellow eyes. The wolf is sitting on its haunches, and its eyes, staring at me, feel eerie, uncanny, terrifying. Instinctively, I know in order to go through the gate I must first stare the wolf down.
The morning after this dream, I looked up “Wolf” in a symbol dictionary, and found that there is such a thing as “The Guardian of the Gate,” that that it is, indeed, a Wolf.
In this case, the Wolf was guarding the gate which led to my being able to “go back home.” I knew the dream was what I call a Big Dream, extremely significant, and it made me uneasy. But I had no idea what it meant.
Soon after this dream, I found myself reuniting with my old high school boyfriend where he had returned to live, in our hometown. The rational part of me figured that I had fulfilled the promise of the dream, having “gone home again.” But what about the yellow eyes? I still felt uneasy.
Not until some six years later, did the next event occur which made me flash back to that dream, and when I did I received an astonishing revelation.
My marriage to my high school boyfriend had ended lovingly some years before. Now I was married again, to my nemesis, a dark outlaw figure whom I was determined to save, and of whom I was unconsciously afraid.
It is a long story, one for another time. Let’s just say that the night came when the scales fell from my eyes. Phil arrived home in the middle of the night and came directly into the bedroom where I had just been awakened by a strong internal voice, a loud and booming voice, commanding: “CENTER YOURSELF. YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE.”
By the time he opened the bedroom door I was sitting up in bed, centered. He turned the light on, sat down on the bed, and turned his head towards me. The irises of his eyes were yellow, exactly the color of the Wolf’s in the dream. In order to leave I had to stare those eyes down. After four hours of this, of taking my power in the middle of my fear, I finally extricated myself from his drunken, violent presence. It came as a shock to realize, as I drove away from the worst nightmare of my life, that I had finally “come home again,” to myself. That this had been the meaning of the dream I had had so many years before. I could not save another. I could only save myself.
In this story there are several guardians at work; first the voice, which I have heard time and again when some emergency arose and I needed to take action. And of course, the dream guardian, who had announced itself in the Wolf’s eyes years earlier. In order to stare the Wolf down, I had to stare into the horrific face of my own fear.
So we might say that guardians and angels are not always easy allies. Sometimes they challenge us beyond what we think is our strength. This may be another reason why some people would prefer to think they don’t exist. It is easier to stay in the rational world, where we think everything is in control and nothing can happen that we haven’t already prepared ourselves for. Opening to the presence of one’s guardians and angels is opening to the magic, miracle, and mysterious multidimensionality of what we thought was the day-to-day ordinary world.