Snow Leopard and the motorcycle mechanic met at the local pub. They briefly shared a life sketch. The motorcycle mechanic had retired to the small port town five months before and Snow Leopard had been there one week. Her somewhat distant yet welcoming personality contrasted with the motorcycle mechanic’s hands-on presence learned through many hours tinkering with nuts and bolts, grease and grime.
A few days later, they met for a long chat over a couple of beers. Snow leopards are known for their beauty, a warm and protective coat of fur, and their ability to blend in with the surrounding terrain of white snow, craggy rocks, and tufts of scrub grass. Motorcycle mechanics are keen about all the pieces that make up the whole, and though they can clean up, their world is one of grease and grime before beauty, and they always tend to appear a bit grimy.
Snow Leopard wore a knitted poncho, spoke with a Southern roots dialect. Her declared passion was to claim her new home as her space to speak up, to live a healing life. The motorcycle mechanic was actually retired and had come to his new home to see where his writing might take him. In his youth, he wrote short stories. He had actually had a few published, but it was always a side hobby. Now, he wanted to explore taking his stories closer to an actual whole, like fitting the pieces of a motorcycle together, then polishing the gleaming bike when he was done.
They talked about their experience with self-doubt. Snow Leopard leaned into the conversation, eager to share details of the many ways she second-guessed her decisions. The motorcycle mechanic experienced self-doubt as a series of steps that led into deeper, darker places of feeling bad about himself. He struggled to articulate this. He had no problem diving deep into the greasy interior of a motorcycle, but when it came to his own feelings, he stumbled, fumbled and found himself wanting reassurance that it was OK to feel such things.
The next time Snow Leopard and the motorcycle mechanic met at the same Pub for more good conversation and beer, they touched on issues around the gender divide between men and women. Snow Leopard said she felt men were needy, needed to be taken care of. The motorcycle mechanic immediately disagreed, but he sensed defensiveness in his voice and later wondered why. He thought he would take a writer’s approach, take on the statement and see what he discovered. He knew the writers' role is to explore all kinds of things and bring in their details to shape and craft into stories.
He asked himself, “Am I needy? Do I need Snow Leopard to take care of me?”
He saw the question as a path which he followed. He looked around for signs that might help him understand where he was, what he might be feeling. The signs were mostly billboards. His defensiveness appeared in prophetic letterings, like biblical passages. He figured out how to slow down and hang out at these signs until he could actually feel glimpses of wanting to be reassured that he was OK. He saw how quickly this feeling became wanting a woman to take care of him, shelter him from feeling like a failure. Well, he knew he didn’t really want to tell that story — there were enough stories of that kind around. But, that left him with the daunting challenge of feeling vulnerable, that he did want some kind words along the way.
Snow Leopard had a challenge of her own. She had a job at a local healing center, and one of her roles was to transport clients from the big city to the small port town. The most recent client, a middle-aged man, was in pain, needy, clutching outwards for support. Snow Leopard, in her regal fur coat, her astute and kindly personality, was the recipient of his grasping need. She was faced with walking the path deeper into her own healing, claiming space to speak up and be firm about her boundaries.
Snow Leopard lived in a world of socialized people, people who gather together and have a kind and good feeling conversation. The motorcycle mechanic was used to loud, crass shop talk laced with constant physical exertion and the ever-dirty hand, face, and clothes. The motorcycle mechanic was invited to join Snow Leopard’s family for lunch, and he did OK. He stayed in writer’s mode, focused on gathering details. His self-doubt didn’t get triggered off.
Then, he was invited to join Snow Leopard and her new friend, a heroically talented entrepreneur with a social conscience. The atmosphere of the light conversation was casual, respectful grace; a snow leopard warm on her wintered slope and the beautiful and poised entrepreneur. The motorcycle mechanic had already had a few drinks when he joined their table. He frantically did what he could to read the signs, but he started down the slippery slope into feeling insecure and bad about himself, anyway. Who was he, but a rough, grimy mechanic? Good with the nuts and bolts, putting things together, but definitely not regal and beautiful like Snow Leopard and her companion.
Afterward, he huddled alone in his home to see if he could follow the story into and out of that place where he wanted to be vulnerable, take care of himself, be graceful and calm in a social situation, and lost his way. He realized that instinctively he knew he could not ask the women to take care of him, but then he risked the kind of crass and crude guy he really was, underneath. Determined to see the situation as building a motorcycle, he stuck with the objective — to feel his feelings one by one, clean them off and position them for assemblage into the greater whole.
Snow Leopard reported she had seen a new range of colors, expressions she had not seen in the motorcycle mechanic before. He went to bed and dreamt of the Snow Leopard in her mountain realm, colors like cosmic dust bursting with each step she took. He hadn’t really thought of himself as having color, too, He was a mechanic. Grease is black. There is no color.