Once upon a time there was a yellow wiry lioness. Some time ago, the bars of her cage had been removed, but for some reason she found herself unable to leave. How had it come to this? What was she scared of and how had a lioness gotten trapped and tamed in the first place? Then she began to remember…
Our lioness was born in captivity. It was a special programme that aimed to release young lions back into the wild as quickly as possible. As a cub a wooden cage was her home. She didn’t consider it a limit or a containment of her freedom – to the contrary, it was a safe place. She received daily feeding and was never cold or too hot. There was a constant and steady routine that helped her feel secure about the world around her. In fact, looking back, I think we can say that the young cub rather liked her cage, or at least was content to be there, never having known anything else.
As she quickly grew, her keepers began to let her out of the cage and explore the world outside. She became more confident. She started to enjoy jumping on tree stumps and running with the grasses striking her face with a tiny stings. The lioness became reluctant to get back into her cage. Her keepers taught her that in the cage she would always find food. This meant that so long as she came home she would not have to bother with hunting. The lioness quite liked this set-up an was happy to avoid the trials of hunting.
But soon the lioness got very big and she was released into the wild and she was not allowed to return to her cage. She was told that she is to be a wild lion now and that she must learn to hunt and to be with other lions. This was a lonely and confusing time for our lioness. She didn’t like hunting – it made her feel inadequate and desperate. She hated to rely on her prey for her sustenance and didn’t like to be dependent on herself. The other lions knew that she was different and would only let her stay with their pack for short periods of time before kicking her out. And so it went – our lioness had only occasional companions and no real family or friends. She found hunting a terribly difficult job that she was not particularly good at. She lead a lonely and hungry life,always feeling like there was something that would make everything okay, but never knowing what exactly that might be.
One day while our lioness was rolling on her back kicking up some dirt and dust a group of hunters approached her. At first she was startled and leaped to her feet, roaring with all her power and confident that she, being a lioness, would scare them away. She felt that men could not capture her or hurt her – since she was a mighty lioness. The hunters did not try to shot or harm her. Instead they talked to her – from a safe distance. She noticed that they had a very large wooden box that had bars on it. They explained that this was a special box, a magic box even. This box could provide the lioness with all the food she could eat. Food would be provided every day and she would never have to hunt again if she just agreed to come live in the box. Well this did seem like a wonderful deal. She hated hunting and a guarantee of food would ensure the biggest need in her life would be met. And it was only a wooden box made by men and she was a powerful majestic lioness. They would never be able to trap her or tame her – she was so happy to have found a solution to all her problems. She trotted happily into that wooden box thinking that she must surely be one of the luckiest lionesses in the world.
It was not long before the lioness realised that even though it was just a wooden box, she was not able to break free from it. It was not that the box was that strong but rather that she was so weak. She had been a solitary creature with poor hunting skills. This meant that she was skinny and underweight. She had not played and wrestled with other lions so her muscles were weak and her limbs uncoordinated. She did not have the strength or the skills to break open that box. She was trapped.
Years passed and one day a domestic cat wondered into the lioness’s box. The cat startled the lioness who had not had visitors before and she wondered how the cat had managed to get into her box – perhaps she was dreaming? On speaking to the cat she learned that the door to her box was open and that’s how the cat had gotten in. “When did my door open?” asked the lioness in disbelief. “Well” said the cat, “let’s see…I’ve lived here for three years and your door was open when I came…so it has been open for at least three years I guess”. The lioness could not believe this and told the cat she was out of her mind and a liar. But the cat went off and found the household dog who confirmed that yes it was at least three years that the door to her wooden box had been open. It was then that the cat and dogs simultaneously asked the lioness “why haven’t you ever left your cage?” Troubled by this question and not knowing how to answer the lioness simply replied “I don’t know how to leave, I guess I have been scared to try, so I didn’t even notice I could leave”. Both the cat and dog insisted that there was nothing to be scared of and that the lioness must surely leave her box now. But she continued to resist and said “I want to but I can’t”. And she refused to leave no matter what they did or said.
For days, after the encounter with the cat and dog, the lioness sat in her wooden box and wondered how it had come to be that even with the door open, she still could not leave her cage. An answer came to her one day when she managed to have a distant memory of her time in captivity and how nice it felt not to have to hunt. Hunting was the scariest thing in the whole world even scarier than being tamed and caged. If she stayed in the box she would not have to hunt…
…To be continued