Last month I came face-to-face with a fisher.
It happened while writing my first published essay, a project that triggered fears within me about writing in more public venues. The essay pushed me out of the comfort zone of my typical academic voice. This both energized and terrified me, so I went to the woods for invigoration and clarity. The trails were empty that afternoon. I breathed in solitude and soft winter light and decided to speak, voicing statements of boldness and courage: “Be bold. Create despite fear. You can do this.“ And then I saw it, an unfamiliar creature, about the size of a medium dog, moving quickly into my periphery. It leapt onto the trail, landing fifteen yards ahead, midway up a low hill.
The elevation difference brought us face-to-face. I found myself staring into a fierce, furry-brown, teddy bear face. It exuded a stout confidence and an instinctual danger thumped. Eye-to-eye, neither of us moved. What was this thing? Suddenly from the reservoir of memory a recognition emerged—it looked like a wolverine. But wolverines aren’t in these woods, right? Fifteen unflinching seconds passed and then it leapt back into the woods. I stood mesmerized by the beauty and surprise of it—this was not something ordinary.
Later, I learned it was a fisher. My connection to the wolverine was correct—it is the wolverine’s smaller cousin and looks quite similar. It is rare—only the second one spotted in those woods that year.
I classify my fisher encounter as a synchronicity, a concept psychoanalyst Carl Jung developed that’s described as “a significant coincidence of physical and psychological phenomena that are acausal connected.”  For Jung, meaningful coincidences are those uncanny ones that stop us in our tracks, seemingly bending the neat Cartesian divide between our psychological and physical reality and bearing deep meaning. In his book, Synchronicity, Jung tells the story of working with an overly rational client who could not interpret the metaphoric meanings of symbols in her dreams. One day she reported dreaming of a golden scarab, a type of beetle. Just as she spoke Jung heard a strange rap at the window. He opened it, and in flew a golden colored beetle. Jung caught it and handed it to her saying: “Here is your scarab.” He later described that “[t]his experience punctured the desired hole in her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance.” This experience enabled her to move beyond her rational interpretive impasse.
The fisher was my golden scarab. It came precisely at the moment I decided to speak with courage. The fisher symbolically (as an image of the wolverine) contained a deeper meaning that resonantly connected current fear patterns to ones in my past. In doing so it clearly illustrated to me the underside of letting fear control my actions.
As a child I developed a paralyzing fear of wolverines. For many years my family vacationed in Michigan’s upper peninsula, a wild and remote part of the country. I loved it. Hiking through pine forests, I felt untamed and alive. But one year that changed—I learned about the wolverine. It was the fiercest of animals, more aggressive than a bear with razor sharp teeth and claws. It was unpredictable, a master predator that could attack unprovoked—and it lived in Michigan! Suddenly, my Michigan became filled with this monster, and I became very afraid. During the next trip, the family Trans Van, (God love the 80’s), blew-out a tire on a remote road. The jack broke, stranding us until another car drove past. Dark pine forest lined both sides of the road, and I froze, refusing to leave the Trans Van. I screamed in terror when I saw my dad go into the forest for a bathroom break—would I ever see him again? Wolverines lurked everywhere.
Dad returned safely from the woods and the tire eventually got fixed, but inside me a wildness got tamed. My fear of the wolverine kept me from something I loved—the magic of the Michigan woods.
When I came face-to-face with the fisher—I came face-to-face with one of my most primal fears at the exact moment I voiced boldness in the face of fear. This felt synchronously significant. I looked up metaphoric interpretations of the wolverine to discover if I could discover another level of meaning. More meaning emerged. The wolverine has been interpreted as a symbol of courage, and the strength encouraging one to not back down: “When it appears in your life it is time to actively pursue your goals and objectives with boldness and persistence.” It was the perfect metaphoric affirmation I needed to empower the next phase of my creative work—speaking out. The fisher taught me that the danger did not lie in meeting a wolverine in the woods, but rather locking myself away from what I love.
It’s not just the deep forest of Michigan that I love, but writing, making art and sharing it. I love the growth that happens through support and feedback that occurs when sharing creations with a wider community. I used to love blogging, especially as a means to reflect and share on synchronous encounters. However, as my theological studies unfolded, and I began to envision a career in academic theology, I stopped blogging. Fear stopped me. Fear of looking like an amateur, facing ridicule and rejection, saying the wrong thing that could effect a potential career. I let fear keep me from expressing myself in ways I loved. Fear kept me from writing about synchronicities. They did not seem like something one could ‘seriously’ reflect on within academic theology.
And all of this self-silencing occurred even as I catapulted headlong into feminist theology, which not only acknowledges but privileges epistemologies or ways of knowing often oppressed under the hegemony of western imperialism and rationalism. So, why not synchronicities? Why not blogging? I no longer want to silence myself for fear of saying the wrong thing. I don’t want to ignore synchronicities by placing them outside the bounds of acceptable epistemological sites. I don’t want to stay in this self-imposed silence of the past few years. The fisher helped me see that.
The Trans Van is cramped and the big, magical world beckons.
 Jung, C.G. (1969). Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 109–110.
 Lily-Therese. “Power Animals and their Messages.” Lily-Therese’s Angelic Spiritual Specialties. http://www.lilytherese.com/POWER1.HTM#WOLVERINE%92S%20MESSAGE%20AND%20MEDICINE. (retrieved February 16, 2016).
Kate Common is a designer and theologian working towards the common good—and feels quite lucky to have her last name. A doctoral student at BU in Practical Theology, Kate works at the disciplinary intersections of graphic design, feminist practical theology, and biblical studies with an interest in theopoetics. Her current projects include explorations in film and feminist pedagogy as well experimenting with graphic design practices as a hermeneutical partner in biblical interpretation. Kate is a current editor of the Theopoetics Journal and part of the planning committee for the upcoming Theopoetics Conference as well as serving on the leadership committee of the Women’s Caucus of the AAR/SBL. Kate is the proud mom of two cats, one blind-pug and multiple house plants.