The Girl and the Bear
Sooner or later, the girl woke too. She first felt the funny pain of cold, then a terrible stiff aching when she tried to move a little. She could hear the noises of birds and morning and she thought to open her eyes. But it was hard, like they were closed for so long that they had settled, couldn’t be opened. Like a window painted shut. However, she persevered, and soon was blinking slowly, forced. Time passed like this and each part of her body began to wake little by little. First the eyelids, then the eyes, then her toes, and then her fingers and nose, until she could contemplate moving her torso, sitting up so to speak. Her stomach felt the kind of sweat that brings together the hot and cold, her belly shivered though she had been lying skin to skin for several hours. And her bones cracked apart as she moved. But soon enough the girl was able to kneel up, to turn herself away from the tree she had slept upon, to roll over on her bottom and sit legs in front, bent. As she did so she could see her legs were grey and purple with black scratches up and down, dirty brown scratches, black where the blood had coagulated. And terribly white and grey because of the cold cold snow. Her arms too were marked, though less so than her legs. And her fingertips were brown and grimy, nails clogged with black dried blood. She assessed her body.
The girl looked up from where she sat and saw the sky. It was white once again, still high. And she saw the land around. It seemed to her to be bigger, wider, lighter and less untidy than it had the weeks previous. Clearer. Here she sat and looked out for a little while. Until her mind told her that now would be a good point to get up, what with her having been in the snow all night. She thought wise to bathe herself and attend to her cuts, to light a fire and become warmer, to prevent her heart from giving out to the cold. Wait, she thought to her heart. Something made her think to her heart, as if it was important, as if something had happened about her heart. She couldn’t remember. And when she looked down at her chest it was just as it always was, white skin, unmarked, not even marked by the bears’ arrows. No, nothing. So the girl took the strength from her guts and rose up one step at a time, steady as she went. And she began to walk back to her tree.
It was a longer journey this time. Of course, because now she wasn’t running, and she wasn’t on fire. She was just tired. But she came to her home and she bathed in warm water, then once again in nearly scalding water, for she was still cold in the bones. Then she lit a fire and sat some more. And she cleaned her cuts which were red and pink now. And she sat for some hours, warming. She was thinking, and then she was sleeping. And she was dreaming of the bear.
Later on the girl awoke and she was warm and calmer. She looked out of her tree and saw that it was becoming dark. And she thought she saw creatures in the shadow light, but they couldn’t confuse her for she was calmer now. She thought to the confusion and pain, and she looked at it. as she was looking at it she pitied it. any pain that had been inside of her could no longer make her bite she thought. That’s not to say that the pain disappeared, but the girl realised that the love of the two arrows that had stabbed her in the heart was somewhat of a combatant against this pain. In spite of the blood loss they resulted in, the arrows were very dear to her. And she would sit with them a while, no need to be overwhelmed, no need to cry at the confusion. Rather, just sit a while. For one day it was sure that things would be different.
The truth about bears is that they are not such fierce creatures as they might a first appear. Bears can be very kindly and beautiful, as the girl knew from her own experience. The reason for their ferocity is their ancestry. A very great bear many years ago was terribly hurt by a man. The story is that the man came to find the bear in the forest, for he had heard of its great beauty and majesty. The bear was well known you see. Known for his wonderful chestnut coat that glistened gold in the sunlight, and was so soft as to heal the skin it touched, and known too for his strength, for the power he held in his hands. This bear was the king of bears. He was very kind, and showed excellence in catching fish, fighting and running. The fastest creature in the land, no one could outrun him. And his teeth were so sharp and white, his eyes so blue. The clearest blue you’ve ever seen. He was the king. Yet one day, the bear was found in the forest by a man. The man had searched him out, he caught him unawares and shot him in the leg. Though the bear was strong, he was left prone and unable to move, by the gun wound. And as he roared in pain and anger, the man tied him down so as to prevent the king from struggling or lashing out. The man took out a knife and considered the beautiful creature before him, then stroking the fur with the knife edge, and at last slicing the bear’s side, he took a piece of the golden coat. He did not listen to the terrible cries that the animal made, but instead flung the fur into his bag, and took now a pair of pliers with which he plucked one by one, each of the sharp, strong white teeth from the dark pink and bloodying gums. He put these too in the bag with the fur, before wiping his knife and tools on the suffering bear’s leg, and turning, leaving the forest with his goods. The story of this king of bears was told to every new bear since, and for this, the bears now are imbued with a fear and terror which arms them to fight, to growl and to protect.
It is worth remembering this history when you might meet a bear. And of course the girl knew this when she came to love the brown bear and the black bear, though she saw only beauty and kindness.