Bear Maiden was a very special girl. She had a dancer’s soul and a healer’s heart and a bear spirit curled up in the center of her chest. That she was different from the adults and other children in The Village was very apparent to her. She saw that difference in her fondness for stories of magic and dragons, warriors and heroines. While she enjoyed playing with the other children, Bear Maiden longed in her heart for the forest outside of The Village and in her daydreams would dance beneath the trees, jumping from sunshine puddle to sunshine puddle and searching for wood-sprites in the underbrush. She knew to her bones that there was more to the world than The Village and she vowed that one day she would embark on an adventure to discover all of the world’s marvels and mysteries.
Bear Maiden also saw that she was different from other villagers in her concern with the broken-heartedness of others. While the other villagers saw broken hearts as a rite of passage or as an unavoidable fact of Village life, Bear Maiden’s soul swelled with compassion at the sight of a broken heart. She wanted so badly to be able to fix the brokenness in others. Through her kind heart, keen observations, and tendency to listen rather than talk, Bear Maiden tried her best to heal and mend where she could. The other villagers, loving every opportunity to share the problems of their lives with an avid audience, agreed that Bear Maiden was a very nice girl and approved wholeheartedly of her.
Bear Maiden was very familiar with brokenness. When she was quite young, observing the world with wide-open eager eyes and the wisdom of the bear spirit within her, she first noticed the broken heart of another villager. It did not take long to see how few hearts remained unbroken in The Village. Indeed, the woman she now considered family had a broken heart of her own. The sweet woman who took her in and cared for her lived in a quiet cottage on the outskirts of The Village. Bordered by gardens of vegetables and flowers, home to butterflies and birds, the cottage was as peaceful as the mind of the woman was troubled. Dreams and demons, hopes and heartaches, the woman felt it all exquisitely. For all her sadness, the woman was beautiful, with flowing hair of deep rosewood and eyes of the ocean. Sensing her shaken spirit and the love she shared in spite of it, the girl felt a surge of protectiveness and sought to still the waters of the woman’s mind. But she did not know how.
All the girl knew was that the bear spirit inside of her, which often came out to see the sun and spoke to her in deep primal tones of truth and light and beauty, could not relate to this broken woman. One day, when the woman’s sorrow simply could not be borne, the girl pushed away her fear. Hardly able to understand the consequences of her actions, she deliberately reached up to grasp the heart on her sleeve and broke off a small piece, watching it vanish in mid-air. Coming now from a place of empathy and communion, Bear Maiden took the hand of the broken woman and led her through the garden to show her beauty and life. This did not fix the woman’s brokenness, but it eased the pain in her heart, at least a little. And the woman smiled.
Cast out from her mind, the bear spirit slept deep inside of Bear Maiden’s chest. Being a creature of wildness and power and deep forest spaces, the bear spirit would not disappear altogether. It waited for the perfect time to wake and step into the light. And every once in awhile, as it stretched in its sleep, Bear Maiden heard the quiet echo of its long-forgotten voice as the stirrings of a daydream...
It was a fine spring day. Bear Maiden had climbed the wall and was balancing on the border between the woman’s garden and the forest beyond as the woman sat quietly amidst the flowers and watched the birds fly and the butterflies dance. Bear Maiden pirouetted on the stone, hands reaching to the sky and eyes marking the pictures in clouds, when she noticed something she had not seen before. A Tower, off in the distance on the far side of The Village, made of smooth, grey stone. And standing in the tiny window at the very top of The Tower, the figure of a boy.
Even from this distance, she could clearly make him out, so vivid and sharp were his features and so striking were the reds of his hair and the greens of his eyes. He was looking in her direction, looking right at her. Bear Maiden waved and was delighted when the boy raised a hand and hesitantly waved back. Laughing, Bear Maiden excused herself from the woman and skipped her way through The Village, eager to explore at long last a new adventure.