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Stories

The Bears of the Wood

by Wilma Joan Smith-Tempel

A tale of bears that lived in a wood near a town

Dedicated to Patricia, David and Christopher Tempel

Dear bear, dear Baby bear.

There was a day once when I, like you, was a young bear.  I would cry or sing or growl or laugh at only things baby bears know.  I am now a grown bear, but I can remember those days long ago.  I was smaller then.  You were not yet a bear.  The story I am about to tell you, little Bear, is a story only bears and their cubs should know.  It is a story of health, fear and courage.  It is truly a story fit to be told.

There once was a bear, a cute bear, oh yes he was!

Bear though he may be, he was a special bear!  His dad, his two granny bears, his teachers, and his doctor, and of course, some other fine bears . . . They loved him oh, so much! His dad would give baby bear a ride every single place that was special.  Papa bear even gave up hunting for food one day so that Baby bear could get over being very sick.

“Baby bear is back!” said bear’s sister, Savannah.  “Oh, Baby bear, how I’ve wanted to see you grow into a big bear and scare away all those nasty hornets that fly over the lake near where we like to eat berries!”

Baby bear did not speak.  He simply opened his soft bear eyes full of dew drops, opened his lower paw and scratched his hindquarters.

“My best friend is gone, Sister.  She forgot to say why she was leaving.  I know she will be back someday for me.”

“Who is your best friend?” Bear’s sister, Savannah, exclaimed.

“My best friend is the mountain.  She crumbled one day.  She turned, broke, was destroyed.  But all things that are broken can be fixed.”

“Why are the mountains so important to bears this time of year anyway?” questioned sister Savannah.

“Because, Sister bear, this is Winter Time.  If there are no mountains, no trees, no rivers, no streams . . . Then there will be no fish, no eels, no quail, no salamanders or fire lizards or even birds to listen to as they make their songs!  At winter time, it is cold, but we have these!”  And he gestured to his own fur coat.

That?” And what exactly is that, that thing?!”

Brother Bear looked sadly at Sister Bear.  He had a very long face!

“I may be a bear.  I may eat other animals.  I may also eat you! (Not really),” as he smiled.  🙂  But that is what bears do.  Bears eat, drink, and bears have baby bears.  I will have a baby bear one day . . . Even though I am one now!”

Then Baby bear went to the other side of the mountain.

Sister bear asked, “Where are we going?”

“We are going to hibernate for the winter.  Our parents want us to be warm.  We must hold in our food until there are birds, flowers, sun and fish ready for us!”

So Baby Bear and his sister went over the mountain and around the mountain or down the mountain many, many, many times so they could collect food to fill them while they slept.  They ate, enjoyed and found a nest with their parents.

But on the other first side of the mountain . . . There was a girl and her friend looking for a house.

“We’d better not go in!” exclaimed the boy. “It’s not polite.

“Oh, but it will be fun!” said the girl.

The boy went home that day, but the girl . . . She found four bowls, four chairs, and four beds.  She used all the bears’ things until their family came home because she was a friend.  The bears came home, thanked her and got home in time for breakfast.  They had had a very, very, very long nap!

Oh, indeed, they slept into the winter until it was time to go home to their spring and summer home.  When they came out and shed the extra fur that had collected during that time.  They looked a little tired from all that sleep.  They could hardly walk at first because they were used to just nestling close and warm.

During the wintertime, there had been a lot of snow, ice, rain, blizzards, lakes frozen over and even avalanches!  They could not imagine all that because of course, they had been sound asleep dreaming their bear dreams of honeysuckle, berries, apples, fish in the stream and course other fine treats.

Savannah bear, the sister, said to her brother , “We had better go find Mama and Papa bear. After all, winter is over.  Our fur is shed and it’s time to go home for porridge, chores and graham crackers.”

“Dinner is ready!” thought Mama bear.  “I’m not ready, though.  I know those children will want something nice after all those long months under the rocks, ice and snow with nothing much to eat or to drink.

“Oh, it’s okay,” said both of the two granny bears and grandpa bear.

“I miss that cave, Sister,” remarked the brother, who by now was consuming his dinner.

“But why, Brother, would you miss it when we were just asleep?” questioned Savannah, who had many questions.

“I had this strange but beautiful dream,” he said.

“Whatever could that be?” asked Savannah.

“I dreamt that one day, bear or no bear, black bear or brown bear, the bears with the honeysuckle and the bears living by the stream could all walk through the woods, a whole gathering of bears.  They would not be eating.  At least, they would not be eating other . . .”

“Brother?” questioned Sister bear.  “If they did not eat, what would they do?”

“Oh,” said brother bear. “They would dance.  They could sing.  They could swim.  They would pick berries with their paws and remove the thorns with their claws.  They would eat but only honey, porridge or bread and very tasty sweet waters,” and at that, Baby bear yawned one more time.  He opened his bear paws, showed his sister a flower, and smiled. 🙂

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The Pen
by
Wilma Joan Smith

Once there was a pen. It was a black pen, ballpoint. It lived in a box on top of mother’s desk. One day this pen got out of its box in between the fingertips of a young writer. This day, the black pen was to write its first letter. The pen began at the top of the page with the little fingers gripping it tightly. As the fingers moved with careful impreciseness, they formed that first letter: The letter “I”. The next letter looked much like the first but was attached to another word. The next letter was a lower case “L”. Next, the writer wrote an “O”. Soon another pen decided to join. The fledgling writer caught sight of a blue pen, so she decided to write a blue “V” and a blue “E”. She thought there might be one more color, so she picked up a red marker. That marker lived in a bag and was almost out of ink. She was sad. She tried to lick the marker even though it tasted awful. No luck. Finally, she found a family of pencils all of different hues. She wrote the letter “U” in red because she did not know how to write the word “you” yet. She was only five. She completed her project with a baby pink pencil and a heart drawn around the letters she had just given life. The pencil traveled over the whole inner world of the heart shape so that there was no white space there anywhere. Finally, the writer delivered her masterpiece to the intended object of affection, her mother, who placed it proudly on the family refrigerator. After the author became 18, the mother framed this gift and kept it on her mantel as a memory of her daughter.

Later on, after those pencils, pens and ink had dried up or been given to others, the little girl had transfigured herself into a young lady. She was driving along in a green Jetta past the pine trees. No more clouds were in the sky. She had forgotten about that day over twenty years ago when the pen had taken life in her hands. Her brain cut across her thoughts loosely retracing the events of the day. Professors had lectured while her mind had raced. The boss had talked while her thoughts had been elsewhere. They were somewhere, just not at home. She was thinking of ideas that no one else thought of sometimes, or else just drifting into reveries of no thoughts at all. She was a peculiar one. Some people might say that, at least. She did not cause any harm. She just had her way. Someday it might serve her better. Just yet she had not found how.

Pulling into her parking space, she thought about the present time for just long enough to get the lock opened and her possessions stowed. Oh well, she thought. I’ve never been very good at being practical. Why should today be different?

Soon the girl who was five years old with a black pen staring at the page waiting for life to form from her fingertips, that same girl, became lost in a trance. She studied the page she set down on her desk and dove right into a story in her workbook. She would show it to no one, not even her mother or father. She might not even keep it. Still, she would write, and those words came from her mind faster than any ideas she ever could have imagined before. She did not need sleep to help her illustrate a picture with words. Her apartment walls were lined with paintings. All of them were hers, and some of them contained words. Still, she need not create pictures to convey her thoughts. Her thoughts were loud enough to block out the shrillest songbird. She could roar louder than a lion with her mind. Silently, she waited for courage to enter her heart. Courage was not as much full grown in her soul.
Later on, however, it might shine even brighter than her thoughts did on the page.

Days passed, and weeks were spent. Although she could write and create ideas, this lady was not a published author. She was a student. Weekdays one would find her either in class, in the library or at work. She had little time for friends although she was not one for small talk anyway. Traveling to and fro, she did not always have time to be creative or to even share her thoughts with many people. Most of her thinking was an inner world of her own. This created a life inside her psyche that nobody really knew about. She did not share most of her thoughts with anyone for fear they would judge her harshly. Some people, as she knew, did not question reality. They might not invent ideas while doing laundry or taking out the trash. They might not get derailed while sitting in sociology class. Some folks might, but the ones she had met who did not were less than supportive of her as a thinker. The only way she had to express her visions of mind were to put them onto paper. That was why she wrote. It was for her, not for them.

There were others, of course. Other people thought about dewy subjects or ideas that were farfetched. We have all read books written by such people. At least, most of us have heard of books by such people if not read them ourselves. Philosophers or scientists spend their lives riddling out the world of proof and knowledge. Not all of us have a mind for that or the inclination.

One day a pen was writing on a notebook. This pen had written many words, many ideas, and many sentences. The hand that held the pen let it fall on the floor just under the seat in front of our writer. Someone saw the pen, grabbed it, and handed it to its owner. Suddenly, the thinker stopped dreaming for a moment and listened. She heard the sounds of a new voice, and this voice was someone who would change her life.

Never underestimate the power of words and thoughts and sentences. As soon as the person who found the pen under the seat started talking to the writer, the two became friends. The one had a camera, and the other had both a pen and paint brush. One painted and wrote while the other took pictures and listened to thoughts. One wrote stories, poems, and essays while the other observed all there was to understand about the new person he had met.

As the two became friends, as often happens, they started to learn more about one another. He liked golf. She had never understood why anyone enjoyed this game. He liked badminton. She did not understand this game either. They both liked music. They enjoyed conversations, something neither of them had been very fond of in the past. They laughed. Sometimes they were upset at one another. Sometimes they were very angry. Sometimes she cried. They never stayed away too long. This was how it all started.

Sometimes people who start to be friends grow used to one another. They forget when they did not know each other. They cannot think of a time when that wonderful person, the person they have grown to love and cherish was not in their life. One day, the man with the camera asked the woman with the pen if she would stay with him forever. He loved her paintings and her thoughts. He loved her words, her mind, and where they came from. He loved her the way she was. She also loved his eye for the world around him. She had photographs that he had taken on her wall along with the pictures she had painted. She loved that she could finally share her ideas with someone she did not feel would laugh or judge her harshly.

The girl with the pen said yes. She and the man with the camera fell in love. They waited only a few months. They loved one another and all was good.

One day the girl thought back about her life. She was writing a story as usual. They were her favorite things to write, but they were the hardest. They took a lot of concentration and thought. Poems were not easier, just different. Nothing was easier or harder, just different. This time she thought all the way back to when she was a little girl. She thought about when she was five years old, sitting with a pen, a black pen. She thought about the letter “I”. She thought about the picture she gave to her mother, the one that was framed on the mantel in her old home. She called up her mother to see how she was.

“How are you, Mother?” she mused.

“I am fine. How are you?” Mom replied.

The writer with the pen was silent. Then pen was still.

“Mom, I love you.” She said.

“I know, “said Mom. “You must call more often. I wish you would tell me some of your stories.”

“Okay, Mother. I never knew you were interested.” She went to the beginning of the story she had just been writing.
“Once there was a pen . . .”

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Things Are Not Always as They Appear

Once there was a turtle on a beach.  He was in his home, and as we know, a turtle’s home is actually sitting right on top of the turtle’s back.  This turtle was just sitting at home in its shell home, resting, since he had just been on a very long slow jog around the nearest seaweed.  He was just starting to feel refreshed, so he decided he would take a look around outside for a bit of fresh air.  Slowly, he started letting his neck stretch out beyond his home, and before long, he was right outside even though he had not even moved an inch with his feet.

Turtle got his feet outside the shell home, and the shell just became part of his back, a protection for his soft body in case any bird or any other animal might come along and think he might go nicely as a lunch.  Turtle was not thinking about those things, but he did notice right before his as soon as he opened them outside his home, a very large rock right in front of him.

First, he started sniffing the rock.  It did not look like something to eat.  Next, he licked the rock.  It was just as he thought.  The rock was not tasty.  It didn’t have a bad taste, but it did not seem to feel right for his mouth to fit over it.  Finally, he decided very slowly and cautiously to test his flippers against it.  To his astonishment, the rock did not move.  It firmly stayed right in place.

The fact that the rock did not move astonished Turtle so much that he decided to try to challenge himself anyway with whether he could move it or not.  Of course, turtles do not have hands or fingers.  He decided to try moving it with his mouth.  Unfortunately, the rock was too large and he could not get a good enough grip on it.

Next, the turtle decided to push it with his front flippers again, but it still would not budge.  He tried his back flippers and kicked it just like he would if he were in the water swimming.  He made lots of markings in the sand, but there was no way he could move the rock with his flippers.

Finally, in a daring move, the turtle crept up to the rock and used his hind flippers to push himself directly on top of this rock.  He though maybe he could crush it or at least sink it.  He pushed and pushed until he though maybe he might be making some progress.  He thought he was succeeding when suddenly he heard a voice.  Rocks don’t talk, so he got off the rock and looked around.

“Hey there! Why do you feel the need to squash my house and my back, sir?  I was just having a bit of a nap.”

The turtle couldn’t see anything, so he thought he was going crazy.

“Rock?! I — I’m sorry, I thought –” the turtle stammered.

Suddenly, without warning, right before his eyes, the rock changed.  It wasn’t a rock at all.  It was a turtle.

“Oh, sorry Mister, I did not see you there.  I thought you were a rock,” the turtle said.

“Oh that’s quite all right.  You know, it happens all the time.  I’m a very hard sleeper, and I’m very hard to disturb.”

“I see, ” replied Turtle, feeling more than a bit foolish.  “I will not mistake a turtle for a rock again.”

“Things are not always as they appear, ” issued the other turtle.

The two turtles chatted very slowly and quietly on the beach and became great friends.  When it was time to swim back out to sea, they wished each other good fortune and pleasant voyages.  They sincerely hoped they would meet together sometime in the future, only this time as equals.

© 2012 Wilma J. Smith-Tempel

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