There is a tale ancient as the mountains. About a bear whose coat was the color of flames.
They say he was bigger than boulders. Claws like a set of hunting knives. Eyes blacker than night.
He roamed the ridges and valleys. And bathed in roaring rivers. Gorging on elderberry and napping amongst the clovers.
Many passed along this whisper through the years. The colorful bear became a legend and a mystery tucked in the fleeting sounds and scents of the forest.
But as with anything unfortunate, not too long ago, a group of local men stumbled on him whilst he napped in a grove. They stared in disbelief at the strange reality brought from the depths of their childhood memories.
The bear’s coat was a furious color. Startling and mesmerizing.
Stepping quickly back to town, they told everyone about the animal. About how the fable became a truth. Dollar signs floated in their heads and plans were vigorously set.
Burning Bear. The name for the sublime creature, crawling on everyone’s tongue. Itching at the skin for their own pleasantries to dawn. A prize to be won.
The men began slowly scouting the forest soon after. Careful with every step and breathe. Wading rivers and wandering through the trees. Full of hope. And greed.
Every so often they would become alarmed. Spotting a dot of orange and yellow not too far. Tracing the path, they would only find fields of flowers so intricately designed. But their eyes never appreciated the fields as they would immediately be perturbed. Annoyed that such splendor was in the way and wasting time in getting what they were due.
But one day, they were sure they had him. Streaks of his coat danced furiously through the forest, leaving glints of color in its wake. Smiling at one another, they readied their bows for Burning Bear was headed right towards them.
Confidence soon turned whey they realized their mistake. It was not the bear but actual fire that had charged them and desired to keep them at bay.
Cries rang out as they turned back for the town. How foolish had they been? How had they missed the dying grey mist that followed the disjointed edges of color? How had they missed the smell of death and the swelter and the smolder?
To their dismay, they found their own path cut short. Escape was not an option as they were surrounded. Feelings of dread and the engorgement of fear. They huddled together and dropped to their knees. Begging in prayer.
A great crash suddenly blossomed in their ears as they looked up and over to find a stack of trees laid just above the ruthless tips of the flames. Thinking it their second chance, they clambered onto the logs, running full speed with no stops.
Halfway across the auspicious bridge, they all noticed an unmistakable outline. Each of the men aghast at what they had seen and what it could only mean.
But upon reaching the end, clear of all smoke and flame, they were saddened to not even glimpse upon their protector. The timely beast had already made his way out, blending with the flames. It dare not wait for its foes, even those it had just saved.
The men gleefully spread this story of an unexpected redemption. And the humor of their salvation.
Though many found it hard to believe, there were many still who swallowed every word. And like a seed, it was planted in their memories. Blossoming in dreams and shaping their beings.
And, like me, one day they hope to thank and see the Burning Bear and his coat twisted in beauty and mystery.