I enter the great hall, one torch in my right hand, held high,
illuminating my path. I sense that the chamber is round, and proceed
carefully clockwise, touching the wall occasionally with my left
hand for comfort. It seems to breathe into my hand, a sense of
ancientness diffusing across the gradient into my skin, and I feel
myself rooting into the earth, even as I step lightly. I am becoming
part of this chamber, which I dimly recognize, by scent and sound, a
faint pulsing that seems to come from within my own chest. I see a
fire, glowing embers with the remnants of small flames licking the
air. Seated before the fire is a figure, draped in a magnificent
robe of many colors, some snaking through with a metallic gleam,
some dull and homespun. The figure is large and powerful, and I see
that it faces not only the fire, but a crude bench which sits on the
other side of the fire. I cautiously approach, feeling my way around
the cavern, and seat myself on the bench after placing my torch in a
gnarled tree trunk obviously meant for the purpose. I sit quietly,
waiting.
The figure in the robe stands, towering above the fire.
Suddenly, the hood is thrown back and I behold a large bear, a
female. She stares at me, and I, humbled, bow my head. I recall this
bear from a dream I once had. She had stood beside my bed, through a
long and dark night of fear. Some time passed. Finally, I speak.
“Hello, Mother,” I said. “I know you.” She smiles,
exposing strong teeth. Her eyes shine. In that instant I feel my
thick pelt against the bench, hear the slight whisper of moth wing
around the torch, smell the ferry woman still at her post on the
island’s shore. I feel stirring within me bear essence from time
immemorial,feel my heavy paws running across mountain ridges,
forested hills, and boggy riverbanks. I breathe, my breath harsh,
fetid,powerful.
“Help me, Mother. What is my path?”
She lumbers around the fire, coming quite close to me, and I
feel the immensity of her body. I feel the longing to reunite with
her, to suckle her rich milk, bury myself in her thick fur. I smell
her essence, smell the same essence on my own pelt, my own skin. I
am of her. She places a powerful paw on my head. The weight is
massive, bowing my neck. I feel the subtle prick of her claws on my
tender nape. The feeling is nearly indescribable, a rush of bear
knowledge, bear instinct, bear lineage, all passing through me,
flowing like lifeblood through my veins. I see my fur unravel,
become fiber and cell and DNA and atom and subatomic particle, see
all of my matter swirl into the air and join with the universe,
becoming tree, plant, river, stone, star. All paths are one, all
lead to the self, all are bear. I gasp with recognition, the simple
beauty of it. In a powerful motion, she wrenches one long claw from
her great paw, and hands it to me, still dripping with her warm
blood. I take it and hold it in my hands as though it were a living
creature, tenderly cupping it.
I sense her curiosity, her need. Once again she touches my
head, this time gently laying her bloody paw on my forehead. Bears
fill my vision, all female, all powerful; all dear, known, and
beloved. My sisters. They look to me, eyes searching, questioning.
“I will help them come to you, Mother. I will show them
the path.”
I reach into my pocket and pull from it a smooth stone. Jet
black and shiny, it lies in my hand like a glittering eye. It is a
stone from my homeplace, one I held throughout many sleepless
nights, working it over and over until the oils of my skin had
burnished it. It contains all of my hopes, dreams, fears, and
intentions. I hold it out to her, my eyes barely meeting hers, my
other hand clasping her powerful claw. She looks at my hand, and at
my face, with great tenderness, takes the stone, and swallows
it.
She moves back to her seat, wraps herself in the robe, and
appears to sleep. Pulling the lace from my boot, I wrap her claw and
fashion a pendant, tying it round my neck. Anointed with her blood
and protected by her gift, I rise and make my way slowly from the
cavern, walking fearlessly through the darkness to the shore. My
bear senses are keen and I sense millions of tiny presences in the
dark, creatures moving below the earth, fish whispering below the
surface of the lake. The ferry woman appears concerned when she sees
my bloody face, but my calm,confident gaze stills her speech. I step
aboard the ferry and we start for Duwamish as dawn breaks over the
water. The wind is in my face, I smell the earth, the water.

All paths are one. I am Ursa Major.