I enter the great hall, one torch in my right hand, held high,illuminating my path. I sense that the chamber is round, and proceedcarefully clockwise, touching the wall occasionally with my lefthand for comfort. It seems to breathe into my hand, a sense ofancientness diffusing across the gradient into my skin, and I feelmyself rooting into the earth, even as I step lightly. I am becomingpart of this chamber, which I dimly recognize, by scent and sound, afaint pulsing that seems to come from within my own chest. I see afire, glowing embers with the remnants of small flames licking theair. Seated before the fire is a figure, draped in a magnificentrobe of many colors, some snaking through with a metallic gleam,some dull and homespun. The figure is large and powerful, and I seethat it faces not only the fire, but a crude bench which sits on theother side of the fire. I cautiously approach, feeling my way aroundthe cavern, and seat myself on the bench after placing my torch in agnarled 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, afemale. She stares at me, and I, humbled, bow my head. I recall thisbear from a dream I once had. She had stood beside my bed, through along 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 mythick pelt against the bench, hear the slight whisper of moth wingaround the torch, smell the ferry woman still at her post on theisland’s shore. I feel stirring within me bear essence from timeimmemorial,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 Ifeel the immensity of her body. I feel the longing to reunite withher, to suckle her rich milk, bury myself in her thick fur. I smellher essence, smell the same essence on my own pelt, my own skin. Iam of her. She places a powerful paw on my head. The weight ismassive, bowing my neck. I feel the subtle prick of her claws on mytender nape. The feeling is nearly indescribable, a rush of bearknowledge, 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, seeall of my matter swirl into the air and join with the universe,becoming tree, plant, river, stone, star. All paths are one, alllead to the self, all are bear. I gasp with recognition, the simplebeauty of it. In a powerful motion, she wrenches one long claw fromher great paw, and hands it to me, still dripping with her warmblood. I take it and hold it in my hands as though it were a livingcreature, tenderly cupping it.I sense her curiosity, her need. Once again she touches myhead, this time gently laying her bloody paw on my forehead. Bearsfill my vision, all female, all powerful; all dear, known, andbeloved. My sisters. They look to me, eyes searching, questioning.”I will help them come to you, Mother. I will show themthe path.”I reach into my pocket and pull from it a smooth stone. Jetblack and shiny, it lies in my hand like a glittering eye. It is astone from my homeplace, one I held throughout many sleeplessnights, working it over and over until the oils of my skin hadburnished it. It contains all of my hopes, dreams, fears, andintentions. I hold it out to her, my eyes barely meeting hers, myother hand clasping her powerful claw. She looks at my hand, and atmy face, with great tenderness, takes the stone, and swallowsit.She moves back to her seat, wraps herself in the robe, andappears to sleep. Pulling the lace from my boot, I wrap her claw andfashion a pendant, tying it round my neck. Anointed with her bloodand protected by her gift, I rise and make my way slowly from thecavern, walking fearlessly through the darkness to the shore. Mybear senses are keen and I sense millions of tiny presences in thedark, creatures moving below the earth, fish whispering below thesurface of the lake. The ferry woman appears concerned when she seesmy bloody face, but my calm,confident gaze stills her speech. I stepaboard the ferry and we start for Duwamish as dawn breaks over thewater. The wind is in my face, I smell the earth, the water.
All paths are one. I am Ursa Major.