When I was young, we told stories around the fire, beneath the sky, seated in the lap of the Earth Mother. The cold wind teased our backs, but the warmth of the embers kissed our noses, and there was nothing else but the fire, and the story. In the darkness of the night, the voices carried a new magic that brought Brodir Bear, and Sastyr Mouse to life.
Brodir Bear was big and strong. Brodir could find the sweetest berries, catch the quickest salmon, and fight the Snow Spirits with his long, dark claws. And when he stood back on his feet, and lifted himself up, there was no other creature in the forest as tall and mighty. But he was not always so clever. That made me like him. I have never trusted something too clever.
One morning, Brodir rose from the warmth and darkness of his den, and made his way to the forest. The day was sunny, and bright. As he moved to scratch his back against one of the pines, Brodir could hear the Mockingbirds in the branches above him.
“This sun! So bright!”
“Yes, yes, much too bright!”
“I cannot even look into the sky!”
And as he listened, Brodir began to feel a grumble. It started in his stomach, where it always did, and rumbled up through his chest, and all the way to his head, till it rested on his eyes. And the grumble made his eyes squint against the too bright light of the sun, and his lips curled down in a frown.
“Bright,” he growled.
And he left the tree, and continued into the forest. Even if the day was too bright, Brodir was hungry, and still needed food.
Just beyond the thick pines was the river. It swelled with mountain snow, melting in the light of the too bright sun, rushing along the pebbled bank and stirring the micah within the sandy bottom so that each churn and curl of the water glittered. Brodir stepped into the edge of the river, his strong arms holding him steady against the swift current. The water swished and swashed around him as he waded deeper, until his belly touched the stream, and then he began to wait.
If he waited long enough, he knew a fish would happen by. And since Brodir was so quick, he would snatch the fish right out of the stream for his breakfast. As he waited, on the far side of the river, he saw the Racoons crawl out from inside their tree. The cousins came to the edge of the water, and dipped their paws inside.
“Brrrrrr! Too cold!”
“Yes, yes! Much too cold!”
“I cannot even snatch a turtle!”
And as he listened, another grumble came. It started in his stomach, where it always did, and rumbled up through his chest, and then down his shoulders till it stretched all across his spine. And the grumble made Brodir shudder against the chill of the too cold water, and his lips curled down into a frown.
“Cold,” he growled.
And Brodir waded out of the stream without any breakfast, and continued deeper into the forest. Even if the day was too bright, and the river was too cold, there was still the berry grove. He could smell the sweet blackberries there, and lay in the soft grass.
The grove was small, but Brodir didn’t mind. He lumbered his way through the thick leaves of the bushes until he had pushed his way through. The aroma of the sweet grass and the tart berries were a familiar comfort. Brodir rolled onto his back, and stretched out his arms and legs until he was as big as he could be. He inhaled deeply.
Then, from their burrow in the ground, the Gopher and her daughter popped their heads out. They also took a deep breath.
“Yes, yes, much too smelly!”
“I don’t even want to leave the burrow!”
And as he listened, another grumble came. It started in his stomach, where it always did, and rumbled up through his chest, and into his nose till it formed a disgruntled sneeze.
“Chooooooooooo!” he growled.
And Brodir sat up. And his eyes squinted against the too bright sun, and his spine shivered at the thought of the too cold river, and his nose wrinkled against the smelly grove, and his lips turned down into the biggest frown yet.
Then, someone new appeared. It was Sastyr Mouse. She was small, and gentle. She could find her way through the dark using only her whiskers, her sharp teeth could chew through even the toughest wood, and her tiny claws could dig deep through even the toughest ground. Sastyr was clever, but not too clever. She was still kind, and did not try to trick her friends. So I liked her too.
Sastyr scampered over to Brodir, and smiled up at him.
“Isn’t it a beautiful day, Brodir?”
“Oh. Well. How was your breakfast? Did you catch a nice yummy fish?”
“No fish. River too cold.”
“Oh. Well. At least you came to your favorite grove! Have you been enjoying the grass?”
Sastyr was very confused. This did not sound like the Brodir she knew at all! Brodir loved the warm sunlight. And going to the river to catch his breakfast. And laying in the grove to smell the sweetgrass and the blackberries.
So she asked, “Who says it’s too bright?”
And Brodir paused, and thought for a moment.
“Maybe too bright for them, but they are never happy! It can be sunny, it can be cloudy, it can rain and rain and rain! Doesn’t matter! Not too bright for you!” she inched closer. “Who says it’s too cold?”
“Maybe too cold for them. But they have small, naked hands. Look at your thick warm fur! Not too cold for you!” she pointed out. “Who says it’s too smelly?”
“Maybe too smelly for them! But you love the smell of the grass!”
Sastyr scurried over to a big, plump blackberry and plucked it from the vine, handing it carefully to Brodir.
“And I know you love this!”
Brodir took the berry. He sniffed it for a moment. It was ripe and juicy, and smelled deliciously tart. He popped the berry into his mouth, and let the fruit roll over his tongue.
And the grumbles that had been sitting on his eyes and back and nose began to fade away.
And he looked up at the gentle sunlight pushing its way through the leaves, warming the cold from his spine. He took another breath, and the smells of the grove were welcoming once again.
“Not too bright,” he said. “Or cold. Or smelly.”
And Sastyr smiled proudly as she curled up on the grass next to him. “Not at all.”
And Brodir smiled back. "Beautiful day."
The night has a way of whispering secrets, wrapped in stories, told around fires beneath star filled skies. Reminding you to be careful whose voices you listen to. Whose magic you allow to be cast over your life. Voices who babble of sunlight that is too bright, and rivers that are too cold, and groves of berries that are too smelly.
Or the voice within you that is grateful to greet the sun. Wade into the waters. And smell the sweet Earth.