She sighed. “I said I was nothing. I know that’s not true, but sometimes it feels that way. And I know what you’ve told me, about myself, and about how my presence has… well, you said I had saved you.”
She turned towards him, “Bear, you’ve become very important to me, and not just because you’ve saved my life at least twice. I worry about you, more than you may realize.
“What you were saying about purpose – I get it. I really do. And one of the things life can expect of me is to help you. I’m not sure how, but I know that.
“That is part of my purpose.”
Bear snorted. “What’s part of your purpose?”
“What about me?”
Girl looked at him, a puzzled expression on her face. “I’m…not sure yet. But I am certain you are part of my purpose. Just as, I suspect, I am part of yours.”
She smiled. “By any chance, are you a prince bewitched into a bear? I mean, if I kiss you, will you turn into a prince?”
Bear snorted again, “No, but knowing my luck, I might turn into a frog.”
“Oohhh…shall we risk it?” She got up and started to walk towards Bear, puckering her lips.
Bear turned his head away from her and said, “Get away from me! Do you think I want to be turned into a dang frog?” But he started laughing.
She kept walking towards him, arms out in front of her, making “MUAH, MUAH, MUAH” sounds, and pursing her lips.
Bear jumped off the porch, laughing, and Girl followed along behind him, arms out, making kissing sounds, until finally, Bear collapsed on the ground, rolling and laughing, finally yelling, “Stop! Stop it! STOP!”
Girl kept coming forwards, moving like a zombie-wannabe, “MUAH! MUAH! MUAH!” then finally collapsing on top of him, while he faux-struggled to get away from her.
She worked herself forward over his body, giggling the while until finally, she got close enough that she could kiss him. She grabbed his muzzle, pulled it around, and kissed him on where his lips would have been – if he’d had lips.
She paused, making goo-goo eyes at him, fluttered her eyelashes, then wrinkled her nose and said, “YUCK!”
She jumped off him, wiped her mouth, and said, “YOU have really bad breath!” And she kept wiping her mouth with the back of her sleeve.
Bear leaned up on his elbow, “Yeah, but I’m still better than a frog! Have you ever tasted one of those things? Yech!” And Bear made spitting noises towards the grass. That caused them both to collapse on the ground, laughing helplessly.
When they finally stopped, he lay back, put his forepaws behind his head, looked up at the sky, and started to sing.
“Oh, tell me why the stars do shine…
“And tell me why the ivy twines…
“And tell me why the sky’s so blue…
“Then I will tell you, why I love you!”
Girl started to speak, but Bear held up his paw, continuing to sing:
“Nuclear fusion makes stars to shine…
“Heliotropism makes ivy twine…
“Rutherford diffraction makes skies so blue…
“Glandular hormones are why I love you!”
Now Girl started to laugh. “I’d never heard that version! Where on Earth…?”
Bear leaned on his elbow, “Call it the ‘Scientist’s Love Song,’ I guess. I have no idea where I heard it. Just some of the useless junk that clutters up my head.”
He heaved himself up from the grass. “Come on. It’s time you did some meditating.”
“Why do I need to meditate?”
Bear just looked at her then kept walking.
Finally, she shrugged and scrambled up to follow him. The two friends walked along the trail, finally arriving at the outlook where they had spent a foggy morning dreaming the world into existence.
“Sit comfortably,” Bear said, “Tailor fashion is fine. But make sure you are comfortable because you won’t be moving for some time. P.B.S.,” he said.
“Posture, Breathing, and Stillness, keys to this form of meditation.”
Girl settled herself in a tailor’s seat, wriggled until she was comfortable, cleared her throat three or four times, then looked at Bear, and nodded.
“Now, close your eyes – mostly. Leave them open a bit, looking at something close to your legs, in front of you. The idea is to meditate, not to fall asleep.”
She did as he asked, focusing on a broken twig about a foot in front of her.
“Okay, now breathe in slowly to a count of four.”
Girl inhaled as Bear watched her chest inflate.
“Now hold your breath for a count of four.”
Bear counted to four in his head.
“Now exhale slowly to a count of four.”
Bear waited and watched.
“And hold the exhale for a count of four.” Again he waited.
“Now repeat…four in, four hold, four out, four hold…and again. Just keep going around until it’s time.”
Girl wondered, Time for what? but said nothing, continuing to breathe and count. She found her thoughts wandering, and at first, she fought them. But, over time, she found it easier to just let them come into her head, and then release them again. Eventually, she stopped noticing them.
Meanwhile, her breathing gradually slowed, and her muscles slowly relaxed; shoulders, ankles, jaw, knees, butt, and finally her back and neck.
She lost track…
“Girl,” a voice said.
The thought entered her head and she let it leave.
There it was again. Interesting.
“Girl, come back to me, please.”
That was even more inte…oh…
She listened this time, to see if it would happen again. It did.
“Girl, it’s Bear.”
Ah! That name…and it was a name, not just a noun. Bear was…oh, yes.
“Hi, Bear,” she said, a smile spreading across her face, eyes still mostly closed.
“How do you feel?”
Her mouth turned up in a very small grin, “With my hands.”
She heard a deep rumble of laughter. “I see enlightenment hasn’t stopped you from being a smart ass.”
The grin widened. “Silly Bear. Enlightenment means being a smart ass.”
She didn’t hear him nod his head but imagined it. “Very Zen. A koan, even. ‘To be enlightened is to be a smart ass.’” She heard the chuckle again.
“Hello, Bear. Are you enlightened, too?”
“I’m not sure bears can be enlightened. What do you think?”
The grin widened some more. “Well, I know at least one Bear who is a smart ass, so…why not enlightened as well?”
Again the chuckle. “Thank you. I think.”
“Did you want something, Bear?”
“Oh, many things, Girl. Which is why my attachments keep me from enlightenment. How about you?”
“Hmm…I think I’d like a strawberry ice cream cone, Bear.”
She shrugged, which seemed like an odd thing to do. “Why not? I mean, if you’re going to give up Nirvana for strawberry ice cream, you might as well have sprinkles, too, don’t you think?”
She heard the deep rumble of the Bear’s chuckle once again. “Do you think strawberry ice cream is worth giving up Nirvana for?”
“Oh, definitely. I mean, if you’re going to lose your chance at eternal peace, it might as well be for something worthwhile, right?”
She opened her eyes all the way, and swiveled her head to look at Bear. “You’re beautiful, Bear,” she said softly, and was surprised to find tears forming in the corners of her eyes.
Bear smiled, nodded his head, and said, “So are you, Girl. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
She looked at him steadily for some time, then finally said, “Thank you. For many things. For everything. Without you, I would have nothing, I would be nothing – so, thank you for everything.”
“And thank you, Girl. For purpose – and life. For everything.” Bear stirred, then said, “Would you like to get back?”
Girl inhaled slowly and deeply, then exhaled and said, “I’d like to stay on the mountaintop, but my friend, the Bear, tells me that enlightenment is found in the marketplace, so I guess we’d better go…find some strawberry ice cream.”
Bear got up, misquoting the Tao Te Ching, “Even to seek strawberry ice cream is to go astray. The Way that can be known is not the Great Way…to strawberry ice cream.”
“Oh,” Girl sounded disappointed. “Then I don’t want the Great Way. Let’s go back to the cabin.”
Bear chuckled again, “Unfortunately, the Way to the cabin is not the way to strawberry ice cream, either. Come on.” He got up and walked over to her. “Or I’ll let you smell my breath again.”
She grimaced back from him, arms up as if to fend him off, “No! Not that!” feigning horror. But she scrambled up, chuckling in her turn, wiped her hands on her butt, then nodded. “Let’s go.”
The two friends strolled together in silence. Girl felt different, somehow. Lighter, less concerned, less…yes…just less. She was content to amble along, keeping pace with Bear, and occasionally rubbing her hand along the fur on his back.
When they got to the cabin, they naturally assumed their normal positions, Girl rocking in her chair, and Bear seated in his accustomed place at the end of the porch.
They sat and contemplated the mountains for a time, and the Girl felt she could easily just keep watching forever – except that soon it would be sunset, and the temperature would start dropping.
Finally, she sighed, and said, “I guess I’d better rustle up some grub, else I’ll wind up going to bed hungry.”
Bear pondered for a while, then said, “Hmm…grubs are nice. I know a place where we could get some if you like.”
“Oh, yuck, Bear!”
Bear looked at her for a moment. “Have you tried some? If not, then how can you say you don’t like them?”
She just shook her head, “I’ll leave that particular delicacy to you, thank you so much.”
She got up and went into the cabin, and Bear went off to go forage for his supper. Come to think of it, he considered, grubs sounded pretty good, so he wandered off in that direction.
The two friends sat on the porch and watched the almost-full moon rise. Bear noticed it first when it looked as if the lady in the moon was peeking between the tops of the mountains surrounding the lake. He pointed it out to Girl, and the two of them watched her lift herself into the sky, even as the sky around them darkened into dusk and transformed itself from blue to velvet.
Eventually, Bear looked over and noticed that Girl had fallen asleep in her chair – again. She seemed very much at home in the rocker, for which he was grateful. He waited for her to be well away, then padded over, lifted her up, and carried her into her bedroom. She stirred, smiled, crossed her arms, and leaned her head against his chest as he carried her into the cabin.
He gently laid her on the bed, pulled the covers up over her, and said, very softly, “Good night, Girl. Nothing but good dreams, okay?”
Her smile deepened, “Night, Bear. You, too.”
He padded out to his place on the rag rug, slumped down on the floor in front of the fire, heaved a deep sigh, looked into the flames for a while, then closed his eyes, and slept.
It had been a very good day.
 Mower/Burtch, “Why I Love You,” 1899