The next morning, the two friends were quiet with each other. After saying good morning, and after both had foraged for breakfast, each in their own way, they retired to the porch, Girl to her rocker, Bear to his favourite spot at the end of the porch, looking at the mountains.
After a while, Bear got up and said, “I’m going to go for a walk. Like to come?”
Girl thought for a moment, then nodded, unwound herself from the rocking chair, and skipped down the stairs, then turned, waiting for Bear to join her. He lumbered down the stairs, she put her hand on his back, ruffling his fur, and the two friends set off.
Bear seemed just to be rambling, with no set destination in mind, which was fine with Girl.
Eventually, after the silence had stretched on for a while, Girl spoke up.
“Bear…when you told me about what happened to you and, and the…bear, you mentioned a, a…Person, a Presence.”
Bear walked on without acknowledging Girl’s implicit question.
“And a while back, you said something about Mother Nature…liking me, protecting me.”
Bear stopped, looked over his shoulder at her, nodded, then continued walking.
“Bear, would you…uh, please tell me more about Her?”
Bear kept walking, and Girl kept walking alongside him, but now his walking seemed directed as he turned a couple of times onto well-worn animal tracks. Finally, he came to a quiet overlook, with the stream far below, and the mountains far above, and sat.
Girl found a nearby rock, pulled herself on top of it, settled in with her feet drawn up, arms wrapped around her legs, her chin on her knees, and waited.
After a time, Bear said, “I told you about how a Presence appeared when both the polar bear and I were shot by that hunter.”
Girl nodded, silent.
Bear was quiet for some time, then said, “That…Presence was, I believe, Mother Nature. And no, I don’t know what I mean. I just…know…that She was unusual and, uh, well powerful is the word that comes to mind.”
Bear took a deep breath and huffed it out. “She certainly saved my life…and that of the polar bear she saved with me. And I have no idea how that could be done.”
His head swiveled to face her. “But it seems clear to me that She likes you. Small things, many of which you haven’t noticed. Like chipmunks aren’t afraid of you, or the Monarchs were happy to land on you, or that Skreee! seemed to like you – and she’s a cold-hearted carnivore, that one. And Henry…well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Henry take to anyone, animal or human, as he took to you.
“They know you. They know you through Her. And I believe She thinks you have a pure heart, and that you are always trying to help others. And sometimes you help others even when it hurts you.”
Bear ducked his head and looked away. “And I like you. You truly are a special person.”
His head swiveled back to face her again, “Plus you’re kind to old bears. That’s gotta count for something.”
Girl looked at him steadily, then rose and leapt off the rock, jumped over to Bear in a bounding leap, and hugged him tight.
“I don’t know why Mother Nature likes me, Bear. I don’t know what I could possibly have done to deserve Her affection. But I do know that I like you.
“You. You saved me. And I will never forget you for it.”
Bear rubbed his muzzle against her. “And you saved me, Girl. You saved me, too.”
The two friends stayed hugging for a while, then Bear pushed himself up, “How about we go splash in the hot pools for a while? It’ll give me a chance to see you naked again!”
And, not waiting for an answer, he turned and started trotting into the bush, hurrying towards the hot springs.
Girl grinned at his retreating back, then turned on her foot and jogged after him. After all, she usually got to pull his tail when they were splashing in the water – and she felt that made it an even trade!