I found myself sitting on a lake. The water was impermeable under me and reflected the stars. I patted the surface and poked at it, watching motes of light play in the water under me. A large animal filled the view in the reflection. I looked up to see Bear standing on the water with me. I smiled to see him, but I was also sad. “I thought I found one of your stories, Bear. But all I found was a wandering man in an old jacket.”
Bear sniffed my face softly. “You did not find what you expected, so you ignored what you found.”
I tried to justify away his accusation. “Somehow I don’t expect to find you in the middle of a modern city full of concrete and urban decay.”
“You mean, you don’t expect me to be where Man is. You think I only exist in the places where Man isn’t.” Bear looked around the lake and made a deliberate turn towards the night sky.
“Why did the People stop seeing me?”
“They stopped looking. Bears stopped being a symbol of something greater and became merely animals.”
He lowered his head and pierced me with his stare. “Why do you see me?”
“… … Because I want to. Because you are more than just an animal to me. Because I can and I don’t want to look away.”
“Have you ever seen a flesh and blood bear? In person? Up close? Have you smelled the scent and the musk? Have you felt the fur and the teeth of a living bear?” He ambled around me as he asked, making sure to rub harshly against me. As he asked, I realized what I thought was his scent, was what I thought a bear’s scent should be. Even the feel of his fur was a construct of my imagination.
“No. I haven’t. Not even in a zoo.”
“Then how do you know I am Bear?”
I wanted to say, “Because I know. The same way I know that sugar is sweet and hugs are comforting and heartbreak physically hurts the heart. The same way I know there is more to the world than what the five senses measure and hope can crush a person but severity can buoy them. Because I know you, and I know you are Bear, and you are more than just a bear, and this is the way you present to me because this is how you have chosen to.”. But I found all manner of speaking fled from me at that instant, and all I could answer was. “…”.
Bear gently laid his forehead against mine. The density in his form is staggering. If he knew my inner thoughts, he did not betray the knowledge. “Find my stories. The People have their own stories, and what hasn’t been lost is hoarded to obscurity. You are not of the People. Your stories will have a different feel to them. They will wear different clothes and bear different marks. They will walk in the lands that you walk because that is what you know. I do not want you to find the stories of the People. I want you to find mine. Start with the wandering man in the old jacket. Look him in the eyes. If he is me, you will see at once. That is, if you want to see.”
Bear backed away from me, and I saw his eyes clearly. In them, were the stars of the night sky, the stars of the lake below us, and the stars reflected from my eyes.
I closed my eyes. I do want to see.
Why did Bear call his mythos the People hold the “stories of the People”, and then turn around and ask me to find his stories? Aren’t they all his stories? It wasn’t until I posted the conversation that I understood.
The mythos started out as his stories, but as the People stopped seeing him as Bear and relegated him to just another animal archetype, the stories stopped being about Bear and became a collection of moral tales instead.
Moral tales are good and instructive, don’t get me wrong. But these stories weren’t originally about teaching social values. They were about Bear. Until they weren’t anymore. And the People stopped looking for what stopped being.
The mythos became Stories of the People.
The stories I find will be different. Because my life setting is different. Because my understanding of the world is different.
I still feel like I’m the wrong person for this task.
There was a wandering man in an old denim jacket. His full beard and his hair were more salt than pepper, and he walked with a slow but steady gait. His skin was tougher than the jacket and the only thing more bare than his knuckles were his boots. But if you looked in his eyes, you would see his eyes were full of life. They sparkled to put the stars of the night sky to shame. He smiled at me as he passed. I wasn’t sure who was unseen, him or me. The weed-lined sidewalk spoke no echo from either one of us. He reminded me of Bear.
A man I never met reminded me of something I have never seen.
Welcome to Weaver-world.