Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)
TITLE: Strength to Persevere
By Connie Dixon
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Yahzi was a North American Black Bear, though her fur was actually a sweet chocolate brown. The bear’s disposition was as sweet as her coloring, but she had a tough challenge ahead of her. She was small for her age. At three years old, she still looked like an overgrown cub, but was destined to carry out the responsibilities of an adult bear. She should have been snuggled up in her den for the winter, but her dormant weight was lacking and her instincts kept telling her to persevere. The repetition played over and over in her head: “Don’t give up, don’t stop, keep going…”
Named by her Creator, “Yahzi” meant “little one” and physically, the name fit, but the little bear’s heart and stamina were anything but small. She would fight to the end because she knew that her search was not only for herself, but for the embryo growing inside of her. This winter she would become a mother, and nothing could stop her from being the best mom she could be.
I must find that berry patch where we feasted when I was a young cub. Yahzi remembered with horror the last time she, her mother and brother ate their fill of huckleberries. It was a popular area for bears and humans. But that particular year, the bears dominated the territory. Her brother Enapay (meaning “brave”) wandered out of sight. They had all been gorging themselves when an older, larger bear stumbled over Enapay. The older bear was angry at the trespassers and began to take it out on the small cub. Enapay put up a brave fight, but he was no match for his aggressor. Yahzi’s heart became heavy as she remembered the sadness that overcame both she and her mother. They had not been back to that particular patch since the awful day her brother was murdered.
Even if she found the patch, she knew the likelihood of there being any fruit left on the branches was small indeed. Most berries would have been picked or dried up this late in the season. She pushed her right paws forward, and then the left, over and over like a machine, the exhausted bear marched forward. Then – BAM !!! She was startled out of her weary stupor. Yahzi jumped to her hind legs, nose in the air, sniffing for signs of danger. Off in the distance, downwind about two hundred yards she spotted two red-plaid clad men holding shiny weapons. Again, a thunderous blast sounded and bark splintered off the tree right above her head.
Yahzi hit the ground running and raced uphill. Several minutes later she came to a snow covered clearing. She was safe – but exhausted and discouraged. There on the edge of the clearing, she found refuge under an old tree stump. The undersized den would provide ample protection from imminent, harsh winter weather. It wasn’t the perfect shelter she had imagined, but she was too tired to take any more futile risks at finding food.
In the following weeks, short days and colder nights were accompanied by blankets of snow and the chill of freezing temperatures. Yahzi’s restlessness included hours of deep sleep and occasional moments of consciousness.
In late-January, an awakening was brought on by the birth of her first cub - but the joy of motherhood quickly disappeared as the still-born baby made its solemn entrance in the calm of the night. The heartbroken Yahzi was all too familiar with the cruelty of death and the frailty of life. But her disappointment vanished when suddenly…there was a sound. In another instant, sadness was replaced by joy as a gentle whimper sounded from a second cub. Yahzi’s heart leapt for joy as she suckled the tiny, helpless babe, nestling the furless body and caressing it between clumsy paws. The grateful bear gave thanks to her Creator for this new life in the midst of a dark, lonely winter.
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