There once was a bear named Bella. She lived in the woods of the National Forest and she was very content except for one thing, she wanted to learn to dance.
Bella lived near a large campground. She watched large groups of people come and go all the time but one group came every year and this group intrigued Bella. The people there sang and danced all weekend. They sang to the trees and they sang to the sky. They sang to the animals of the woods. They sang and drummed at night to the stars and they sang to each other and they danced…
Bella loved to watch the dancing and she loved to watch the groups of women who danced wearing beautiful colours and sparkly gold discs and she wanted to be like them. The other bears near her thought she was nuts. They caught her deep in the woods trying to sway and move like those women and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t do it. And they made fun of her which made Bella sad.
She decided it was because she didn’t have the pretty clothes like the women so she did something naughty. One of the groups of women liked to hang some of their brilliantly coloured clothing around their camp site so she took some.
She watched them from behind the trees and decided she wanted a bright yellow and maybe the blue one that was like the mountain sky. She snuck into the campsite while they were out on a hike but she got scared and ended up just grabbing a bunch from the lines and lumbering back to her den.
When she got there she spread them out to see what she had. She had one of those funny things the women wore on top but she couldn’t put it on. So she put it around her neck instead. It was covered in gold round things and made a tinkling noise. She found a pair of filmy bright red pants that were very stretchy and she did manage to pull those on and she was excited to find a pair of the chimey things the women used when they danced in the pockets.
She had grabbed several large scarves and she tied those around her. She went to the nearby pond to look at herself and she thought she looked just like them.
She tried to dance again but it still wasn’t any use. She couldn’t do it. She tried and tried. She was trying to dance long after that group of campers had gone home. They had come the first week of summer and Bella was still trying to dance when fall came and it was time for her to sleep. This made Bella very sad.
She dreamed of dancing all winter long in her den surrounded by the beautifully coloured clothes. They now were a bit tattered and torn but still beautiful in Bella’s eyes. She knew if she watched enough she would be able to do it and she vowed next summer she would watch some more when they came again so Bella waited.
She waited through the long groups of loud kids that made her hide. She waited through the bird watching group. She waited through another group that sang to the sky and talked a lot about a book but they weren’t near as happy as “her” group for she now was thinking that the group was hers. She waited until the first week of summer and she was so scared. She was afraid they wouldn’t come but they did. They came with their laughing and singing and their happy children and set up their camps and Bella was overjoyed to see that the dancing women had come again and set up their area with their sparkly shiny clothes and their drums and other mysterious objects. Bella put on the clothes she had taken, now a lot worse for the wearing and hid in the woods near by. Every time the women got up to practice Bella would try to imitate them. She finally sat down with a thump. She just couldn’t do it. And she put her head down and she cried.
What Bella didn’t know because she was normally very quiet was that the women had heard her trying to dance in the woods and a couple of them had been watching her try to dance. They hurried back to the other dancers and whispered what they had seen to the other women.
Now these women were very special women and some of them worshipped bear goddesses and they loved anyone who wanted to dance and it had made them sad that Bella was trying so hard. Some of them were scared and didn’t want to be near a bear so they moved but the other women went to Bella where she was crying.
“Mistress Bear. Mistress Bear,” they whispered. “Are you alright?”
Bella looked up and saw all the beautiful dancers around her. She noticed some of them were shaking like they might be scared and she felt sad. She shook her great brown head and looked at these lovely women. She saw that they loved each other and that they were looking at her they same way they looked at each other. They were all different shades, some were her rich brown colour, some were pale like the morning sky before it turns blue, some were somewhere in between but they all looked kind.
They noticed she was wearing their clothes that they had missed the year before and they realized she wanted to be a dancer like them and it moved them.
One dancer spoke up, “Mistress Bear, would you like to dance with us?” This made the bear cry because she had tried and it hadn’t worked. She put her head down again and wailed. She felt gentle tugging then and she raised her head. The women gently pulled her to her feet and pulled her to their camp circle. A couple of them went to get their drums and started drumming softly. Some of the others went to the clothes lines and got new pieces of cloth and wound them around Bella. Bella stood shyly not moving and some of the women started to sway to the music and motioned for Bella to join them. Bella’s eyes grew round. They wanted her to dance with them! She didn’t know what to do so she stood there. Two of the women grabbed her paws and drew her into their circle. They were all swaying back and forth. She could do that! So she did.
One of the women bravely moved behind her and held her big waist and started showing her how she could move it. She couldn’t move it like them but she could move it like she was able to. So she shyly started to dance with the women. This brought huge smiles to the dancing women and they motioned to the drummers to speed up and they did. This frightened Bella but she was so happy and joyful she kept dancing. She even tried some turns with the women. Soon the women had her weaving in and out with them and dancing as best as she could. Finally she was so tired she stopped and dropped to all four feet and women stood around her clapping and cheering for her. Bella was happy.
The women told her to come again the next night and she surprised herself and did. The women brought their new dancing partner to the main circle which made some people run in terror but the rest joined in the dancing with Bella and the women and all their beautiful colours and shiny golden, gleaming jewelry and decorations and Bella too. Everyone danced and Bella was filled with joy. She could DANCE! When the dance was over the women led Bella back to their campsite.
She knew it was time for them to go to bed and time for her to go back into the woods. The women crowded around her and hugged and patted her. “Would you come dance with us again next summer?” Bella nodded eagerly.
“The women smiled at her. One laughed, “But you have to practice every day just like we do.” Bella nodded again.
“We’ll miss you until we will see you again! Merry Meet, Mistress Bear!” and Bella went to her den. She was so happy. She could Dance! She had made friends and she could keep dancing until it was time for the women to come dance again with her. She was going to practice every day to make them proud of her. Bella was happy.