At the end of the movie, as we sat in the theater, my daughter Arayla(9) turned to me and said: “It’s interesting how the single mothers, of all animals~ people and bears~ have to work harder to protect and feed their children… because there are more of them to care for? But because the children are young and little, that makes providing for them harder. Like how that mother bear couldn’t go get the salmon she needed to feed her family, because it was too dangerous to leave her babies alone. But the big, fat, male bears all on their own, without anyone to take care of, could eat as much Salmon as they liked. Like you, Mama, how you can only work as much as you can, because you have to take care of us? But someone who doesn’t have kids can work more. But you need the money more than them, because you have to take care of us and feed us and raise us?”
I sat there, simply stunned at her eloquent perception, the ease with which she made the connections. I felt tears rush to my eyes inside my own genuine tenderness around this starkly real animal vulnerability as a single mother up against the true life challenge of providing for my two young children; keeping them fed and safe and clothed and healthy. I simply said: “Yes, Love. You are so right.” And then Ezra (5), sitting on my lap, said: “I’m just so happy none of them had to DIE? I was so sure the Mama would have to get killed, from not enough food, or one of the babies was going to get killed by the wolf or the big, mean, hungry boy bear. But: they all made it!” He took a big sigh of relief and rested his curly head back into my chest. Arayla said, with a tone of ironic cheer: “Well, that’s one thing you can be grateful for, Mom.?“ I smiled at her: “What’s that? “ She said: “At least you don’t have to walk around with us worried that if we simply dawdle behind you something might steal us from you and kill us and eat us! Or worry we will starve to death if you can’t catch any fish today. I think the Mother Bear had a harder time being a single mom than you do.”
I nodded tactfully in agreement, smiling with her in rapport, but quietly, inside myself, felt awed by the interesting, undeniable parallel~ in this reality of vulnerability within all mammals~ and this vital instinct within us: simply to survive and keep our young alive, knowing that at any moment something might swoop in and take them from us. I've witnessed with my own eyes: human children taken without a moment's notice, from their parents protective, loving arms. It happens. What great lengths we go to inside this primal attachment to life itself; inside this ferocious and profoundly tender love! What great lengths we go to~ and ultimately have to hand it all over, again and again, and again, with some kind of innocent, helpless faith and bow of fervent surrender, to our Great Beloved Mystery in which these lives are so delicately held.