Currently in Rottenmann, Austria
St. Gall and the Bear
An Irish monk on a mission
saunters through Swiss forest,
when a bear charges him, fur bristles,
nostrils large and dark, the holy man
does not clench in fear, slowly
extends his hand, chunk of bread
in his palm, offers it to those
long-clawed paws which take it eagerly
into hungry jaws and lumbers off.
The bear returns that evening,
wood piled high in his brown arms
to build the monk a fire.
Together they sit for hours,
listen to night’s music,
count stars as they appear,
bask in warmth of embers
and new friendship.
When the great bear of your life
charges toward you, nourish it
with the bread of your kindness.
When it comes carrying kindling,
sit down together, see what is sparked
and what shapes dance in the flame.
© 2019 Christine Valters Paintner
Legend has it that as St Gall was traveling in the woods of what is now Switzerland he was sitting one evening warming his hands at a fire. A bear emerged from the woods and charged. The holy man rebuked the bear, so awed by his presence it stopped its attack and slunk off to the trees. There it gathered firewood before returning to share the heat of the fire with St Gall. The legend says that for the rest of his days St Gall was followed around by his companion the bear. Wikipedia
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