Ungnyeo the Bear Woman 

So here's the myth:

Bear and Tiger yearned to be human
And Hwanung, son of heaven,
took pity on the two -

One hundred days in a cave, he declared,
Live on a handful of mug-wort and twenty garlic cloves!
That's all they had to do.

And so, patiently, patiently, the gentle bear waited.

(unlike the prowling, growling tiger who
had places to go and things to do,
and who bolted after seven days and seven nights -
snarling - I'm outta here -
so desperate was that Tiger to be free!)

But the patient, gentle bear waited.
The bear expected nothing.
The bear had no other agenda
or appointments or galas to attend,
Life stretched out before that bear
as barren as the tundra
on a dark night in winter.

The bear waited.
In isolation, in deprivation,
In the cold, damp cave,
munching garlic and mug-wort
sleeping, dreaming
of fur-less grace
of limb, and soft curve
of body and brilliant eyes,
not really believing it could happen
but hoping, hoping
prepared to wait
those long, empty hundred days.

But on day twenty-one,
dark brown pelt falling
tattered to her feet,
a woman emerged from the cave,
glistening, beautiful,
and full of joy.

So what happened next?
What about those other
seventy-nine days?
Isn't that the real myth?
The real mystery?
Things come when not expected
Reprieves and rebirths
and seventy-nine unplanned days of happiness.

© 2006 J.L. Stanley