"Krik? the Haitian storyteller calls out when they have a story to tell. Krak! the audience responds if they want the story to begin."

The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales by Diane Wolkstein

There was once a Bear who resided in a marvelous place. Every morning, the sweet, shaggy, robust, russet creature rose, stretching arms high toward the glorious and dawning sun. The earthy aroma of trees baking in warm rays raining down from bright cerulean skies was perhaps Bear's favorite scent. The bountiful trees drooping with limbs lumbering under the heft of lush fruits and flowers was perhaps Bear's favorite sight. The bank alongside the gurgling, clear and cold, rambling river, was perhaps Bear's favorite spot. In this place, among these scents, sights and spots, Bear felt supremely safe. Full and fierce. Serene and special. Here, it was easy for Bear to recall the refrain from Mother's melodious song:

Lakay se lakay (Home is home)
Here you will always find
Solace in the bright sun
Tranquility amidst teeming trees
\And rest along the river's edge should the heart ever become too weary
Peace abides within

Bear was very happy.

One day, while floating along the rambling river — feet up, arms splayed, downstream — Bear heard another creature calling and so stood, fixing a sturdy gaze along the bank to locate a ruddy Fox perched on hind legs. After sizing up Bear, Fox yelled across the water. "Alo my friend! Wooh, you have such a beautiful home here. Please tell me all about this land, but first, I must ask you about that fancy key, resting around your neck."

Bear stumbled in coming up with a satisfactory response, failing to recollect any time spent in contemplation of a key that had always been there and thus, naturally forgotten. Fox pushed, saying, "Well, no doubt it must open something special. All keys are made with a purpose in mind. I find it strange that you aren't more curious, silly Bear. Just imagine the treasures that lie behind the door that key might open."

Honestly, Bear had never given much thought to going out there because it seemed as if most of the necessary things were already in here. But Bear did not want to appear silly or strange or, worst of all, un-curious. Additionally, since Fox had mentioned its potential, the key once so effortlessly forgotten took on an exceptionally heavy presence. Fox suggested an arrangement – "Friend, pa enkyetew (don't worry), I will happily stay behind to care for this place, so that you can go search for what's missing." Both agreed and understood the journey would be long. There are, after all, endless amounts of doors, with infinite amounts of people behind them to consider. Some doors are left slightly ajar while others are kept wide open. Some doors are surrounded by barriers — gates and guards — daring folks to enter. Others are locked rather ceremonially or sanctimoniously. Bear even discovered certain places you feel like staying forever. Eventually, after so many attempts, Bear became something of an expert — able to quickly assess promise. Although growing more efficient, the exploration was thoroughly exhausting. Bear reminisced over sweet memories from the before, recalling this song:

Lakay se lakay (Home is home)
Here you will always find
Solace in the bright sun
Tranquility amidst teeming trees
And rest along the river's edge should the heart ever become too weary
Peace abides within

Bear tasted tears and knew it was time to return home. Standing in front of the door, it became quite obvious that this was the lock, the one the key had been meant for all along. Silly Bear, indeed. So much energy spent searching externally for beauty found inside. Fox clearly had long abandoned both promise and place, so it took some time making things right within, but this kind of work felt worthwhile and Bear was very happy. Today, our russet friend can be found frequently meandering, exploring old places and new — though now, Bear never forgets to carry a song close to the heart and a key tucked safely beside it. ♦

Inga N. Laurent is a local legal educator and a Fulbright scholar. She is deeply curious about the world and its constructs and delights in uncovering common points of connection that unite our shared but unique human experiences.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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About The Author

Inga Laurent

Inga N. Laurent is a local legal educator and a Fulbright scholar. She is deeply curious about the world and its constructs and delights in uncovering common points of connection that unite our shared but unique human experiences.