We were climbing up the ridge after spending a layover day at stunning Lake Byrne on our backpack. Lake Byrne is at 5500 feet above where Kennedy Hot Springs used to be before it was buried in a mudslide over a decade ago in the Glacier Peaks Wilderness area. Lake Byrne is nestled in a high alpine basin as if being cradled in the arms of Glacier Peak. It is almost like you could reach out and touch the glaciers on the face of Glacier Peak; the Whitechuck, the Suiattle and the Honeycomb.

It was about 7pm and we had an approximate two mile walk back to our camp. We lingered at each bend and turn along the ridge walk for another glimpse of Lake Byrne before we would cross completely over the ridge and leave her behind.

At one of these stops, we were standing side by side gazing at the deep blue waters of the lake ringed by the steep and rocky walls surrounding her on three sides. The far side had a more gentle slope before it dropped down into pristine forest on it’s way to the Whitechuck Glacier valley floor.

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That was the first moment of our medicine gift. I saw something swimming across the lake. Of course the way the mind works, I thought it was a bird. I believed I also saw little ones trailing behind. I said “I think there is some sort of bird swimming across with a family.” Ian took the binoculars and watched intently for awhile. Then he said very clearly, “That is no bird. It has a brown body. Could it be a a beaver?”

We passed the binoculars back and forth and watched the creature seim gracefully across the large expanse of deep blue water towards the gently sloping side. “Yes, I think it’s a beaver”, I said. Ian looked again. “I think it’s a cat of some sort.” he replied.

As I watched the swimming pattern from this distance I was reminded of another backpack several years ago when we saw bears swimming at an upper basin in the Olympics on a day when it was well into the 90’s. The swimming bear ‘dog paddle’ pattern reminded me of those bears we fondly named Benji and Bertha high in the Seven Lakes Basin area. “Could this be a bear?” I asked.

At just that moment the beautiful creature stopped paddling for a moment and turned to look directly at me. Even at that distance, I knew it was a bear. I could make out the face, the ears and the snout. I watched this amazing animal swim up to shore and stand up gracefully. It was a large bear. He shook himself off and Ian watched him lumber slowly and lazily up the gently sloping rocky wall and disappear into some brush. What a powerful medicine gift! We walked on in silence, gratitude and awe at the beautiful gift we had just received.

Offered just before we are preparing to enter a transition of season from summer to fifth season in the Chinese Five Element system. The fifth season (otherwise known as late summer or Indian summer) is related to the element Earth and the animal bear. The summer season is related to the element fire and the animal monkey.

As we all know, summer’s energy is lively, fully open and very active. The fifth season s the initial transition towards fall. We all recognize this natural shift when the light just begins to wane and the angle of the sun in the sky begins to change. Another sign is the onset of plants dying back as their fruits and flowers become full, ripe and ready for harvest.

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The fifth season is linked to the element Earth. Earth energy is nourishing, grounding when healthy and balanced and full of anxiety and worry when out of balance. In late summer there is a rising strength in Earth energy, creating stability, settledness and a sense of home. Much as we harvest the fruits of summer, Earth provides the impetus to contemplate and reflect.

The fifth season is preparing us for the entrance into hibernation–just like the bear.

The bear offers us potential medicine gifts of patience and connection. Do you need to hibernate with ideas or projects until a better time presents itself? Bear also speaks to us about connecting earth-based energy and celestial forces. Remember the Ursus Major constellation, The Great Bear.

Other medicine gifts offered are confidence and authority. We are reminded we can be larger than life if we raise ourselves up to our inherent status. No one questions the bear.

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The bear offers teachings of nurturing and protection. These are intuited by us by the commitment bear mothers make to their young. The young stay with their mothers for two years, a lengthy time period. Whether with offspring or ideals, the bear will lend you the determination required for rearing up strong results.

Lastly the bear offers wisdom and guidance in healing. Their yearly hibernation is like a small death and resurrection into new life. The bear offers healing for self or possibly an invitation to show up as a a healer in our own world. We certainly need the healing energy!

It is nearing two weeks since Bear showed up at Lake Byrne. I am contemplating, dreaming with, and working with the qualities of Bear energy in my life.

How does Bear energy show up for you?