Bear and Wolf by Daniel Salmieri
I almost never buy picture books anymore. My own children are too old to use as an excuse for these purchases and, if I think a book will be a good addition to my school library, I use my annual book budget to purchase it (and in a library bound edition). But, sometimes there is a book that is so beautiful, bringing something truly special to the shelf, that I have to buy it. And, more often than not, it is a picture book published by Enchanted Lion Books
(their website is under construction at the time of this writing, but you can subscribe to a newsletter) because their books are quality, both in content and production. Bear and Wolf by Daniel Salmieri happens to be one of those books. For reviews of other books published by Enchanted Lion Books, (or if you just want to see picture books that I choose to spend money on) click here here.
Bear and Wolf is a deeply beautiful book about companionship, nature and time with words that are as powerful as the illustrations. A bear and a wolf encounter each other on a windless night when, "glowing snowflakes fell through the trees deep in the forest. They do not meet each other with the apprehension or fear you might expect, but with gentle curiosity. Noticing each other through the trees, the animals speak. "Are you lost?" Bear asks Wolf. "No, I'm not lost. Are you?" Wolf responds. Bear is out walking to feel, "the cold on my face, and to enjoy the quiet of the woods when it snows." Wolf is out to feel, "the cold under my paws, and to listen to the crunching of the snow as I walk." Bear invites Wolf to walk with her.
The animals notice the world around them, smelling the, "wet bark of the trees," hearing the, "small sounds the snowflakes made on their fur," and seeing the fish, "floating, asleep in the green depths." And they are noticed. At the pond, the animals part ways. Bear, to return to her cave and, "sleep through the winter with my family," and Wolf to hunt with his pack, which is "following the scent of caribou." They turn from each other and walk away.
As time passes and, "winter faded from their part of the earth," Bear is out walking, "when she spotted something poking out from the swaying green." The two animals reunite, walking through the, "gentle breeze, using their eyes, and ears, and noses to take in the awakening woods."
I hope I have conveyed here the quiet connectedness of Bear and Wolf, the poetry of the words, the magnificence of the natural world and the power of just being with another. There is a Buddhist, or maybe just general concept called, "compassionate curiosity," and I have pause here to thank Maria Popova of BrainPickingsand her brilliant review of Bear and Wolf for reminding me of it. Compassionate curiosity is the quality or the perspective of connecting with an "other" in a way that says we have a desire to understand and explore this "other" in a way that is caring and safe. This may sound like a lot to pull from a picture book about two animals, but if you go back and read it again, I am sure that you will see it. Two animals that hunt, in the bleak harshness of winter, meet. Where confrontation might be expected, instead there is companionship and appreciation. As our children walk through a world that is increasingly bleak and harsh, I hope that they can find moments of compassionate curiosity and connection with the "other."