A true story about a bear nursing a lost child in the mountains of Iran.
We navigate our lives using stories that tell us new truths about our world. Some stories are like treasure maps that help us understand our past and plot our future.
I recently read a true story in a book called “Small Wonder” by Barbara Kingsolver that meant a lot to me. The incident took place last fall in the hills of Lorena Province in Iran.
A wife and husband, nomads of the Lori tribe near Kayhan, returned home from a morning’s work in their wheat field to find that their 16-month-old son was missing. A neighbor’s teenage girl who keeps and eye on him said he must have wondered off while she was attending to another child.
The parents and their neighbors searched their village and then began to scatter over the rocky outskirts. It grew dark, then cold then hopeless. He was nowhere. “A bear,” someone said, and everybody else said, “No, don’t even say that!” Early before the next light a larger party that included members of another village went out again to comb the caves and mountainside.
There was another nightfall and another day. The mother wept as the father left with several men willing to go all the way into the mountains.
At the mouth of a cave they entered they heard the cry of a child. They cautiously looked into the darkness. There was the ominous smell of a bear. They stood still and waited until they could see more clearly. Then they saw the round shape of a thick-furred she-bear lying against the wall. And then they saw the child. The bear was curled around him, protecting him. The bear was nursing the child. He was alive, and perfectly well after three days.
They took the boy up, praised Allah, and swiftly left the cave.
Kingsolver, a biology graduate and writer said the story of the bear nursing a lost child came to her on the day she read about the bombing campaign in Afghanistan. In her grief about 9/11 and the war she cleaved hard to the miracle of Lorena. It became a parable for a gentler universe. She wrote, “I believe that the things we dread most can sometimes save us… One child, one bear. I’d like to speak of small wonders (what her book is about) and the possibility of taking heart.”