We all have wise bears for certain things. I have one for words , and she gifted me the word understory. It was years ago but I knew it was my word immediately, and my wise bear did too. When a tree or a part of a tree dies and falls to the forest floor, it begins to create a new story. With the right damp conditions and perfect ingredients, green shoots of growth and hope accumulate underneath the old parts. This new story is called the understory, and it’s what springs out of the old and the dead. I met this wise bear just two months after Benjamin fell in the forest, and she gave me the definition over cold chardonnay and hot french fries. I felt a heavy swoon when she first described it, like when you meet someone you’ll hope to know on porches and over coffee for the rest of your stories. I put the word in my pocket for later, and it was years until I tacked into a firm project. But meanwhile, I began to build my life on the philosophy of the understory, because there were so many little deaths that had come and were coming still. It’s a philosophy that builds hope, even in the hardest of things. Now in my forties, I have started to look at my forest floor and take stock of the falls, the green, and the potential of the in between. My wise bears are gathered too, watching from the backs of trees and helping trim, water, and discard. I can count on dappled sunlight, and I can also count on the deep dark, both necessary for forest sustenance and clear feet and foundation. If we can remember right away there is a rebirth ready to trace the floor with wet green life, then there can be a soar quality on the way down. It’s an over and over again process that cannot be practiced without trust, staying wide and bright while falling, and feeling your wise bears at your back.