Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Touching Spirit Bear can help.

Touching Spirit Bear: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cole realizes that being invisible means clearing his mind. In the pond, he feels like he’s in a trance—and animals come close until he thinks about hurting them. When the Spirit Bear came to him, Cole had given up all control. Cole is thrilled with his discovery; he wonders how much people miss because they move so fast and aren’t calm. In the morning, Cole hikes to the bay instead of the pond. He focuses on the “patterns” formed by the drizzle, the waves, and the rocks as he wanders down the shore. He sits down at the point, lets the drizzle soak his hair, and closes his eyes. He breathes deeply. When he opens his eyes, the Spirit Bear is there. Cole stares at it patiently. He doesn’t think of himself as a juvenile delinquent—he’s part of the landscape.
When Cole is able to make himself invisible and see the Spirit Bear from the point, it makes the case that it’s not soaking in the pond that’s necessarily the important part of the ritual. Rather, what’s important is that in order to sit in the pond, Cole has to empty his mind and ignore the cold—a practice that makes him nonthreatening to the animals around him. Essentially, Cole discovers that “invisible” really means “nonthreatening,” which suggests that moving forward, Cole needs to let go of everything that makes him seem threatening to others.
Themes
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Cole blinks, and the Spirit Bear disappears. That night, he builds a huge outdoor fire, cooks his spaghetti ceremonially, and uses the at.óow as a tablecloth. Cole thinks that tonight is special—tonight, he’ll dance the dance of anger. He screams and starts to dance, swinging at a tree and shouting at everything to stay away as he kicks burning wood out of the fire. Cole walks through the ashes and then dances the bear attack. He feels the storm that killed the baby sparrows. Then, he stands, grabs a rock that represents the ancestor rock, and hurls it into the water.
Figuring out how to become invisible helps Cole understand how to dance the dance of anger. In order to dance it, Cole needs to see exactly why he should let go of his anger. Becoming invisible showed Cole that if he can let go of his anger and all the things that make him threatening, other beings will trust him—and earning the trust of others is one of the most important things he can do.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Cole shouts into the ocean that he didn’t mean to hurt Peter and that he’s sorry for what he did. Cole cries, but he gently kicks the coals back to the fire pit. He continues to cry and dance well into the night. He punches the tree until his fists bleed, and suddenly, Cole feels ashamed. He drops to his knees, apologizes, and then shouts, “I forgive you.” His dance is over. Eyes watch from the darkness of the trees.
Though it’s impossible to tell who, exactly, Cole forgives in this moment, it’s nevertheless important that forgiving others who hurt him (or even forgiving himself) is a part of his dance. It makes it clear that Cole now understands that it’s not enough to simply not be angry anymore. He needs to make things right with the people in his life too.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon