He was my bear. For the moments I stood there in disbelief taking pictures. For the day following as I mulled over what it meant to have him out there. He was mine.
As much as he could be any one's that is. I mean look at him. He's suave, debonair, he obviously gets around. He's a player. I was a fool to be seduced by what we had together.
Two mornings later there was evidence he'd been at Kaarin's house up the drive and across the road. And I knew he would never be my bear again.
Her cooking is much better than mine. Once he's tasted the refuse from her gourmet table, he'll never come back to my paltry offerings. What are a few stale oreos in the wake of her muffoletta? Even if he were to come back my way, it will be with a dissatisfied air. You call this arugula? His upturned snout will seem to say.
It is amazing though, how spotting a new animal like this recreates the world. I love the wilderness here. I don't take it for granted. I still think it's special to watch a deer bound across my path, or a rabbit run for cover. Even my ongoing battle with the porch eating squirrels is an entertaining novelty. But now, the dark shadowed places in the wood hold more than shade. Is it Promise? Excitement? Danger? Maybe a little of all those things.
I take it seriously. I'm putting the trash where he shouldn't be able to get it. I'm watching the kids more closely outside, telling neighbors and such. But it's as if the encounter has forced a different conversation with the environment, one where I'm not the only speaker, where I can't dominate the conversation.
It's easy to wax poetic about the beauty of nature. Some people read the Emerson in the comfort of their A/C and feel connected. Others tiptoe in the mud to catch frogs. But to live in an area with bears you have to form a different respect for nature, because it could actually kick your ass. All the recycling and good intentions in the world are not relevant when you're sharing your space with a 400 or so pound wild animal.
For example, in the course of conversations someone shared the idea they had heard, from a friend of a friend, that a good solution for a trash loving, too close to home kind of bear was Twinkies soaked in Tabasco sauce. It sounds good doesn't it? Being a higher mammal it doesn't seem like it would take much more than some engineered food products and spices to solve the dilemma.
A little research though proved that this was an exceptionally bad idea. Apparently there is a kind of pepper spray actually intended for and marketed to repel bears. It works like mace. Sprayed in the eyes it does no permanent damage but it deters the interest of the bear. Well as it turns out, like all things higher mammal, some people haven't been reading the directions on the cans of repellent. After spraying this stuff it's strongly advised that you leave the area because the bear, though he doesn't like having the stuff sprayed in his face, is attracted to and likes the taste of the spray and will come back to an area and lick the leaves where it's been sprayed. Bears like spicy.
Operation Tabasco Twinkies was aborted in the nick of time. The good news is we have lots of engineered food products to nibble on as we sit in the A/C and think about what it means to live in and with nature, rather than just on the land.
While we're cooped up, we can follow the news of the gulf oil spill and wonder about the implications. Our hubris, our confidence as higher mammals, as the stewards of the Earth might be shaken enough to force a new conversation. Knowing that nature, or our mistakes with it can rear up and kick our ass might force a level of respect from us that we've lacked and our relationship with the natural world can be recreated.
Here's a link to a good reference to dealing with black bears
Here is a link to an interesting article about bears being actually attracted to repellents