Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Message to the Bear

To be permitted to live where wildness intersects with my life is a blessing. To be at the edge, where forces so much greater than my small human life rage and live and go on seemingly forever has been a delight to me.

When the great floods came to the river in my first year there, I incautiously refused to move till the last moment, not wanting to miss the opportunity to see the river at full flood, carrying away giant trees, surging golden and dangerous and beautiful in the winter light.

I tend to run into danger, not away from it, with a crazy trust.

And when life comes and batters my little world, usually I am able to look up with some odd delight at the power of the contact.

My hopeful heart has been an annoyance and an amusement to those who love me. Early on in my relationship with my partner of a quarter decade he presented me with a cartoon from the New Yorker. (sometimes I wonder how many communications have been opened with New Yorker cartoons). It was titled Pollyanna in Hell. There, amidst the flames and demons, a brightly smiling woman commented to her partner something like "Isn't this wonderful? So warm. We won't need our winter coats!"

Now that the bear has come my partner looks at me in disbelief. We survey the damage--first one cabin wall taken out, and books scattered on the forest floor--then boards removed from another--then another.

The bear has been on our hill a few weeks now. He's calling me back to the woods, and I am so happy for this. For the past couple years, while my partner has traveled back and forth to the rustic cabin, our youngest and I have remained in town. We are fortunate that we have some private rooms in our store building, and are adaptable. Gabe had grown frightened--and with cause--that the trees might fall on the cabin. Indeed, some have fallen pretty near. And his health has been better in a warmer, more insulated space.

And Champ, the rescued pitbull, needs very controlled supervision. Thus, bit by bit, I went into a quasi exile from my home. We do whatever we must do; I knew my partner would try to keep my home gardens alive, and that he'd treasure the woods on my behalf.

I also knew, alas, that I was probably surrendering my cabin to disarray and clutter, for my dear is someone who piles papers he might read someday, and things that may be useful somewhere, sometime, all around him.

Reports of the condition of my homestead from my eldest son, who would go out fairly often, were so dire I began to wonder if I could stand to return--oh yes, I knew I should somehow manage it, but in my complex life where was there time?

And then the bear arrived. My home is actually within a wildlife corridor; the bears go to the ocean in the springtime and then in late summer, after they mate, they wander back to the mountains. Usually they pass through fairly quickly, unlike the mountain lions, who have settled in some years to raise their kittens near us, and very unlike the deer, who roam the hills freely, or the little foxes who live by the creeks.

I knew I needed to go home to check the damage and start planning the rebuilding process. Suddenly there were ways to arrange this. My daughter could look after her little brother; there are hours in the early morning before we open the shop; we can close a day or two a week.

Last week my partner and I went out for a day of clearing and assessment. Yes, the scene was pretty bad--walls torn open, things scattered everywhere. It's a big task. That day, as I cleared the main room and talked with the dogs--Buddy, who travels back and forth, my aged laborador, and the lovely Mai, the fearful and yet strong protector of the homestead--who took my reappearance with calm "of course you are here"--Paul ran into the bear. Bear was sleeping near my herb garden; Paul was getting water from the spring. He backed away, and the bear backed away.

The bear has been ranging the hillside. A neighbor's orchard is demolished. Other neighbors are in fear for their lives--for black bears are strong. As I marvelled at how my hazel trees have grown I caught the scent of bear--but couldn't see him.

I figure he is a young bear, in his first year without his mother, a little confused, a little uncertain. He has found that at our house there is water, and Mai's food, and he comes back at dawn and dusk to check things out.

The next time I went out--a couple mornings ago--one of the windows had been smashed open. Glittering shards of glass lay across the windowseat, over the floor.

I picked them up, carefully, and swept the floor again, and continued with the sorting and clearing and assessment. We will need new walls, at least one new window. The roof needs patching.

I stood in the middle of this horrible mess, smiling with joy. "Isn't this a wonderful opportunity?" I asked my dear, who looked at me with bleak disbelief.
"We've needed to fix this place up--now we can, we can think about what we need now, how to make this lovely again, and comfortable"

He scowled and walked away. I remembered Pollyanna.

And the bear--to have such wild force close by. It's innocent force. The bear has no evil agenda or hatred--he perhaps thinks of my cabin as a very large log, full of tasty things.

Sadly, his days are probably limited now. Fish and Game officers were called in by the orchard owners, and a trap has been set. I thought it was a humane trap. I thought bear would be taken somewhere safe and distant--but now I have been told that's not how it happens: bears are caught, and when caught, they are killed, because they have shown themselves dangerous.

So, I have been trying to send messages to the bear: go on, over the mountain top, down to the east branch of the river. Please go. Ignore that trap in the orchard, and go fast, before they know you are there. You'll have to pass up the goats at the hilltop, and I know that might be hard--but do it. Go on.

And thanks for your demolition project--you've given us quite a few puzzles to solve. But more, dear bear, you've brought me back to my home, where my children were born and grew up, like you, running through the woods, eating berries, delighting in the beautiful abundant world.


Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

Your insight on bear looking at the cabin as a tasty log with goodies inside really made me smile; they are innocent. I truly believe that if anyone can send messages for a safe route, it will be you. Bears do what bears do... it's us that get in the way. Few are like you to see that situation as an opportunity.

11:58 PM, August 24, 2006  
Blogger David said...

Jarvenpa, you have a profoundly tolerant attitude toward the bear that wrecked your home! I would be thinking of ways to bear proof the house. I am sorry to hear that the fish and game people want to kill the bear. Why can't they relocate it? Maybe there are just not enough wilderness locations within a reasonable driving distance. Sadly, in a few decades, with the human population continuing to grow, there may not be much wilderness left anywhere. Lions, and tigers, and bears, may have no place except zoos to live by that time. To me, that is a very sad thought! Well, good luck to your bear. Maybe he will have the sense to run away, over the hills, afterall.

10:13 PM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Dear J. -- I saw you'd linked to me, and my apologies if I promised a link back but had forgotten...linked now, and am delighted with the Bear tale.

I think "weather fascination" -- The Weather Channel, et al -- is a last touchstone for most of us to encounter nature the way most people once did, the way you recently did -- in all its wild and unpredictable and powerful flow.


1:15 PM, August 26, 2006  
Blogger Kimia said...

You send your message, it's fine and I hope they hear and leave human areas but please take care.
I definitely wouldn't expect this reason for your long absence.
I am sure you'll fix your house as lovely as it was even moreee :D

2:46 PM, August 26, 2006  
Blogger woman wandering said...

I'm glad I called by, your writing is so lovely but I'm sad for the bear ... I do hope you will him away.

10:43 AM, August 27, 2006  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Hi there, jarvenpa--

I've been off but have a new service now--come back and find that you've been under the jolly thumb of nature.

My mother also had bear frolics this year, up on her mountaintop. He didn't do more than dig up her planters, but he didn't go away for a long time... I was always afraid they would meet on the narrow path between garden and house.

It is interesting that your tolerance extends to book-wrecking! I thought you might draw a line there...

8:56 AM, August 30, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Thanks for all kind visitors. The bear is still coming by, and still untrapped (and I hope still that he will move over the hill). My cabin is pretty battered, but my spirits are still good.
New starts. I mentioned at marly's site that Bear decided my garden bathtub (used to have goldfish, but years ago--my substitute for a little pond) was a wonderful place to splash and bathe and play.
He rends my heart in his innocence, even as he is taking down my walls.

8:09 PM, September 01, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

And yes, the bear continues to roam the hills, and my home. And I continue to wish him well, and away.
Musing on homes made me consider the many homes I've left, and I put a new list on my notebook page (you can link from here--it's at the top of my list of links on the main page. Or go to:
(which probably won't print as a link, really. Sorry!)

10:21 PM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

Wild life will soon be a feature in movies & a part of routine special effects.

I once encountered a fox who was rude enough to come forward towards me & tiny stupid terrier dog who kept barking!! don know why the fox left but I guess he saw no challenge in beating us ;-)

6:45 AM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

well, dear doc, your little terrier might have been a FOX terrier, and therefore of course the fox wouldn't eat him. Heh.
Still trying to get word to my bear. you have bears in Iran?

12:13 AM, September 09, 2006  
Anonymous marly said...

I hopped by to see what had happened to the bear, and whether you were colonizing the shambles... and see that you're still alive, at least!

7:12 AM, September 09, 2006  
Anonymous m. said...

okay, miss j, yr e-audience needs to hear that you have not been eaten by BEAR...

10:31 AM, September 20, 2006  
Anonymous Donald B. MacGowan said...

ARGH! I've been looking for a copy of that cartoon since 1981 and this is the first real web lead I have!

1:20 PM, March 18, 2009  

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