sing your heart out
This morning my husband and I were on a walk, on the road in front of our house. We were about a mile away from home almost at the place where we turn around to walk back again. I like to think it is a mile round trip, but it is just shy.
So this morning Skip caught some movement down in a glade where there is a stream off to our left. He stopped and kept looking until he identified a goodly sized black bear on his way to rendezvous with us, had we kept walking, and would have arrived at the exact same spot as we as he crossed the road. Skip guessed it weighed around 300 pounds. We let the bear play through, and turned our feet homeward still many yards away.
A few weeks ago in the national news, there was a picture of a 600 pound black bear in a wading pool in a back yard. We were alerted to this picture by our son who lives in California. So we went searching the internet and sure enough, found the picture of the 600 pound bear who lives in Fort Valley, VA, where we live. He was big, didn’t fit in that little wading pool, but sure did look cooled off in the persistent 90 plus degree weather we have been having this summer.
About a month ago, Skip and I were about 3/4’s the way home on our daily walk, when I noticed something moving off to our right. There was a bear running across an open field coming towards us. We stopped and slowly backed up as we were about 30 feet away and wanted more distance between us. The bear stopped at the end of the driveway he had been running on.
It was a cartoon moment. It was almost as if the bear was checking both ways before he crossed the road, and then he saw us.
Your brain starts to run dialogue in such a moment. What do we do if he decides to come at us? Do we run, NO! Bears run much faster. Do we climb a tree? NO! Do we do the big bad human impression of waving our arms over our heads and yelling to high heaven, as we were taught by the forest rangers out west? The idea is to appear bigger and meaner than the bear.
What to do?
Then the mind offers, “there is no where to go and nothing to hide behind. Nothing!” So with as much sarcasm as I could muster, I thanked my mind and engaged my brainstem to give me the fight or flight information I needed.
We waited for the bear to make the next decision. You could almost see him thinking. “So do I go first or do you go first?” We waited standing still. He waited standing still. All of us in sober reflection. (yes, you may laugh here!)
Then you could almost hear the bear thinking, “Screw this! I’m going first!”
So the bear takes off straight across the road, not at us, leaps 6 feet into the air, (true) climbs a tree much faster than greased lightening, catapults over the fence, (I gave him a 10 for form and execution), and then it struck me that he was catapulting over our fence...he was going into our forest, and disappears from view.
Then thoughts passed through my head at lightening speed. Hope he’s not thirsty, as our pond is close to the house. Hope he’s headed for some shade up the mountain far from the house. Man he climbed that tree so fast it took my breath away. (remember: never climb a tree to get away from a bear).
We looked at each other and nodded. Guess we were going to sing the Park Ranger serenade until we got home in the house. We like to sing a particular song to let bears know we are near, assuming the bear doesn’t want any part of us, just as we do not want any part of the bear. Our song is “I love to go a wandering upon the mountain path, and when I go, I love to sing with my knapsack on my back, Vallaree, valeraaa, valreeeee, valaraha ha ha ha, refrain!” At least that’s what we sang out west for the grizzlies.
So it was, on that particular day, that we were singing going up the long driveway until we got into the house.
So this bear might have been an adolescent about 150 pounds. He acted appropriately, meaning he was not sick. Skip always says to me at times like this, well its usually about snakes, as I don’t really don’t like snakes, “that the wild animal doesn’t want to tangle with us any more than we do it.”
And I have to say, this has played out again and again in my life. (Except for the time I stepped on the long black snake on the back porch with an uncooked apple pie in my hand and the 6 foot snake happily leaped sideways, away from me, and the time a snake leaped off a rising garage door and directly onto my head and slithered down my body and into the house…….yeah, except for those times! But hey, neither black snake attacked me, just scared me senseless.) I imagine I scared them senseless as well!
So then, right before I started to meditate, I saw a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. It was black, just like the black bear today. And then the name of this post came zooming into my head. “Bless the bear, Bless the butterfly.” That often happens. I get a title and then I have to take it somewhere meaningful. Considering my divergence into snake stories, I should probably add, “Bless the snakes.”
So the full meaning of these bear sightings this summer is probably complex and has a lot to do with the weather, the availability of food, and the fact that the neighbor keeps bees with lots of honey yet to harvest.
But the deeper human meaning for me is that we all live together. Bears do bear things and humans do human things without messing around in each others lives, for the most part.
Today I was not afraid of the bear. We respected the bear and gave him/her its space. I will walk again tomorrow and not be afraid, but will be aware of myself in the world occupied by so many other beings. Its OK to be different from each other. Humans sort of forget that sometimes.
It is OK to be different.
So thanks to the black bear and the black butterfly whose wings brought me this post (that’s where the butterfly comes into this).
Thanks for reminding me we all live on the same planet. That we all can live together. This earth can be a peaceable kingdom.
So Be It.