Remembering The Early Morning Bear

Amazon.com

The following memory was originally posted as an answer to a question on Quora. I’ve decided it is worth displaying here on my blog.

I was camping in the boundary waters of northern MN (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). I was a Volunteer In Park (VIP) through the Student Conservation Association (The Student Conservation Association), so was living out of a tent, on an island, for the better part of a summer. Our team’s only contact with the outside world was a walkie talkie and transportation between worksites (islands) was a small collection of canoes. In short, I wasn’t just in bear territory, I was camped out in their living room.

The good thing was this: it was so remote and so seldom used by the general public that the bears were appropriately afraid of human beings. Do something stupid, and they will attack. Leave food out in the open, and they will eat it. Conduct yourself in a proper manner and, for the most part, they’ll leave you alone.

One night, I crawled out of the tent to take a pee. I’m one of those people who will try to ignore nature in favor of staying in my sleeping bag for as long as humanly possible (so nice and cozy warm!) so this was a serious need. As soon as I made my rather noisy exit and stood up, the first thing I noticed was a mother bear and two cubs.

They were close. Way to close for comfort. If I’d been less awake or observant, I would have walked right into them on the way to our communal outdoor toilet – so 25 yards, give or take.

They appeared to be passing through, but the noise and movement created by me caught the mother bear’s attention and all three bears stopped while she moved her large head from side to side, looking around. I froze out of sheer instinct.

What little I know about hunting in the Midwest immediately followed instinct and I made sure to NOT look the mother in the eye. The night was reasonably dark and there was no wind, so my groggy half-awake and (therefore) mostly animal-instinct driven brain decided my best chances for survival were silence, no-movement and no eye contact.

The reason for the emphasis on no eye contact is this: whether you are hunting prey (e.g.: a deer) or predator (e.g.: a bear), no amount of camouflage will work if you make the mistake of looking the animal in the eye. Even while using a set of binoculars from the upper branches of a tree, the animal will sense the connection and take off. This was something they taught in the hunter’s safety course I took during elementary school, but I’ve never been hunting (before this moment or since) so this was one of the only opportunities I’ve ever had to test the theory – and there was only one option I was willing to try.

After a few long moments of patient statue-standing and waiting, the mother bear made a soft snorting sound, the bear cubs went back to the happy tumbling walk that bear cubs have and the three continued on their way.

As soon as I was no longer able to either see or hear them, I relaxed, took a much needed pee, and escaped back into my tent. That tent seemed terribly flimsy and felt entirely non-protective. I stared at the ceiling for a long time before I was finally able to go back to sleep.

It was scary.

It was AWESOME!

Yeah, I know – I’m a little weird.

Memories as Jewels

Quote

Amazon.com

At times like this her grief hovered in the room like a dark winged creature. She squeezed her eyes shut and remembered Meg saying to her, Find a favorite memory, and run it through your mind. When you lose someone, you have to find new ways to feel close. Meg used to say her memories were her jewels to keep forever.

Summer of The Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles

T-Shirt Dreams

Quote

Last night I woke from a dream I do not remember. It wasn’t a very memorable dream, so there was no regret in not remembering. The sole memory that remained was the following statement:

Change is a choice,
Choice is a change.

I’m seriously considering putting it on a t-shirt.

-Adora Myers

Big Bird on the Chain Gang

Amazon.com

Music is weird. It can transport a person’s mind back to a time long-since past. It can lead the imagination into dangerously (sadly) hopeful places in the never-to-be-realized future. It transforms a moment so completely, an individual can (potentially) forget the important truths about the present reality. Fun, powerful, and necessary – music is power, magic, human strengths and human weaknesses all rolled into one.

When selecting quotes for this blog, I approach the selections from the perspective of printed poetry. Quotations are posted because of their strength without music. Which brings me to this selection; while I like both the song and the words, they are not something I would normally quote here on this blog.

Amazon.com

However, every single time I hear this song I think of a friend I used to have – a really close non-romantic friend who is no longer around. I miss this old friendship and find myself dipping into a momentary sadness every time I hear this song – or see/hear Big Bird.

Yes, that’s right, Big Bird. I would like to say Big Bird was this individual’s favorite character but, honestly, it’s only because the personality and the voice of the Sesame Street character has an uncanny resemblance to my old friend.

While I was sifting through quotes and images, it occurred to me that the nature of music and the nature of both memory and human relationships are equally strange.

So, here is my example of a combination of seemingly incongruous items that perfectly represent someone who once held a very important part of my life and still retains a non-romantic, yet deeply heart felt, portion of my memory. I rather suspect that this memory-experience is a common one among human beings everywhere. I encourage anyone with a similar story to share in the comments below.

Quotes:

“Threw sand in our eyes and descended like flies
and put us back on the train, yeah (ho-ah)
O-oh, (ho-ah) back on the chain gang

The powers that be
That force us to live like we do
Bring me to my knees
When I see what they’ve done to you

Well, I’ll die as I stand here today
Knowing that deep in my heart
They’ll fall to ruin one day
For making us part…”

Back On The Chain Gang by The Pretenders

Natural Modification of Memory

Quote

Amazon.com

“I strive for complete honesty on the page; however, I have no faith that recollection ever produces an absolute truth. Memory is never perfect, never static, and as far as I can tell, it evolves constantly with age. I’m grateful for that.”

Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food by BK Loren