Wednesday, August 5, 2009

a gift

"Bears!" like "Gold!"

when it’s not winter and I’m in the Smokies,,
I’m always on the lookout for bear,
it used to be that people were excessively careless with their garbage
and the bears learned to seek out the fast food meal,
so I grew up with them all around in the summer,
I’d watch them roam the neighborhood
like those guys at traffic lights with their hands out,
now the garbage cans are bear-proofed, by city ordinance,
and the bears in this valley keep on the reservation:
browsing on leaves and bugs, and whatever they can sniff out, unearth,
when they fatten on acorns in the fall,
I have seen them most often, even high in the oak trees,
this summer I have walked the trails,
explored cross-country, driven the roads,
and only seen 1 bear, a skittish yearling I’ve seen twice
and then it dissolved away into the sheltering woods,

today I went out in search, again,
explored the middle valley along the creek,
where I sat, pondered, wrote,
then took a dip in a deep green pool,
I got back to the car and started forward,
almost immediately I saw cars stopped,
people pointing into the woods,
I joined them and the magic word “bears” thrilled the air,
something like “gold” to fever the mind,
I only glimpsed a bear, they were moving,
so I did, too, with my car,
and almost immediately stopped, got out,
saw the bears moving again,
got back in and drove ahead a hundred yards to a parking area,
as I walked back down the road,
almost immediately there she was, the mother bear,

trailed by a cub, and then another, and then another,
my camera was ready, all primed with the long lens,
and I shadowed the bears for half an hour,

snapping away with over a hundred pictures,
the bears hard at work being bears,
and midday means eating,
I watched them eat a bushel of leaves, jewelweed mostly,
and all sorts of things they found I couldn’t see,
close before me I watched the mother bear sniff out something,
start to dig, and then to dig with power,
the dirt flying behind her,
and then yellowjackets were all around her
as they defended the larvae whose protein and fat she was loving,
when she finished, a yellow cloud followed her,

she wandered parallel to the road, her cubs trailing,
like scouts making sure all is known
nearby the straighter path of her trajectory,
the cubs more reactive to our presence than she,

their ears straight and focused forward,
almost Mickey Mouse like,
they, too, like their mother,
noticed us and then dismissed us as background noise,
we were neither a threat, nor a source of food,
like wallpaper, there, and only barely noticed,

the mother only reacting when cars moved
as she started to cross the road,

like out West this summer
the mountains back East have been teaching me
to not expect so much I lose what is,
and then when I have done my best to settle in to living the moment,
while also readying myself in case exuberant revelation is at hand,
I can be given a major gift:
the bears’ lives and mine intersected,
and I am overwhelmed again
by a gift beyond what I had even hoped for.

by Henry Walker
August 3, ‘09

No comments: