BARE GRACE

My intention when I began this blog was to create a place to share reflections, essays, prose, poems and photos of the creatures that I have met or may yet encounter in the forest here in the western mountains of Maine or elsewhere.

As an cognitive ethologist and psychologist (Jungian therapist) when I observe animal behavior in the wild I am always asking myself what the animal might be thinking. I pay particular attention to the relationship that develops between an animal and myself over time. I also question the role of projection on my part when I am pulled into an animal’s field of influence without understanding why. Most important I follow gut feelings and any nudges when observing any animal. I am a woman with Native American roots – is that why I make the assumption that every creature has something to teach me? I think of the natural world as being a place of deep learning and wonder.

It is my experience that intention and attention on the part of the observer opens a magic door, and once over the threshold inter-species communication becomes possible. I would like to invite others to cross that threshold with me.

As a feminist, ritual artist, and a writer I am Her advocate, that is, Nature’s advocate. I believe that when I write about the animals and plants I am giving voice to their truths as well as my own.

I developed an intimate relationship with the black bear in the above photo for a number of years while I was engaged in an independent, trust based study of his kinship group (15 years). Little Bee interacted with me on a regular basis but always preferred to “hide” behind a screen of leaves and saplings while doing so. Whenever I was around him I felt touched by “Bare Grace”.

Please feel free to comment. I would love to communicate with anyone who wants to share experiences they have had in Nature or simply make observations about what I have written.

If you would like more information about me, please read the essay on how I became a Naturalist…

Unfortunately, I am dyslexic with numbers and directions and have a difficult time with the computer in general and with WordPress in particular so I ask the reader to forgive me for the errors I will surely continue to make.

Sara Wright

12/29/16

I am spending the winter in Abiquiu New Mexico and am currently using my blog as a journal of my experiences in this mysteriously beautiful place. I ask that the reader bear with me as I continue this process… some entries will, of course, be about my relationship with animals, but others will not.

As it turns out I am presently a “snowbird” having returned to Abiquiu for the winter and spring of 2017 and 2018.

With deep appreciation,

Sara

 

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Field of Dreams

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Once the new white pine forest that stretches out before me was part of a larger field that belonged to an old farm. The woods cascade down a steep hill on the east side of the house and run parallel with the brook that empties into another that crosses my property in the wetlands below.

 

Over a period of thirty – five years I have chosen to allow nature to decide how best to use this field and she turned it into a beautiful white pine forest. I created walkways through the young trees and moss covered pine strewn ground, and now, even during the hottest summer days a stroll under the pine boughs that create a protected arch overhead, is always refreshingly cool. The sweet scent of pine, moist earth, and nearby water creates a longing in me to breathe this perfume forever…The paths are like serpentine ribbons crisscrossing one another. Some take me to the brook, others climb a knoll I call cedar hill. Wild apple and cherry trees, chokecherries, hobble bush and partridge berry provide fruit for the animals that pass by, as do blueberries and brambleberries that are scattered on the hill in late summer. In some protected thickets wild animals bed down to sleep…

 

One path leads directly down to the remnant of the working farm field, the only place that I now keep open. Taking this particular path is a walk I never tire of because it is dark and cool and heavily wooded. At the end of the path a golden light pierces the darkness. And in an instant I am out of the forest feeling the familiar surprise! Now I am walking into a diminutive rounded field that is ringed with wild apple trees and roses, asters and goldenrod in the fall. In the center of this field are a cluster of crabapple trees that are so heavy with berries that a couple of branches are bowed and broken. The pear tree wears a crown of pears…

 

I reflect on the field’s brief season. Lilacs thrived here in May when wild violets with heart shaped leaves spread their white – throated flowers over the ground. In June the field was covered with lupine spires of every shade of pink, white, yellow and purple. Roses caught the gentlest breeze. Swamp iris clumps of deep blue and pure white flowers (that I call angel wings) provide a feast for my flower hungry eyes later during the month. When the lemon lilies bloom in early July the entire field turns buttery yellow and the intoxicating scent from this show is enough to make me swoon. Delicate pink milkweed clusters blossom during the heat of late July, another impossibly sweet fragrance… In August wild strains of goldenrod begin to create a stunning accent when viewed against a deepening cobalt sky … and by late September wild asters finish the season coaxing pollinators into deep lavender blue flowers. It is hard to believe that nature and I planted all these flowers together!

 

Every year I am hesitant to have the field cut. But I must if I want to keep this small oasis open for the deer to graze over the winter. Because of the field’s northeastern exposure it is also a wonderful place for me to watch the northern lights, meteor showers, a rising full moon, and in the winter alpine glow sets the mountain on fire. Still, I hesitate to flatten the impossibly tall foliage…

 

Last night the field was mowed even as part of me winced. Afterwards, while wandering around the hay –strewn ground I thanked the last

IMG_2106.JPG flowers that were now in shreds around my feet. I also looked across the field towards Bryant Mountain whose few clouds were pasteled in rose and lavender. I breathed deeply taking such pleasure in being able to wander through the open area that now stretched around me without parting a waist high jungle, knowing that once again I had made the right choice!

 

Every home – place needs a “field”, however small to imagine what it’s like to touch the stars, to trace the patterns of Cassiopeia and the Great Bear overhead – To imagine and nurture wild dreams that can manifest if one believes they could …

 

Every Living Being needs a Field of Dreams.

Equinox Reflection

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I gaze out my bedroom window and hear yet another golden apple hit the ground. The vines that hug the cabin and climb up the screens are heavy with unripe grapes and the light that is filtered through the trees in front of the brook is luminous – lime green tipped in gold. My too sensitive eyes are blessedly well protected by this canopy of late summer leaves.

 

The maples on the hill are losing chlorophyll and are painting the hollow with splashes of bittersweet orange and red. The dead spruces by the brook will probably collapse this winter providing Black bears with even more precious ants and larvae to eat in early spring. I only hope that some bears will survive the fall slaughter to return to this black bear sanctuary; in particular two beloved young ones… Mushrooms abound, amanitas, boletes morels, puff balls, the latter two finding their way into my salads. The forest around my house is in an active state of becoming with downed limbs and sprouting fungi becoming next year’s soil. The forest floor smells so sweet that all I can imagine is laying myself down on a bed of green mosses to sleep and dream.

 

The garden looks as tired as I am; lily fronds droop, yellowing leaves betraying the season at hand. Bright green pods provide a startling contrast to fading scarlet bee balm. Wild asters are abundant and goldenrod covers the fields with a bright yellow garment. Every wild bush has sprays of berries. My crab – apple trees are bowed, each twig heavy with winter fruit.

 

Most of the birds have absconded to the fields that are ripe with the seeds of wild grasses. The mourning doves are an exception – they gather together each dawn waiting patiently for me to fill the feeder. In the evening I am serenaded by soft cooing. One chicken hawk hides in the pine, lying in wait for the unwary…Just a few hummingbirds remain…whirring wings and twittering alert me to continued presence as they settle into the cherry tree to sleep, slipping into a light torpor with these cool September nights…

 

Spiders are spinning their egg cases, even as they prepare to die. I can still find toads hopping around the house during the warmest hours of the day. Although the grass is long I will not mow it for fear of killing these most precious and threatened of species. I am heavily invested in seeing these toads burrow in to see another spring. My little frogs sit on their lily pads seeking the warmth of a dimming afternoon sun. Soon they too will slumber below fallen leaves or mud.

 

I am surrounded by such beauty, and so much harvest bounty that even though I am exhausted I take deep pleasure out of each passing day of this glorious month of September, the month of my birth. Unlike many folks, for me, moving into the dark of the year feels like a blessing.

 

Another leave -taking is almost upon me, and I am having trouble letting go of this small oasis that I have tended with such care for more than thirty years…

 

I don’t know what this winter will bring to my modest cabin whose foundation is crumbling under too much moisture and too many years of heavy snow. In the spring extensive excavation will begin. A new foundation must be poured and this work will destroy the gardens I have loved, the mossy grounds around the south end of the house that I have nurtured for so long.

 

In this season of letting go I must find a way to lay down my fears, and release that which I am powerless to change. Somehow… I have no idea what I will return to except that I have made it clear that none of my beloved trees be harmed.

 

I am grateful that Nature is mirroring back to me so poignantly that letting go is the way through: That this dying can provide a bedrock foundation for another spring birth. As a Daughter of the Earth I lean into ancient wisdom, praying that this exhausted mind and body will be able to follow suit.

Stepping Out of Time

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Cicadas hum.

Blushing yellow apples

fall onto grasses that are

fading to wheat.

The velvet tiered buck crosses

the rushing brook,

climbs the

hill to stare at me

through the window.

His lady is not far behind,

her white tail switching.

Cicadas hum.

A single tree frog trills

from a slender swamp maple

whose leaves

are shining silver from

recent rain. Intoxicating scent

still lingers – the sweetest

perfume of all, this moisture

laden air warming

sleeping stones

and the toad who

lives under feathery ferns.

Cicadas hum.

There is a tapestry

of leaves laying around

my feet as I walk up

the woods’ road –

blood orange, lemon, lime

and crimson –

a sense of being suspended

in time.

Cicadas hum.

A few caterpillars spin threads

and hang in thin air

from trees still dressed

in various shades of moth eaten

green, to land upon crumbling

moss covered tree trunks

ripe with mushrooms

birthing new earth.

Cicadas hum.

Hobble bush offers luscious bounty –

Generous sprays of bright red berries,

attract butterflies and birds alike.

Fuzzy beaked hazelnuts are

ripening to warm brown

for hungry Black bears

to pluck and feed.

Acorns fall at my feet.

Canada geese honk overhead,

gathering for migration

as does the raft of loons

floating on a nearby pond.

Cicadas hum.

The sky bowl is full

of deep blue water.

She cradles

a golden star that glides

off center at noon.

And I think I

have never witnessed such

splendor as this prelude

preceding Earth’s passage

into Fall.

 

Working notes:

 

There is something so miraculous about this prelude to the fall of each year. Every day I make a deliberate commitment for time to simply be. I treasure leisurely woodland walks so that I might absorb earth’s subtle changes. The deepening shadows provide such delicate contrasts in color and shape. Familiar trails allow me to focus on details – fiery new blossoms, the ever – changing leaves on a single tree that I might miss otherwise. Unlike spring or summer I never feel the need to hurry or to explore new places. I lean towards the familiar during this season of stillness and waiting, taking pleasure from the places I know so well, a deepening blue sky, buttery yellow wildflowers, and a golden sun that streams in my window at dawn. It is at this time of year in the afterglow of summer’s heat that the sun and I befriend one another once again as we both move towards the darkening of the year.

Black Bear Attack – The Bare Facts

Here is the tragic story without embellishments:

A black bear killed a Minnesota woman on a secluded island in Canadian waters.

When the woman heard the dogs barking at dusk she went outdoors after them and never returned.

Both dogs returned to the cabin; one of them was injured.

There were no witnesses.

When officers were called to the scene they discovered a yearling (1-2 years) standing over the woman’s body. Another bear and a yearling were nearby.

The yearling was shot.

What happened?

Of course we can never know.

What we do know is that one bear in a million kills a human and that one is 32,000 times more likely to be murdered by a person.

We also know that Black bears evolved as prey animals and are fear – driven animals, who when cornered, may attack.

Black bears are particularly frightened of dogs for good reason.

Hounds are trained to hunt Black bears before hunting season begins. A number of hounding dogs track a bear to exhaustion at which point the hounds tree the animal until it is shot by the hunter.

This tragic incident happened in the evening when bears are foraging for food. Apparently, this was a family of three – a mother and two yearlings? If the dogs terrorized or attacked one of the bears, a bear might retaliate. My guess is that the poor woman was killed as she attempted to defend her dogs.

As a dog lover I would have made a different choice. I live in bear country and I don’t allow my dogs to roam free around dawn or dusk because I know that bears are very much afraid of dogs, and that dogs will chase a bear.

My heart goes out to the family.

Black bear attacks are very rare, but do occur. Rarely if ever is the context of the event included. In this case understanding the context in which this story occurred is critical. The dogs were running free in bear country. The woman followed her dogs outdoors because they were barking, curious, or fearing for their safety. Her dogs obviously frightened the bear(s) with their barking and perhaps an attack setting the stage for a tragic outcome.

Unfortunately the truth behind this story will disappear into sensationalism. I have already read a couple of articles that portray the bear that was shot and others nearby bears as “acting aggressively.” No one mentions the fact that when a Black bear appears to behave aggressively it has been terribly frightened.

Some state wildlife agencies and poor journalism will use this incident to further agendas by frightening the public even more and getting media attention by perpetuating the “killer bear” story.

Postscript:

Dr Lynn Rogers bear biologist had this to say about bear attacks involving dogs:

“A “disproportionate number” of attacks by bears on human are related to dogs, Lynn Rogers, research scientist for the Wildlife Research Institute and founder of the North American Bear Center, told ABC News.”

My hope is that those of us (like me) who are dog owners will begin to take some responsibility for allowing our dogs to roam at large especially in bear country when we know that dogs will chase bears and could get hurt.

 

TB and I Strike Back

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How could you?

 

Yesterday I spent the morning writing about the unethical behavior of some hunters who have ringed the property with bait at the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely Minnesota with the approval of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

 

This morning I learned that this egregious behavior has already resulted in the death of at least one yearling near the WRI property line. Dr. Lynn Rogers of WRI has spent his entire professional career as a bear biologist studying and advocating for Black bears, while attempting to educate the public about the true nature of these animals. Lynn has incited the rage of hunters and the Minnesota state wildlife agency (DNR) in the process (Currently, his scientific study centers on the effects of diversionary feeding for black bears and people). Black bear hunting is big business and if the truth got out people might be much more reluctant to shoot these shy peace – loving animals.

 

The majority of all black bears that are killed range between 1 -3 years of age. Why anyone would shoot a yearling is beyond my comprehension. Yearlings range from 30 to 100lbs. It’s not as if a bear this size can be displayed as a ‘great’ trophy. Young bears are the most vulnerable prey because they are so inexperienced. Many have not yet learned to fear humans.

 

Emotionally depleted by dishonorable individual and bureaucratic behavior and the knowledge that so many more young bears will be slaughtered during the three – month hunt I take refuge in the memory of happier days spent with one of the young bears on this property by telling his story.

 

TB, short for “Tree Bear,” is a yearling who visited my house all summer. He and his sister, Rosie Marie were left to fend for themselves last May by their mother, when it was time for her to mate (a normal occurrence). At present, although healthy looking, TB does not weigh more than 70 LBS (his little sister is very slight weighing no more than 40 LBS).

 

I believe that all bears are initially wary of humans but have to be taught by people to fear them and TB and his sister are no exception. It took me about 10 days to befriend TB; his natural curiosity and intelligence won out. Soon TB was wandering around the yard while I was outdoors hanging up laundry and leaving muddy paw – prints on my front door. We co-existed here in peace.

 

Some days when company arrived TB would peer around his surrogate white pine tree to see who it was that I was talking to. Like all bears TB loves to play and uses whatever objects he can find to amuse himself. One of his favorites is an old can that he rolls down the hill and then chases into the thick brush. I also provided him with a couple of beach balls that he punctured instantly. TB also loves to lie on his back and twirl sticks around, which brings me to an incident that still makes me laugh.

 

One evening TB was digging grubs out of an old log on the pine needle strewn ground when a large adult bear appeared. TB like all yearlings was afraid of the adult male and scurried up his white pine tree settling in its protective branches, while peering down at the intruder. When the big bear settled down to devour more grubs, TB began to huff and blow at him from what seemed to me to be a precarious perch. He had moved so far out on a pine branch that he was directly overhead the large bear who blatantly ignored TB’s outraged protests!

 

In a few minutes TB decided to break off a few nearby branches, and to my amazement he then began to hurl them one by one down on his nemesis! TB’s aim was terrible and again and again he missed his quarry if that was his intent. Meanwhile the complacent big bear kept combing the ground nonchalantly as if the sticks that were raining down around him were invisible.

 

And then something amazing happened. TB broke off a huge branch and after he secured it in his teeth he dropped it directly down hitting big bear squarely on the head! Ouch, I was sure I heard the thud. At that point the 300 lb adult bear leapt up and disappeared into the forest in a flash! The whole scene was hilarious. I laughed so hard that tears ran down my face.

 

TB took this turn of affairs into his stride and immediately began to descend from his tree. When he reached the ground he sniffed the place where the adult bear had raked the ground, and after finding nothing of interest TB casually meandered off into the woods.

 

This behavior, aside from being amusing, suggests that Black bears may use tools; during my research I observed other bears, using for example, a pail to stand on to reach a hummingbird feeder. Black bears may be one of the most intelligent animals of all. Their brain in relationship to body size is the largest of all mammals.

 

Unfortunately intelligence needs to be coupled with experience, a quality that TB doesn’t yet possess. Even if he did, this knowledge is hardly a guarantee that any Black bear will be safe from human predation because this is the time of year a bear is most vulnerable. All bears need to ingest up to 20,000 calories a day to survive hibernation. Hunters bait bears with unhealthy foods drawing the hungry animals in to be shot.

 

Sadly, TB and his little sister have been absent for two days and I fear that they may have been shot. Every year it seems to get harder for me to accept that hunting season means that so many young bears will be killed before they have had a chance to live out their natural lives.

 

To comfort myself I remember that Lynn is also experiencing the same fear of loss that I am, and knowing this helps me to feel that I am not so alone.

 

The bears thank Lynn for his tireless advocacy and I do too. Someday perhaps the tide will turn for these animals, but until then when it comes to hunting season all we can do is to hope that many bears will be spared.

Black Bear Requiem and Hope for the Future

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Photo credit Lynn Rogers

 

Before I begin this article I want to acknowledge that I am perhaps too biased against bear hunting. I also know as a black bear researcher and bear lover that I am too emotionally attached to these animals to feel any other way.

 

This year’s three plus month bear hunt begins earlier than ever with “youth day” kicking off the season which began August 24 when children in Maine were encouraged to shoot their first bear. The promise of a first kill inculcates in the next generation the rightness of continuing the “tradition” of hunting in a world where many non – human animals are threatened or facing extinction. Sport and trophy hunting, a million dollar enterprise brings in huge amounts of money to the state wildlife agency – the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife (MDF&W) and other special interest groups like the NRA. Privately owned “bear farms” flourish where one can’t help but kill a bear because all animals are held captive for the slaughter. For some there is the addictive “high” and the sense of “power” that comes with the kill and a snarling bearskin or head to hang on the wall. For others there is meat for the table.

 

Many bears, especially yearlings will be shot (most bears killed are between 1 -3 years old). Mothers have spent the summer teaching their cubs how to forage sometimes traveling 50 miles or more to areas rich in wild foods during this phase of hyperphagia, that is, the brief time during which all bears must eat enough to almost double their weight in order to survive the coming winter hibernation. Cubs are often treed by the mother before she comes to a bait site. Many cubs will die of slow starvation if the mother is shot.

 

Bear feeding frenzy peaks in August and September when the bears need as much as 20,000 calories a day to put on necessary fat. This is the time of year all bears are most vulnerable. Hunters take advantage of the bear’s desperate need for food by placing large unhealthy amounts of sugary food at bait sites as they ready their dogs for the hunt, and prepare their steel snare traps… They have plenty of time because in Maine the hunt will not end until November 30th.

 

This year having spent time in a community that lives peaceably with so many wild bears in Ely Minnesota I am, if possible, having a more difficult time than before attempting to accept a hunting tradition that refuses to acknowledge that it is possible to live with these gentle intelligent animals instead of slaughtering them. I am haunted by the question: how many cubs in Maine will be left to die after their mothers are shot this fall? How many adolescents? The yearly statistics from the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife Agency indicate that almost as many female bears are shot as males. How many of those females are mothers?

 

I reject the two usual arguments for killing bears: One that hunting is a “tradition” that must be honored, regardless. The second is that bears have to be “managed” or they will take over the state.

 

Hunting was once necessary for survival. This is not the case today. Most hunting occurs because folks like to kill animals for sport – any animal – and bears in particular because they are almost universally feared.

 

When we examine why these intelligent shy animals appear so threatening we discover that there is no scientific basis behind human fear. Only one Black bear in a million kills someone; one is 32,000 times more likely to be murdered by a human.

 

However, individuals do fear bears and our state wildlife agency encourages people to foster that attitude so that folks will buy hunting licenses, shoot bears and bring in revenue. Hunting is economically based. The state agencies also warn the public not to befriend bears because they will become “nuisance animals,” and it is true that bears will visit backyards when hungry. Removing attractants like birdseed and garbage during the spring and summer reduces the number of visiting bears to almost zero. “A fed bear is a dead bear” is a hunter who baits bears to kill them.

 

The second argument is based on the belief that only humans know how to regulate bear populations. Again and again biologists have learned that animals have an ability to regulate their own numbers according to the availability of food resources. Left to their own devices, Black bears would eventually do the same. However, this would take time.

 

Unfortunately it is also true that in Northern Maine the natural foods that bears love – especially the fall beechnut crop which is cyclic to begin with – is disappearing because trees are being harvested too young to produce an abundance of beechnuts. In addition bear territories are disappearing because more and more people are moving to Maine. Black bears are appearing in people’s yards because there is not enough natural food to sustain them.

 

There is one biologist whose studies indicate that there may be a partial solution to this problem. Dr. Lynn Rogers is a bear biologist who has researched Black bears for more than 50 years. During his long and outstanding career he worked as a state biologist for the Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota using both classic wildlife methodology (which involves sedating and collaring bears and mapping their movements by plane and by placing pins on a map) and later, developing his own “trust based” research methods. The latter allowed him to learn about Black bear behavior – what bears eat, their social structure, vocalizations, the problems they face in the forest, knowledge that cannot be acquired without actually observing individual bears in their natural habitat over an extensive period of time. No state agencies including the MDNR authorize actual bear behavior studies as far as I know.

 

At one point Dr. Rogers became deeply concerned because so many “nuisance” bears were being shot in a nearby campground near his research center. He began an eight year study for the Forest Service to answer the question of whether diversionary feeding, that is placing wild foods in the forest on a regular basis, would keep bears out of trouble. The results were astonishing. With supplementary feeding bear complaints in the area campground were reduced 88 percent.

 

During that same period Lynn began walking with bears into the forest. Not all bears would tolerate his presence but some did; these bears learned to ignore him after he had given them some treats (nuts). Within one year of following them Lynn said he learned more about Black bear behavior than he had during his entire career.

 

In 1996 after Lynn retired from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources he became one of the residents of Eagle’s Nest Township where people had been hand – feeding bears since 1961. Lynn began a study that focuses on diversionary feeding ‘habituated’ Black bears in this area. He learned that the bears visited the residents who fed the bears and they left those folks that didn’t want a bear to visit their homes alone.

 

In almost 60 years of hand feeding bears there has never been a black bear attack. With supplementary food stations set up in the forest Lynn also discovered that as long as the natural foods were abundant these habituated bears rarely visited these stations because they also preferred the diversity of foods found in the forest. However, during years of natural food shortage these feeding stations helped keep the bears healthy and reduced bear complaints 80 percent.

 

The conclusions are inescapable: It is possible to co -exist peacefully with bears if people choose to so. Equally important is the fact that diversionary or supplementary feeding works to keep bears out of people’s yards especially in times of food scarcity. A fed bear is a healthy bear.

 

In Maine, supplementary feeding might help reduce bear complaints especially in Northern Maine if we chose to implement it, but if this method was adopted by the MDF&W less revenue would come into the state and hunters would have less reason to kill bears, and that is not what hunters, special interest groups like the NRA, and the Maine State Fish and Wildlife agency want.

 

Although I am biased, I am not suggesting that hunting bears in Maine be totally eliminated. It may well be that some hunting has occur to deal with the current bear starvation scenario in Northern Maine. But is it really necessary to hunt bears throughout the rest of the state? For those of us who know and love these iconic wild animals this is an important question.

 

My hope is that Dr. Lynn Roger’s groundbreaking trust based research along with his tireless efforts to educate people about the true nature of bears may one day infiltrate the minds of the general public changing current attitudes towards these animals once and for all.

 

Let’s hope this shift will occur before the Black bear becomes endangered in Maine, one of the few states in which a healthy population still exists.

Beneath a Canopy of Bears

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Two mourning doves

greet me

at dawn,

fluffed and huddled together

on a pine strewn floor.

Mist blankets a forest

that creeps ever closer

towards the door.

 

The strip of red cloth

tied to a branch

is a prayer

for life or a painless death.

Bears are under fire.

 

I am embraced by trees

whose leaves

are tattered and worn.

All are bowed,

bearing ripening fruit.

 

Clusters of emerald grapes hang from

my bedroom window

The light is scattered – soft

green, sifted gold

filaments stream

through heart shaped leaves.

 

I awakened last night

breathing in

deep woods air,

slow moving waters.

The scent of this

valley stream,

sudden showers,

keeps my senses keen.

 

I sleep under quilts

reveling in cool nights

snuggling into

silky softness

feeling the gentle

rise and fall

of my dogs breath.

Except for them

I am alone here

and content

to be so.

 

I am gathering memories

for a basket made

of reeds to take

with me when I

leave this sanctuary

made holy by

Love and Bear Attention

over so many years.

 

I knew before

I arrived, that summer

carried threats – (bone

chilling foreknowledge

seems so futile –

Dread equally useless).

One cannot change what is

Or what will come to be…

 

There were high points:

Beloved bears,

meeting the old man

who loves them,

kayaking on the pond.

Picking wild roses by the sea…

The horizon was unbroken as

I heard the words

“I am looking into eternity.”

Blessed rain – I listened to

Tree roots glowing, glistening

underground –

hyphae pulsing light.

 

One is always solitary

in unwelcome diagnoses.

A dark cloud hangs heavy

over this tired body.

I am closing the gap

between a life that has been

mostly lived and

the Great Unknown.

Five lives –

only two are human –

hang in a balance

I cannot comprehend.

 

And yet

With the advent

of early autumn,

the turning of the wheel

Silence births peace

A fall flowering –

a thinning of the veil

of fear.

 

Across the brook a single maple

turn crimson and gold

a few painted leaves

drift like the butterfly

whose deep orange coat

signals a time to journey south.

Not just this leave – taking

but others are ahead.

 

The children I bore are gone –

ebbing with this change of season.

Green frogs cheep,

nubbly toadlets trill

cardinal clicks abound.

 

Fields of yellow goldenrod,

purple asters,

spiraling passion plant tendrils

and a beloved yearling’s visit,

attach me to knowing

that to be Present is enough.

 

On going conversation sustains.

Hard truths are exchanged,

passionate

declarations spoken.

“I love you”

translates into action

by two –

Visionaries for Bears.

 

I am utterly real he says.

I say love is not distant dependent.

Who could have known

these insights would bind two

bear lovers as one

under a canopy of roots

crafted by bears?

 

Working notes:

Fall is my favorite season. I love the softening of summer’s harsh light, the deepening shadows, and cooler temperatures… the ripening fruit and seed pods, the sound of cicadas and crickets.

In September I ritually give thanks for the harvest, reflect, and gather in the events of the year through words…

Fall is also hunting season and each year I struggle with the ongoing bear slaughter that has already begun. This year I hung red strips of cloth on branches as prayers to be carried by the wind.

It is an Indigenous tradition belonging to many cultures to hang strips of cloth on trees as prayers to be carried by the breathing earth to the place where prayers can be answered…What follows is my prayer:

May death come swiftly and painlessly to those bears that are shot, or hounded.

For those that will be trapped death will be prolonged…I can barely write the words. Maine is the only state that still allows senseless trapping.