With the exception of my husband, who has to live with the inhuman sounds I make when confronted with spiders and snakes, no one will ever accuse me of being a ‘city girl.’ I’m not afraid of frogs or toads, and if I can avoid sleeping on the hard ground or using a community shower facility, I’m even fun to take on a camping trip. Moving to a remote farmstead on the side of a mountain has been a dream come true for both of us, even if it has meant lots of repair work, scrubbing away years of neglect and grime, and attempting to relocate insects and creatures that have taken advantage of an uninhabited homestead. Walking out onto the back porch in the chill of the early morning with a hot cup of tea is a daily treat I look forward to – or, it was until yesterday.
A couple of our grandkids are visiting, so yesterday, I was the first one up, and I quietly slipped through the house to let the dogs out first thing in the morning, before I’d even started the tea kettle. As soon as I opened the door, the dogs ran out into the small, fenced in area we’ve created for them to do their business outside the back porch. I was just breathing in the crispness of the morning air when I saw it – a big black bear, about fifty feet away, just a few yards from the beginning of our large field of blueberries.
The dogs didn’t see him, and I don’t think he saw them either, but he and I saw each other at precisely the same moment, and both of us froze. If I’d ever wondered what it felt like for time to stand still, I don’t have to wonder anymore because that’s just what happened. I think it was only a matter of ten seconds, but it felt like we looked at each other longer and with more curiosity than common sense would allow. Maybe he thought if he stood still, I wouldn’t notice him, but seriously…we’d had a moment. And just like Wiley Coyote in that moment after he runs off the end of the cliff in pursuit of the Road Runner, time stood still and then there was a rush of sudden comprehension and motion. I called the dogs inside and called for Dan in the same breath. Thankfully, at least the dogs heard me and listened, and as they started to bound up the stairs towards the house, the bear turned and began to head back down the hill and into the forest that leads to the stream. By the time I got Dan’s attention, the bear was long gone probably scratching his own head and wondering who had the audacity to invade his personal blueberry orchard. I was trying to describe it to Dan and the grandkids, catch my breath, and kick myself for not having had even my phone with me to catch a photo for proof of the encounter.
Since then, I’ve been trying to remember what exactly you are supposed to do when you cross paths with a bear? I’ve been thinking about the houseguest we had last week, who seemed to have an affinity for taking his smoke breaks in that same piece of real estate as the bear was occupying. What if he had been the one who met the bear without the luxury of the fence and the porch in between them? What if I’m harvesting blueberries in a few weeks and round a row to come face to face with him? Do I offer him my basket of blueberries? And what was I thinking moving to a place where the closest neighbors to introduce themselves have been some snakes, a coyote, hummingbirds, cardinals, turkeys, a doe in labor, and now a black bear?
When my heart finally stopped racing yesterday, my tea tasted sweeter, I snuggled the dogs and cats a little more tightly, and I told my husband he’d better start eating healthier and making sure he had a colonoscopy every year because he is going to have to live forever…or at least a day longer than I in order to keep our homestead (at least the inside) free of snakes and spiders, and to keep the bears on Blue-Bear-y Hill pooping (and confining their ramblings) to the woods, in order to keep his favorite ‘city girl’ safe.