A Beary Peaceful Day Part One by Sara Wright


It is overcast and a few drops of rain are falling. I have been out talking to Tree Bear (TB), a yearling who has brightened my life in these dark soul days. Tree Bear comes up the mossy pine strewn path to the clearing and peeks at me from behind his white pine intermittently as he snacks.

There are so many old felled trees full of tasty grubs and ants now that the spring grasses have matured and gone by; soon the berries will ripen and Tree Bear will begin to put on weight. Acorns will be the choice of food for fall. Few people know that Black Bears are 93 percent vegetarian.

The other night I watched TB in the cherry tree, sitting in the branches like a monkey calmly combing out his thick under fur as he munched on cherry leaves and hard green cherries. He is a healthy looking and very beautiful yearling with brown eyebrows and a bump in his nose that is only visible from some angles. He probably weighs 50 – 60 pounds and has some brownish fur in places.

He was recently separated from his mother who left him because she needed to mate and his little sister has also disappeared. His face is so full of compassion that it takes my breath away. I say compassion because my personal experience has taught me that some (if not all) of these animals understand human suffering and respond to it by taking concrete actions. One slept outside my window while my dog was dying, another came to sit by me one night while I was wildly weeping outside in the dark. Stark and hopeless depression brings them in. Empathy flows like a deep underground river between us – why – because bears like other animals have deep feelings that are not mediated by abstract intellectual rational thinking.

This is not to say that all bears respond to people this way. But some do, and Tree Bear is one of these animals. Bears are demonized by humans, shot and wounded on sight (legally and illegally) often in the gut so they will die slowly and painfully. In Maine we hunt them for four months; with hounding ‘practice’ four months becomes five. What is truly amazing is that these animals do not retaliate in kind, except on rare occasions. A human has a million to one chance of being killed by a bear. Bears use remarkable restraint, utilizing peacekeeping practices for themselves and humans alike. If Ursus americanus ruled the Earth there would be no wars. All bears utilize a matriarchal family system with mothers and daughters sharing territories; males roam the peripheries.

This morning I quietly spoke to TB while slowly approaching his tree. I know his language; he huffs to remind me how much he disapproves of close encounters. Yesterday, he eluded me each time I tried to film him. He’s wary, full of curiosity, and uncertainty. Fear when it comes to other bears. He stands on two feet in alarm when he glimpses his own mother. He does not trust me, but allows me to approach him if I do so respectfully. He moans when I get too close even though I keep reassuring him that I am his friend.

Sometimes TB is a clown. Late yesterday afternoon he lay on his back with a can positioned between his paws poking his nose into its cavity. Next he chased it down the hill. I have to find other toys to amuse him.

His trickster aspect is most evident when he sees me with the camera. He turns his head away, ducks behind a branch, runs down to the brook or disappears down the path in a flash. TB is also developing a habit of peering around tree corners to see who I might be talking to.

TB and I both love trees. Black bears are native to this continent and co evolved with trees. They cannot live in treeless places because they are a prey animal who must have trees to protect themselves and their young.

Obviously Black Bear territory is shrinking, not good news for the bears.

TB and I have such a brief moment in time to be together. Even now each gun shot, or semi automatic blast slams a hole in my heart. The future for this bear is grim. Most of the bears that are slaughtered are yearlings (18 – 22 months old) when they are first on their own.

All this to become a trophy or rug, a badge of “manhood” on some idiot’s wall.

Perhaps because of the rapidly approaching hunting season each moment spent observing TB’s behavior is that much more precious. Befriending this bear brings me to the edge of possibility.

We could find a way to live together, if only we would.

I close with a quote from Leslie Marmon Silko that mirrors my own experience:

It is very peaceful with the bears; the people say that’s the reason human beings seldom return.”

 

 

Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.

 



Categories: Activism, animals, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General

Tags: , , , ,

16 replies

  1. Sending prayers for Tree Bear’s safety XXX

    I can totally believe that bears have been silent witnesses and comforters to your sorrow. My Siamese cats are the same and I’m sure other people have similar tales of animal compassion.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Exquisitely lovely piece, Sara. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. we shall be well we shall be well all manner of things shall be well.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thanks Sara, I love your play on words, priceless — “A Beary Peaceful Day.”

    Like

  5. Deep gratitude for your speaking for the rest of Creation, Sara — with the particularity, nuance, and empathy needed.

    TB’s and other animals’ empathy as you describe remind me of a time decades ago when I had intentionally spent two weeks in silence during deep winter in the Adirondacks, still caring for our goat farm, while family was away. One night I went to check on them just before retiring; because of the housing configuration they stood slightly higher than my head height, in the semi-dark barn. In the altered state of prolonged silence, I suddenly saw only their faces, all floating around me, with full attention momentarily on me. As I stood mesmerized, in awe, the only language-thought that came to mind to apprehend what was happening then was that these were all faces — dancing masks — of the inexplicable “god”, as we call it.

    These words now convey nothing of the power of that experience. My point in describing it is just to reiterate what I’m sure you know — how immediately you are surrounded and carefully held by benevolent source, while persisting in this tough world.

    Please excuse my mixing a bit of the grit into the ethereal now: it looks like those are ticks on his ears? Maybe he spends a good amount of time combing them out of his fur? I’m sure you’ve noticed too, the dogs only have them where they can’t effectively reach. Does he seem to inspect and eat after each comb through? After three years in tickville and vehemently eating any they can, my dogs seem to be developing immunity. The wisdom of Nature.

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  6. You are mistaken – you DO convey the power of that experience. I know it well – Nature is amazing.
    Unfortunately the tick situation in Maine is worsening and the bears are full of them – they just wait until they have had their fill of blood and fall off.

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  7. What a beautiful portrait of Tree Bear in words and photograph. I join in prayers for his safety and the preservation of his kind. Thank you for sharing this love with us.

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  8. Ah, thank you from the bears, and from me!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. May TB remain safe and deep thanks to you for sharing part of your journey with TB and the Maine woods. The more-than-human creatures (as well as plant, mineral, and all other Earth Beings) are far more evolved than humans, if only we could get out of our own way and learn from them.

    Like

  10. This piece was beautiful. Thank you.

    Like

  11. I lived in Yellowstone for several years. I kept up with a young griz for several years. Not as close as you and TB, from an distance.

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  12. Oh I do hope Tree Bear will be OK! I love Maine but I do hate the hunting culture here. It just makes me sick to my stomach!

    Like

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