Thursday, June 12, 2014

A "bearable" neighbor

Here you are, folks, caught red-pawed! Yesterday, mid-day, under bright sunshine, within 25 feet or so of our front door, Mr./Ms. Bear decided a mid-day snack was called for. Not content with the compost heap a hundred or so feet from the house, the culprit started crunching on the bird feeder.

young black bear at feeder
young black bear at feeder                 © harrington

My Better Half had mentioned at breakfast that she had smelled a bear a couple of times during the night before, although we've been bringing the feeders in each night. The boldness of a noon raid had not anticipated . S/he scampered away when I went out and yelled, but didn't go very far. About an hour later, s/he was back, cleaning up the seeds on the ground. Obviously not terribly afraid of people. Why s/he was munching on our sunflower seeds when there should be plenty of forage is a question for which we don't have the beginnings of an answer. We do assume this is the same critter Franco, the border collie rescue dog, "herded" away from the trash can last week. Here s/he is playing peek-a-boo about 50 feet into the front woods.

"peek-a-boo" bear
"peek-a-boo" bear                     © harrington

So now we get to balance the minor aggravations and limited concerns associated with having a neighbor who's not terribly respectful of personal property with the pleasures of having a totem animal visiting us. I know which side I'm coming down on. How about you? Susan Mitchell writes about The Bear as a vision, a totem?, as well as a neighbor. Do you have a totem animal?

The Bear

By Susan Mitchell 

Tonight the bear
comes to the orchard and, balancing
on her hind legs, dances under the apple trees,   
hanging onto their boughs,
dragging their branches down to earth.   
Look again. It is not the bear
but some afterimage of her
like the car I once saw in the driveway
after the last guest had gone.
Snow pulls the apple boughs to the ground.   
Whatever moves in the orchard—
heavy, lumbering—is clear as wind.

The bear is long gone.
Drunk on apples,
she banged over the trash cans that fall night,   
then skidded downstream. By now
she must be logged in for the winter.
Unless she is choosy.
I imagine her as very choosy,
sniffing at the huge logs, pawing them, trying   
each one on for size,
but always coming out again.

Until tonight.
Tonight sap freezes under her skin.
Her breath leaves white apples in the air.   
As she walks she dozes,
listening to the sound of axes chopping wood.   
Somewhere she can never catch up to   
trees are falling. Chips pile up like snow   
When she does find it finally,
the log draws her in as easily as a forest,   
and for a while she continues to see,   
just ahead of her, the moon
trapped like a salmon in the ice.


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