Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bearly visible #phenology

Not the proverbial "black cat in a coal bin at midnight," but black bear in moondark shadow at 4 am. That's what had SiSi sniffing like crazy as I pointed the flashlight in sweeping arcs across the driveway. That's when I saw a darker shadow move against the breeze as our local bruin stepped into the small patch of woods on the south side of our drive. I yelled something intelligent like "beat it bear" as SiSi hid behind me. If you're thinking about this, so far the bear and the dog each exhibited more smarts than good ol' homo sapiens.

mid-day, mid June visitor a few years ago
mid-day, mid June visitor a few years ago
Photo by J. Harrington

It's inconvenient to bring in the bird feeders most nights but it limits attractions, damage and encounters. I suspect the bear, like an old fashioned beat cop, was just making his/her rounds, looking for an easy meal, as do the hen turkeys that congregate several times a week in the back yard to feast on the droppings from the sunflower seed feeders hanging from the deck railing and the deer that use cover of darkness to munch on our bushes. Apparently, lilacs are more tasty than buckthorn, but at least turkeys don't destroy bird feeders to get at the seeds within.

early April nocturnal visit this year
early April nocturnal visit this year
Photo by J. Harrington

Living in the country requires a lot of adaptation by someone who started out as a "city kid." That contributes to my levels of aggravation, irritation and tolerance. Deer and bears and turkeys, and mosquitos and ticks, were here first and if they weren't here I might as well be living back in the city. My taste for the country started when my parents moved us to a countryish suburb while I was in grade school. That's when my mother discovered the joy of finding garter snakes, frogs or toads in my coat pockets. The fact that I'm alive to write this many years later is proof of the depth of a mother's love.

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers, human or otherwise!

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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