Not a boulder, the dark lump on a tree stump moves. A napping baby bear stretches, oozes off the stump and slides upright on all fours. A hundred feet off to the left, a dark shape trembles the yellowing leaves on the forest understory. A mother bear materializes near our driveway as my two dogs, mother and son, and I watch from the safety of the house.
Mother bear has returned “empty-handed” at a time when fattening up is required. After greeting each other, she and her child disappear to forage farther afield. I’m a little disappointed that they leave so quickly.
A quiet hour later, I let mother and son dogs out into their yard protected with 4” square wire mesh called hog fencing. My quietude quickly erupts with vociferous barking … ratta tat tat ratta tat tat…My house, my yard, my human, my food . . .
The bear family stands in the driveway.
Ratta tat tat ratta tat tat… Mother and son keep up the racket.
Mother bear startles … considers and comes to a decision. Her kid needs food.
My baby, my baby.
She speaks to her child who sits down and stays put. Mother bear moves deliberately down the drive toward my four-legged kids, mother and son.
My babies, my babies.
Mother and son bark ’n’ bark ’n’ bark some more. Mother’s lips are curled. Son’s back hair spikes.
My babies, my babies. I watch safe behind glass as mother bear slowly proceeds down the driveway. No gun, thank god, but if only I had a gun, thank god I don’t, who would I be if I did, but if only … what to do what to do. Fragile wire fence my kids’ only protection. Mother bear closer – baby bear still watching from where s/he’s been told to stay. Mother and son barking and barking.
I surrender. I have to do something. I get a metal pot and a wooden spoon and open the door, step out onto the porch. Not sure I want to add to the racket as I watch the mother bear advance. Trust. I want to trust. I want to witness the unfolding of life before my eyes, I want to spread love and peace and compassion and justice and harmony and plenty of food for all and shelter and safety and all the things we’ve ever dreamt about for our babies, my babies, his babies, her babies.
Mother bear now sees me outside. She hesitates … then resumes her steady pace, barking dogs and all.
I cannot bang the pot. I will not add to the din. Closer she comes.
Mother and son slow the pace of their cacophony. Inches away now.
With every fiber of my being, I send compassion for all parents who want to feed their children.
Mother bear closes in. Baby bear still watches from the top of the driveway.
Mother and son stop barking.
Mother bear stretches toward the wire fence. Mother dog reaches back.
Through a four inch square of open space, their noses touch. Restraint. Curiosity. Kinship.
“Hello Mother, I recognize you.”
She glances up. She recognizes me as I nod my head slightly to her.
Son dog turns away, climbs the porch steps and walks toward me where I stand near the door.
Mother bear takes a step or two backward.
Mother dog turns and walks the fence line as if no great thing has just happened.
Mother bear turns away and ambles back up to her still hungry babe.
[Author’s Note: This short story is true and occurred in 2005, or thereabouts, when I lived close to Montana wilderness. It recounts only the first chapter of a day long experience with this Mother bear and her child … By the end of the day we co-existed in what felt like a peaceable kingdom … As twilight approached, I painted in my studio
– a canvas yurt – while my dogs sometimes napped or stood at the glass door watching for the bears. I knew they were back when my dogs began “singing.” No longer barking, they made “warbling” sounds I’d not heard before nor since while the bear family browsed in the meadow outside.]
Editor’s Note: This is also published in SHE RISES :How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? (Volume 2)