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Of Bears, Boys and Harbingers of Change

May 12, 2013

Bear has been back on the mountain these past two weeks. The first morning he was around he came to my car and tried every door and left big silty paw prints all over.

Wonder what he looking for?

Wonder what he’s looking for?

I wondered if his presence wasn’t the announcement of change coming, as it has been in the past, and that turns out to be right… so he has been around this week, turning over the trashcans, eating the trash, turning over the chicken cage, eating the chickens, etc. track on chix tractor He sat on my friend’s front porch one night for a good while, immune to the protestations of the two barking dogs and the people inside the house.  This is a big guy, at least four hundred pounds.  A little bear you can chase off with a spoon and metal bowl, but when you try that with these big guys, they look at you, quite solid in their understanding of everybody’s proper place on the food chain.

Eric had sent me a text earlier in the day saying bear had been sitting on his porch and to give me a heads up.  I stopped by that evening to check in and talk about bears.  The family was all gathered around the table eating and I sort of knocked and walked in, but the dogs hadn’t heard me come in and when I said “Hi!” they do a crazy bark eruption, rush the door and general pandemonium ensues.  As things settle down, it turns out everyone is on edge because  not only was bear lurking around the house the night before, but today Jeremiah,11, has had a run in with the bear and indeed, seems to have been chuffed and chased by the bear, yet safely ridden his bike out of danger and lived to tell the tale.  And tell it he does!

Jeremiah launches into his story of danger and escape.  A natural storyteller (a family trait) he regales me with the incident.  His poor mom is sitting there almost in tears as she ponders her youngest baby boy being bear kibble.  His dad is torn between pride in the boy and mom’s distress.  Me, I can just watch the kid shine, and I celebrate his bravery and good sense with a few words of appreciation and  shoot him a deep, knowing smile, because we both sense something big has happened to him.   I can see all the good medicine bear has poured into this child.  This rite of passage day will never leave Jeremiah, and gifts him with some heroic mettle, which will serve him well his entire life.   But he could have been killed or maimed, for realz.  Nothing important in life is ever free or easy.  But being unwilling to take the chance, to pay the price, is certain to leave life deeply impoverished.

And there at the table, we all begin to tell our bear stories, from our experience, from science, natural history, from myth and dream.  We realize that at our farm, bear seems to have come around in a long season of every 3-4 years, then we don’t see him for a while, then he returns.  We remember the Grandfather Kiaio (Bear) song from lodge and go out on the porch and sing it lustily. This kind of process is called “renewing medicine” and it’s sort of like what happens around the Thanksgiving table.  People begin to tell the stories of the family, and doing so, we “re-wrap” ourselves in the narratives, memories, feelings, laughter, relationships, and of the shared adventure of being a family.  In this way, the connective tissue, the “basket” of the family is strengthened, repaired and renewed.

In this same way, sharing stories about natural phenomena and beings and our relationships, reconnects us with them and with each other and is actually an important technique in relating to the world in a sacred and dialogic way.  The next morning, the family gets up at dawn and does a ceremony for bear and thanks him, and acknowledges his place, but also asks for boundaries and respect.

As I write it’s been a few days since the incident, and there’s been no further sign of him in the neighborhood.  But the salmon skin and bones from dinner a few nights ago is aging and getting pretty funky in my kitchen trash can.  I’ve been reluctant to put the trash out with such tempting, smelly noms  in it.  If I can smell it a hundred feet away, how far away will bear have to be to miss it?  Hundreds of yards? A mile?  But trash collection day is about 4 days off, and I start to wonder whether I’d rather have bear tip over my outside garbage for treats or make himself at home in my kitchen for a little fishy feast?

One Comment
  1. Delightful! And so nicely written–


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The Official Blog of the Celebrant Foundation and Institute


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