See the bear scat,
An ample pile
On the tidy, barked trail of the nature reserve.
Notice a few steps later
Mud showing through in the shape of a paw.
Test the pressure
A puny human foot,
No mud showing through in the shape of a shoe.
An awareness dawns, suddenly crimson and shining, compelling and energizing:
Fresh scat, fresh prints.
I am walking in the tracks of a bear. I am walking where a bear just walked.
More scat arrives step by step.
More prints reveal themselves step by step.
Large and small, over and over along the two-mile jaunt.
I realize that more than one black bear has explored this pathway
Leaving their heavy paws’ footfalls as shadows against groomed trail
And my heart races with excitement as I peruse mud piles and grass edges and moss blankets for bear sign
I walk through bear tracks and begin to “think” like a bear:
Yummy fruits there, interesting sniffable here.
If I am the bear right now in this spot, what draws me in,
Like instinct, like bear-need, like hungry family before a winter hibernation?
Needing some nourishing time alone in order to replenish my creative reserves, I took myself on an artist date this week. I ended up at the local nature reserve which I’ve been to many times over the years.
But after only ten yards, I looked down to avoid something: a huge pile of fresh black bear scat. I have never seen evidence of bears there before. Of course, this many-acre preserve is enticing to wildlife; the short daytime visiting hours for humans afford local creatures a vast expanse of time and space to roam the natural landscape. I have seen bear sign in many parts of the island. It makes sense that they would frequent this area too.
I walked in bear tracks for more than an hour.
I imagine I am a bear. I try to make my human legs reach beyond my stride to match footfall with paw print:
I feel -
The cool autumn breeze ruffle my fur,
The thick mud under paws as I amble along,
An ear twitch and pivot as the coyote howls,
The scent of berries long past their prime,
My cub following in my path, easily distracted, sating curiosities …
Maybe I anthropomorphized my vision a bit too much, or included surmisings that betray my lack of scientific depth about bear behavior, or did not endeavor in my ruminations long enough and season by season to fully grasp bear life.
But I did make a genuine and heartfelt attempt to see, feel, listen, move, and experience that landscape as my bear neighbors might.
And it was my delight to try.