Good day, my fellow companions sharing in this grand adventure of life. I have a confession to make. I used to be the most over-trusting, easily deceived, green as grass, rural dweller that you ever could meet. I assumed all professionals such as doctors, dentists, lawyers and cheese makers were equally effective and proficient in their job. I had no clue that a little research goes a long way. Talk about naive. I mean, I was once a Girl Guide, I should have taken the motto, ‘be prepared‘ more seriously, but I think I was a bigger fan of the stylish uniform than being prepared. Long story short, I have aged into the understanding that a quality investigation into anything relating to your health and welfare is critical to a great outcome. And, if you know me at all, you know I have a story to illustrate this point, and no, it’s not about a cheese maker. However, if anyone one has one of those stories, I’d be absolutely giddy to hear it.
A few years ago, my friend, Brenda and I were on our daily walk. It was mid-summer; the towering grass growing in the wide ditch swaggered within the rush and wane of the wind and a hint of wild mint from a pond beyond the willows wafted through the air. We strode side by side without saying a word, all talked out from our previous kilometres, tiny beads of perspiration sparkles on our faces and the heat of the day hangs on the road between the ditches. A sudden movement to my left snatches my attention, a fluffy bear cub rears up near the edge of the road and contemplates us with obvious curiosity. My breath halts as a huge black mass rises up from the long grass behind the cub. My eyes widen and my body trembles in alarm. Brenda hadn’t seen them yet.
I grab hold of Brenda’s t-shirt to get her attention. “Stop. It’s a bear,” I say, huffing on each word. My knees weaken, running into a mama bear with cubs was not on my bucket list. Brenda’s eyes bulge as she takes stock of the imposing bear and her three cubs now romping unpredictably through the grass.
Thankfully, this bear and her three cubs had been sighted in the area a few days earlier and I had taken the initiative to sit at my computer and search this question, ‘What do you do when you run into a mama bear and you are about to drop a deuce in your drawers?’ Instantly, I received a list of websites about bears, none about poo. I read about five or six articles to get a wide variety of advice. The national parks had excellent information but there were also some educational personal accounts. The unanimous point in all information was DO NOT RUN. Then I opened another window and searched, “How to remove poo stains from panties.” So, according to experts you can mix one tablespoon of white vinegar with one-liter of water in a spray bottle. That said, I should have checked my sources, because squirting the bear with vinegar solution only enraged her further.
The bear stood about a camper length away, like an average fifth wheel, not a tent trailer. It seemed as though we stared at that bear for hours before we made our move but in truth it was closer to a second. And in that second, it was impossible not to take notice of the sharpness of her claws and the whiteness of her teeth. Who was her dentist? As we huddled together, I swear our hearts weirdly synchronized and we pounding out the drum beat of ‘Run Run Run,’ by the Who.
“What do we do?” Brenda asks, voice quavering.
Do Not Run, I thought. “We need to look as non-threatening as we can, look at the ground,” I say hoarsely, my mouth drier than a salted mummy. “Back away slowly.” We move in lockstep, a stealthy retreat. The sow shook her head clearly agitated, clacking loudly. Obviously she is trying to decide who to eat first, juicy Brenda or dusty Deb. In one swift move she drops down and takes two powerful strides toward us, head bobbing, ebony fur rippling in the sunshine. Then she rose up again to her full height, clacking fretfully.
We continue backing away, calmly and quietly— kind of quiet. Whispering, “Oh my God, oh my God.” A rattling holy phrase. The bear hoverers on her spot, eyes unblinking, nostrils flaring. Bren and I back down into the ditch nearly disappearing from the bears sight into the sparse shrubbery that lined the road. We duck behind a wimpy looking willow; the sturdiest tree of all. The bear sways trying to see where we are. I search the ground for a weapon of some sort, just in case; a weighty branch to be swung as a club or a sharp-ended stick like a spear. There is nothing. Only twigs. I could poke her eye out.
Then Brenda leans into me. “I think she’s leaving.”
I look up and peer through the leaves. Sure enough, the mama decides we are not a danger and she and her cubs lope off in the opposite direction, up an incline and into the deep bush.
Looking back, I should have failed my online bear psychology degree. Having done the research, I knew that Brenda and I should have been carrying bear spray or wearing a bear bell to announce it was dinner time. But at least I was able to move through my fear and use some of the tools I learned to minimize the possibility of a bad outcome. After all, we are all in charge of our own outcomes. So today, as in every day, I wish you the clarity of mind and clarity of heart in any decision you make. Oh yes, and by the way, the vinegar and water solution really does works.