About two weeks ago, a family of black bears appeared, perhaps winter residents of the woodland behind us. Mother and three cubs. I wrote something about them on May 11. They would come daily for food, water, and frolic, even at midday on the day of the fire. So you can imagine our distress when the fire broke out very near their presumed den, and spread quickly in that back woodlot. Knowing that cubs climb trees in danger, and that between fire and firefighters the bears would be in a panic, and perhaps trapped there … A firefighter claimed to have seen the bears up a tree. We didn’t know what to think. After a few hours, the fire was out but the blackened 30 acres were rather grim, as were our hopes that the bears had survived. We steeled ourselves for the sad loss, frustrated further by our being unable to verify what we didn’t want to learn. A day, then another, passed. No bears.
Then they were back! The mother and three cubs! They spent the afternoon in the front yard, all captured in photos. It was as if to confirm to us: “We’re alright!” When they left, it was to head not south, where their old habitat had been, but north. Perhaps we will not see them again. Their range is enormous, scores of miles. But we were gifted with their presence and are forever grateful!
It has been a week now since a harrowing fire on and around the property devastated 30 acres of woodland. A lightning strike at about 4 in the afternoon was the cause. The house and most immediate environs was spared (we are on about 3 acres) but about half of the property, all woodland of pine and native trees, a beautiful slough, and thick wilderness habitat, were consumed. To make matters worse, firefighters these days assume that houses are the only property to save, ignoring the fact that beautiful woodland is not only owned by somebody and therefore also property, but it is not just so much expendable thatch. Instead it was allowed to burn. At least there is a 30 foot buffer to the back of the property and the other two sides were spared, but the horizon of blackened pine and red-brown needles (as if a grotesque autumnal scene) remains.
I hope to post pictures, when I have a chance. The next entry up is about the bears …
Not yet a full moon but the brightness of night is wonderfully evocative. At midnight, the dark house glows in the moon’s silver light, and outside the shadows dim and the outlines of trees and shrubs sharpen a little. Pointing to the moon we see the source of light and no longer need the finger, goes the proverb. And seeing with the moon we no longer need the flashlight to take out the dog at 1 a.m.
Over several days now, both parent black bears (mother and father) and their three cubs are visiting repeatedly — just when the bird feeders and sources of water are quite full (and, er, maintained). The cubs fit the stereotypes: one frisky, one imitative, one (the thinnest) clinging timorously to its parent. When the parent is busy eating, all the cubs roam (they are clearly nursing yet). Several times they have scrambled up pine trees to amazing heights, until the parent turned for a safety check and ordered them to descend. In another instance, the frisky cub managed to wedge himself into a bucket of water, looking photogenic. We have lots of pictures, and I hope to post them soon.
Such sights are rare today as habitat encroachment and plain chance diminish our expectation of seeing nature as it is or was. It is a gift, as much as any birdsong or sunrise.
One of the starker decrees of culture is expressed in the biblical Leviticus 13: 46, concerning anyone with leprosy: “He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” Whether this was literal concerning sufferers of Hanson’s Disease, or is taken metaphorically to represent sin, cultures have always seen “living alone, outside the camp” to be the worse fate anyone can suffer. Enforced solitude is society’s tool for dealing with a criminal, dissenter, the diseased, or those it simply treats as different. Hence the potential solitary — who is already a solitary in his heart — must realize that, from society’s point of view, he/she is entering the company of outcasts.