Come join me on an open-ended excursion over the challenging waters found in the sea of creative writing. Today is my ship's maiden voyage. I have no idea where we’ll be going—the important thing is to just keep the "going" going. The focus will be on matters of human interest (nothing like giving myself lots of leeway!).
In 1998, my wife Clara and I moved to Pennsylvania. I had spent the majority of my life living on Long Island where bears were non-existent. In my life, the only bears I’d ever seen had been on television or in the zoo.
Only a month into my residency in Pennsylvania, on a bright sunny summer morning, I was driving to work when up ahead I saw what appeared to be the back of a man in a gorilla suit heading into the woods. As he ducked under a guard rail, I caught a glimpse of what looked to be a gorilla’s butt. Then the man completely disappeared into the foliage. It was about 7:30 in the morning and I said to myself he must’ve been to some hell of a party the night before! Something about the whole scenario struck me as odd but I proceeded on to my job and quickly forgot about what I had just seen.
In 2001, I met and then rescued Lance, a border collie. Over the ensuing years, there were two situations in which Clara and Lance had confrontations with bears that I did not personally witness. Being the adventurous (aka reckless) type, I envied Clara’s up close and personal experiences with Ursus americanus.
Finally, my turn came. One day Lance and I were walking in the woods when I spotted a mama bear and her two cubs off in the distance. I briefly marveled at the sight but soon reality kicked in and I was calculating my chances of surviving a bear attack. Lance was unleashed but hadn’t yet picked up the bears on his radar. I knew he soon would. If he did, how would the devil dog react? I didn’t want to find out. My dog and I had just left the house and weren’t that far from home. I did an about face and briskly headed back from whence my dog and I had come. Still unaware of what lurked behind him, Lance dutifully followed me. I was desperate to get Lance and myself out of the woods and safely back home before the bears picked up our scent—or Lance picked up theirs! Fortunately, we made it home safely. Lance would never know what didn’t hit him.
Now older and wiser, I appreciate just how close a call I’d had. But, at the time, I primarily reveled in finally having seen bears in the wild for the first time.
Or was it the first time? Many months after having escaped that mama bear’s clutches, my memory took me back to the “gorilla” I had seen shortly after moving to Pennsylvania. A man walking around in a gorilla suit had never fully made sense to me and now I knew why: I suddenly realized that had been my first sighting of a bear on the loose. I had to laugh at my naiveté. You can take the man out of the suburbs but you can’t take the suburbs out of the man.