A Bear in Her Tree
"Look, look, there is a bear in her tree. She wasn’t kidding," yelled a bald headed, skinny rail of a man. "What’s a bear doing up in that tree?", shrieked a woman, her shrill voice as sharp as her face from forehead to nose to chin. A deep voice of authority hollered out from the front of the gathering crowd, "Call 911, call the Humane Society, call the fire department, somebody get your cell. What the hell! How did that bear get up in that tree? When and how did he manage to get through town, without being seen, and get into this tree?" "Why would a bear come into our town?" Queried an adolescent whose voice indicated his doubts as to its stability.
The bear peers down through the mass of pine needles, he seems quite comfortable sitting at the junction of three branches resting his back against the trunk, scratching his brown behind. He looks as though he might be laughing, teeth showing from beneath his curled up lips.
"What am I doing in this tree? I’m waiting. Geeze, what a stupid question. Just like
all the other screaming unremarkable questions. I’m sitting, I’m waiting. Obviously these Yahoos are all victims of public education at it’s finest. Like, for instance, how did I get up this tree? I climbed up; bears can climb, big as we are. I have long, sharp hand-like claws, I am extremely athletic, and after a winter of fasting I am slim and fit. And why am I in this tree? Bunch of ass holes, certainly not for the view of this stinking urban sprawl neighborhood I had to lumber through on my way here. This tree is the only one left in town, and obviously there isn’t a cave where I can wait: it’s the only place where I could get close to her when she sent me the signal.
What a bunch of dummies down there, like a horde of scavengers; they haven’t a clue. Group and grope mentality. If they get close enough I can cover them all with one big dump. Yes, yes, here I am in this tree! I see all of you, and piss on you if you interrupt my mission.
There! Over there! At last, I see her, this one woman, apart from the crowd ― in the background, calm, silent, standing on the porch of her house, arms crossed, chin up, body in perfect balance. I know that this is her tree. She’s the one! Does she realize that I am her bear? Yes, she must, but she doesn’t seem to know yet how far back and how well we know one another. I can tell that she’s puzzled, that she’s trying to figure me out."
This distinctive, lonely figure is looking: first at the backs of the sea of heads, then at this solitary bear half hidden in the thick branches of this solitary tree. She sees the entire scene as picture perfect, clear, hears and feels all, but then, her concentration deteriorates, her consciousness begins to darken; the live action scene, the sense of excitement, the anticipation of the crowd, the sound of the uproar are all vanishing. But she hears another voice. Whose is it? Sounds familiar … I know ― it’s mine!
"Who are all these people? All I can make out is a barricade of heads, the back of heads, not a face to be seen in the lot, and waving arms, pointing fingers, bodies moving up and down, all out of phase. What a mess. And the shouting, disgraceful, crude, ignorant… But there is a bear in my tree." Her expression is one of deep absorption. For a moment her brow is furrowed, then her eyes emptied out ― her gaze cast down, studying the worn wooden porch floor, the cobwebs in the corners, the posts, the corner of the fitted joist, the berry vines draped over the railing, heavy with crimson fruit. She flits her eyes, runs her tongue over her top front teeth; her mouth falls open then closes, her lips purse:
"A bear is in the tree: My tree.i.e. must be my bear. Why? Well, let me think about bears: a bear climbs a tree for safety, or if it’s hungry there could be a beehive to raid. Pine nuts? Bears are omnivorous. Bears are fight animal when trapped, but in most cases they first take a crack at outsmarting their foes. They are strong, fearless, solitary, independent, bears are smart. They don’t fear death. Hunted for sport, bears have been exploited, most likely still are, displayed in zoos, used in circuses and for other gruesome amusements. Bears were lead around the streets in the 18th century to attract attention and money. Bonding and loyalty to humans is well known. Bear hides are used for warmth and protection. Rendered bear fat is used medicinally. Bear meat is nutritious. Bear cubs, usually two, are born during their mother’s hibernation, instinctively knowing to stay close and suckle until spring and their mother’s awakening. She-bears protect their cubs to death; will take on any threat to do so. She-bears are strict disciplinarians, they teach their cubs the skills of survival. Bears can gut any mammal with one swipe of their paws. And bears never eat the dead. In one of Aesop’s tales, the fox says to the bear,
"Oh! That you would eat the dead and not the living."
"Bears catch and eat fish, harvest berries, vegetables. Poppa bear stays clear of the she-bear unless she indicates otherwise. Bears travel on all fours but can stand upright and walk on two legs; they copulate upright, embracing one another. Bears have been driven out of their own territories and considered threatening by the interlopers. Some bears are on the endangered species list, even so, many blood lusting, money hungry humans don’t give a damn.
"Bears have been the subjects of well known stories, myths, legends: Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Winnie the Pooh, Gentle Ben, Faulkner’s bear, Old Ben. Smokey the Bear, Ursa Major constellation and the seven stars of ‘The Great Bear,’ Then there are Teddy Bears, and bear the bell,
"Bizarre! Now I’m remembering this joke from my adolescence. Two hunters run into a bear. One drops his gun and runs. The other drops his gun but before he can turn to run the bear grabs him, wraps him in his arms and pulls him close. The old bear hug ― ha! The hunter feels the hot breath on his neck, reaches for anything that he can get a hold of and finds the bear’s organ, grabs it and yanks as hard as he can. The bear throws back his head and howls, lets him go, arms flung wide; the hunter runs for his life but looks back. The bear is now waving his arms, ‘Hey ― come back!’ I didn’t understand that joke completely when I heard it or for that matter when I told it.”
The crowd is gaining in number and ferocity. Her reverie ends with a deep perspective image: she is standing in a meadow in Yosemite National Park. She is eight. An older camp counselor has his hands on her …She hears screaming…
"Shoot the damn thing, that’ll get it down fast." " Don’t kill it, dart it with a tranquillizer, and have the zoo put it on display." "You idiot, the bear would drop like a rock. Wait until dark; let it get down on its own. He got up there, he can get down." "Get a helicopter, lower a rope, get it around his neck and hang the damn nuisance or even better they could drop it from 1000 feet to see if bears really can fly."
"Boy Oh Boy! Are those remarks examples of human unkindness or what? At least the primitives honored me with a totem. To them I represented: harmony, balance, strength, meditation, introspection, healing, dreams, visions, wisdom and listening ― My medicine is I can heal myself, that’s how I became mankind’s teacher ― healing begins inside you. We had respect for one another in those days. I became a threat to ― There’s this story about a bear chasing a hunter to the edge of a cliff. The hunter shouts out, ‘Dear God! Please give this bear some ‘religion!’ And the bear says, ‘Thank you, God, for the food I am about to receive.’
" Hey, down there, you people, go away, just leave us alone, me and my lady, we have issues, just the two of us. She’s the one, the one who dreamed me up. So bug off!"
She, too, has grown impatient with the crowd. She wants them gone. Her body gains stature and height. From her new towering position she is in command. She hears the anger in her voice as she orders: "Get out of my yard, get out of my life, if you had taught the bear to use a ladder in the first place, he could get down."
She had no idea why she shouted these words; she could not help but smile and then laugh. Yet, with this clear outburst of voiced purpose the crowd washed out, its sight, its sound, its confused image gone. And she looked up into the tree, at her bear. He looked back, she nodded her head, turned, opened the door. She would wait to welcome him inside.
He has his ladder, he will join her, they will embrace, they are old friends.
Now she remembered: a bear, the thicket patch of red berries, the meadow; the meadow covered with unattainable flowers protected by swarms of mosquitoes. She had wanted to pick flowers. She had heard the shouting. It came from all directions. "Bear, bear, there’s a bear, everyone back to camp." He had dropped his hands, pulled up his pants, turned and run off….
And then she woke up
* This story is based on a dream of the author ― April 23 2003