Bears...appeal to a side of us that is lumbering, churlish and individual. We are touched by their anatomy because it resembles ours, by their piggishness and sleepiness and unsociability with each other, by their very aversion to having anything to do with us except for eating our garbage. - Edward Hoagland, "Bears, Bears, Bears"

Our weekend was spent in a tiny cabin in the not-so-tiny town of Estes Park, CO. Just as the sun was beginning its descent over the mountains on Saturday afternoon, we stepped outside to take some pictures by the dazzling golden Aspens. The occupant of the cabin beside us was standing outside whispering loudly, "There's a bear over there."

Here we woods that many people drive a thousand miles to camp in, people who felt that if they could happen upon a bear it might make their whole summer excursion... - Ed Hoagland, "B,B,B"

And in the time it took for my childrent to scurry inside the tiny cabin, this not-really-tiny-at-all black bear comes around the corner, all lumbering and churlish and individual. It's hard to describe the shift that took place within me at that moment. Just moments before, I had been alternating between stirring the soup on the kitchen stove and playing Barbie dolls with my youngest daughter on the porch. And then SHAZAM the beast is standing on one side of my minivan and I'm standing on the other. Sure wish my first black bear encounter would've been beside a Jeep or a Hummer or a quarter horse, but the Toyota Sienna's the reality these days. But all of a sudden, things got real primal. The soup could burn for all I cared and Barbie could go check out her cleavage in the mirror because I was face to face with wilderness.

The sows stands chuffing at him, slamming their paws on the ground to scare him... - E.H, "B,B,B"

You know all that advice about making yourself tall and talking quietly and not making eye contact when you encounter a black bear? I did none of it. I stood there with camera in hand looking the creature dead in the eyes. Making next time I'll follow all those instructions, but too much technique ruins the first time, right? The first time's meant to be primal and visceral, nothing but desire. The bear chuffed and slammed the ground, just like Ed Hoagland says, in an attempt to scare us. He did. I've had my tiny hiney in a really tiny cubicle for months now and I needed the chuff scared out of me. Stir the pot, man. Rouse the troops. Send Barbie back home in her minivan to eat soup.

By October most of the bears have chosen their dens and are puttering around... - "B,B,B"

In some real sense, this may have been the last thing this black bear decided to do before tucking himself in for the winter. "Say, think I'll take a stroll over by that tiny cabin and scare the chuff outta ole' thinks-he's-a-man. See if I can wake him up a little, get the berries moving, remind him he's alive." I guess he coulda charged me, knocked me down, and eaten me right there in front of my wife and kids and parents and Barbie. But he didn't. He just scared me. Not "to death," but in the vicinity. bounded toward the woods like the beast of a children's fairy tale - a big rolling derriere, a big tongue for eating, and pounding feet, its body bending like a boomerang. - "B,B,B"

I would imagine that somewhere on this vast planet this weekend, someone claims to have seen an angel. A bright, luminous, radiant, winged-creature that told 'em something, like the oracle at Delphi maybe. You can have your Barbie-like angels. As for me and my house, I want the dark, black, shadowy, huffing and chuffing angels, slamming the grounds with paws instead of wings, proclaiming their disinterest in me and my tiny self. I desire to be humbled, reminded of the dust from which I came. The Bible talks about people being "sore afraid" when they came into contact with angels. Not much to be afraid of if you see a 12-foot Barbie, strumming a harp. Maybe all those folks saw big rolling derrieres and big tongues and pounding feet and they forgot to talk at a normal volume and make themselves big and avoid direct eye contact. They had a visitation from a real angel. And so have I.


  1. Hey brother, way to hang by the minivan and get the shot! Beautiful experience.

  2. Oh my! 'Tis a big one, isn't it? And the photo's perfectly clear. You weren't shaking like I'd have been!