Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lessons to Learn

Photo by David Margrave

It is embarrassing to say this, but sometimes I have to suffer through lessons more than once before I learn.

Back in the days just after I'd given up gardening, I moved my computer table out to the family room so I could waste a lot of time staring out the sliding glass doors onto my deck instead of writing. The squirrels would chirp and fling themselves from branch to branch and once in a while I'd catch a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker pounding a Douglas fir. Being a Towny, I didn't realize that woodpecker was telling me the tree was dying. By now the raccoons had moved on to some other poor sap's house and only the squirrels, my cat and the Stellar's Jays played on the wooden slats outside the glass.

So I sat in blissful ignorance, thinking natural habitat was probably better than a lovely garden anyway, when I heard something climb the two stairs to the deck. My eyes darted up to the ugliest dog I'd ever seen. It's tail end faced me and the mangy cinnamon color of the dreadlocks did not hide the size of the beast. Slightly larger than a Great Dane but more rounded and furry, he nosed around looking for handouts. Or maybe for my cat.

Remembering the raccoons showed no fear and the deer charged me, I stood very slowly and eased myself to the door. I carefully lowered the lock and was just about to open the door only enough to yell at the dog to scram, when he turned slightly and I saw his face.

Photo by Mila Zinkova

It was not a dog face. Having seen Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on Sunday nights, I recognized this little puppy as a bear. I froze, my hand on the handle, and stared. On my deck was a bear. It took several seconds for that to sink in. It wasn't as big as a grizzly, but that didn't make me feel all that relieved. It was still a bear. A brownish bear. Outside. On my deck. A bear.

He foraged around looking for cat food, I was sure. He could probably smell remnants of it between the slats. He waddled back and forth, checking every inch of wood, sniffing the air, and glanced my way. My breathing stopped. Although he was brown, I didn't think he was a Brown bear because they didn't hang out in the northwest. Maybe he was a brown American Black bear. They weren't as vicious as the Grizzly or the Brown bear.

But still, I didn't move.

After a minute or two, he ambled over to the edge and began to lower himself to the ground, not bothering with the steps on the other side. I don't know what made me do it, but I slid the glass open a crack and said, "Get out of here."

He jumped as if he'd been shot and leaped off, disappearing along the side of the house toward the front.

I closed and locked the door, feeling smug, until I remembered the garbage can at the side of the house near the front. It was crammed full of all sorts of tasty morsels, enough to have him invite all his little bear friends for a picnic. If he found it, I'd never be rid of him.

I sprinted across the room, flung open the door to the garage, and flew past my car, flailing my arms and screaming like a chimp. The big door hung open and I screeched to a stop in my driveway just in time to hear the bear crashing up through the woods.

Yes, I know. It was not a wise thing to do. I know that NOW, but even then, even after the bear, the deer and the raccoons, I still had more lessons to learn.


  1. Thank you for the visual my dear ("...flailing my arms and screaming like a chimp.") I know I shouldn't laugh, but that is sort of funny. How bizarre to find a bear on your porch. We do not have them around here. We have raccoons and the occasional wolverine. Well, not so many wolverines.

  2. Bloody hell! 0.o Also - EEK!!! O.O

  3. Carolina,

    I was ascared! You cannot blame me for resembling a chimp.


    Oh, yeah! Bloody hell. That is what I said, but without the British accent.

  4. I think I'm going to call you, Dr Doolittle!

    I'm half expecting you to say in your next post, that you're talking to animals!

    Great post. Great pics. As always :)

  5. I haven't a clue what possessed me to buy a house in the hills. When I go on vacation, I go to a city, "to get away from it all."

  6. I'm wondering what the bear said to his pals when he got back up into the hills. Maybe something like, "There goes the neighborhood."

  7. Carolyn,

    You think so? Dang that bear.

  8. After living in Alaska and watching David's dad with the bears (he is a wild bear man) you did the right thing. Yell, run like hell and hide your garbage :)

  9. Jars,

    Thanks so much! I knew those wildlife people were wrong when they said I should have stayed in the house and later put the garbage can inside the garage. :)

  10. Poor Yogi - no pick-i-nic baskets for him this time. Loved it - as always

  11. NWFoodie,

    The teddy bears are going to have to find somewhere else for their picnic. But thanks for the nice compliment. It is so nice to have you for a crit partner. (I'll hear about all the adverbs and adjectives later)

  12. Holy crap, I think I would have wet myself.

    Used to have all sorts of problems with moose (meese?) when we lived in Montana. Those suckers are mean, especially the females, and if they decide they want to lie down between your front door and your car, you aren't going anywhere for awhile.

    Love the blog!

  13. Tawna

    Oooh, noooo, moose are really, really big. And they have gigantic things on their heads that can cause a lot of damage. After being charged by the deer, I think I'd rather take my chances with the bear, thank you very much.

    (I've turned in your name to the Vancouver Writer's Mixer--can barely wait until next year for your book to come out.)

  14. I saw your comment on Wendy's blog hoping I would make that comment on yours, but I see no signs of query letter angst. I cannot help you with bears except to say "Be careful" whom you scare, if that was a baby and Mama was watching from the woods, you would have been hard pressed to defend yourself. And the cat.

    But you do have a beautiful blog and I love your pictures and stories of living in the woods. I miss the woods, creatures and all. Sometimes large wind chimes work as a deterent for large animals. Unless it's not windy.

  15. Piedmont Writer

    You are the voice of calm reason. I so admire that. And I've done most of my query letter whining on twitter. I was serious when I said I rewrite it constantly and am still not happy with it. I need your comment. Should I copy Wendy's?


    Thanks for commenting on my blog. I'm honored.

  16. hahaha!! Melanie! That is FUNNY! First racoons, then a dear, now a BEAR! Man! Watch out for elephants next week :D


  17. Elephants? Oh nooooo. People are suggesting I encounter moose and elephants. Really, I'd be happy with just seeing the garbage man once a week.


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