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.