“People don’t realize that those bears will rip you to shreds the first chance they get!’
These words rose above the steady din created by multiple conversations from surrounding tables.
Having just encountered two bears in an alley and a delighted family of observers (see Part 1 if you missed it), I was having a beer on the patio of a small pub.
I was unintentionally pulled into the conversation of two older gentlemen at a nearby table, who I assume were locals, discussing the presence of bears in town.
Still in the peaceful state of contentment induced by the dream-like vision of two bears in an alley, I was able to detach myself from the harshness of their words and ponder their meaning.I understood why they thought bears are dangerous, blood-thirsty killers. Our culture has been presenting them in this manner for decades (centuries?)
I knew their statement was untrue, or at least an extreme exaggeration, and could not help but smile at the absurdity of the notion.
Bears can and do kill people, but it certainly does not come from the intense blood-lust implied by the ‘first chance they get’ comment.
I found myself contrasting this human fabricated ‘truth’ – that bears are vicious – with my 40+ years of hiking, camping and various outdoor activities. Plus – ten years of photographing and observing hundreds of black bears.
If bears actually did kill humans so blatantly, I would not be alive.
The two bears in the alley had ample opportunity to take me down.
Plus, I would have witnessed hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people ripped to shreds over the years.
People get way too close to bears in the wild all the time; very few are killed. It is heartbreakingly tragic when a bear-related death occurs, of course, but remarkably rare.
Thoughts of truth versus cultural conditioning occupied my mind as I walked back to the lodge.
Later that night…
At about 9 pm, I was summoned outside by the prospect of seeing the October super moon.
The night sky was crystal clear, but I was in a deep valley and the moon was not yet visible above the surrounding mountain range.
Aided by an app on my phone, I knew the general direction of where the moon would eventually rise, so I decided to go for a short walk.
Watching a full moon rise from behind the mountains is amazing. I was anxious to see the lunar illumination at full thrust.
I realize it might sound reckless to intentionally go for a walk in the darkness, knowing there were three bears in the area. All I can say is my actions did not seem to be governed by rational thought that evening.
I was intensely conscious of my surroundings as I made my way through the streets.
I craned my head upward every few minutes, hoping to see the moon beginning its slow ascent over the ragged mountain horizon, but nothing appeared.
After about 20 minutes, I decided to give up on moon viewing and head back to the lodge.
I approached the front side of the house whose back yard had been traversed by two bears earlier that day.
The Big One – a large black bear – stood about 5 – 10 meters away on my right, his sizeable frame silhouetted by the street lights.
Adrenaline spiked and my heart-rate increased. I quickened my pace and veered left, around a large vehicle parked on the street, placing a barrier between myself and the large bear.
It took mere seconds for me to reach the safety of my room. The whole encounter lasted about 10 seconds in total.
‘It’s probably good I had the wherewithal to put the vehicle between me and that bear,’ I thought to myself.
My heartbeat returned to normal and I prepared to settle in for the evening.
My Dream Journal
Recording dream memories is a practice I have only sporadically kept up with in recent years.
I have written records of my dreams going back to my early 20s, when I first became interested in the psychology of Carl Jung and the practice of lucid dreaming (realizing a dream is a dream while dreaming.)
I have difficulty remembering my dreams these days – if I am lucky, I remember a fraction of the stories intertwined in my psyche a couple times a month.
So what were once elaborate and detailed accounts of a fantastical world are now short phrases or words which represent ‘senses’ or ‘wisps’ I get from a dream.
Case in point, I started my current dream journal in 1999, and it is just barely over half full.
Considering how infrequently I crack open my dream journal, I am not sure exactly why I brought it with me on this trip to BC. I guess I wanted it on hand for some reason.
When I opened my journal shortly after my encounter with the Big One, I was unexpectedly jolted to tears by what I wrote on September 23, 2020:
Bear appeared and I was not afraid.
And then I remembered…
Manifestation of my wildest dreams
The title of this post is a statement of fact.
As a bear lover and photographer, I continually ‘dream’ of seeing bears in my imagination, but I have also literally dreamed of bears for as long as I can remember.
They are one of many animals who consistently appear to me within the layers of my consciousness.
I had forgotten about my bear dreams, however, until I read those words.
I had forgotten that they have always been there for me in that ‘other’ world; here for me in this one.
The characters, circumstances, environments change, but most of the bear dreams I remember contain a common thread:
I am in some sort of human-populated, forested, outdoor setting and I know there are bears lurking on the edge of the territory. Sometimes I see them, sometimes I just sense them. I know they are not dangerous, but still fear them.
While I have no specific memory of my dream on September 23, according to my journal, I encountered a bear and was not afraid.
How interesting that this had just occurred in ‘real’ life? What could this possibly mean?
A deeper dive into the multi-dimensional layers of my 10 second encounter with the Big One – and how the energy of black bears in general have impacted my life – is coming in Part 3.
But first, I have invited my niece Sam to write a blog post about our recent encounter with four black bears in Waterton.
Watch for this post on October 4, along with a special message about World Animal Day.
Until then, continue loving life and everything wild.