Portrait of a Bear

It seemed as though the bears had multiplied over the winter. The summer before had been filled with distress calls to wildlife control, news reports of bears all over the county, and the not so rare sighting. This year, however, officials reported a record number of calls for help, my own grandmother accounting for many of them, because a bear had broken into someone’s house and they had been woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of the refrigerator being raided for a midnight snack. Bears were no longer afraid to meander into town and did so at their leisure. I remember working at the bakery one day and a customer came running in, shouting that a baby bear was stuck in a tree a couple blocks over. It made the headlines the next day.

My friends told their stories of running into a bear, whether it be hiking in the middle of the day or walking home at night. I would refuse to walk the short distance from work to my house after getting let out at midnight. I would beg friends for rides if my dad had already fallen asleep, but even so, I often ended up walking. I did my best to avoid any situation where I would run into a bear, but I wasn’t completely successful.

I had been babysitting a boy who lived up the road from me. Because it was such a short distance from my house to theirs, the dad walked me home instead of driving. We were walking, talking about his kid, when we passed under a tree. The night before us was made pitch black from the shadow of the moon, and we heard a twig snap. Immediately our attention was drawn upwards from focusing on the road in front of us. Not even five feet away I could barely see the silhouette of a bear. He was huge, bigger than I expected. I am certain he was taller than me, even when standing on all fours. He didn’t even look at us.

Surprised out of our minds the dad and I jumped to the other side of the road. As soon as we were out from under the shadow of the tree we could no longer see him. He had the perfect camouflage. We continued the short way to my house, where I practically ran inside.

What struck me was that had it not been for that twig, an insignificant object we pass by on a daily basis without second thought, we would never have seen the bear. We would have walked right into him. Even though we were scared out of our minds, and stood on the other side of the road scarcely daring to breathe, the bear never even looked at us. We were as insignificant to him as a rabbit.

After that, I would absolutely refuse to walk home. If my friends hadn’t driven, I would call my house repeatedly until my dad woke up and drove the seven blocks to come get me. Seeing the bear, taller than me even when he wasn’t standing up, absolutely undetectable had it not been for that one twig, made me realize just how powerful those animals are. It is a beautiful sort of power though. Being so dark one can blend into the night, so silent that one can go unnoticed until someone has walked into you, and so huge that even the bravest person would follow their instinct of flight. To me there is nothing more majestic.

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