DANCES WITH BEARS, STRUGGLES WITH BOOKSHELVES

We’re coming up on a Month in the Country, and where are we? Still in a secluded Paradise, as a book of readings on Berkshire County I bought yesterday modestly subtitled it. So it is, although if you remember, Eden had its snake. And we have bears.

Well, everyone in Berkshire County knows there are bears, and everyone has their bird-feeder-tilted-or-smashed-by-a-mighty-paw story. But we have photographs.

Last week, on a Wednesday afternoon in full sunlight, one of the maintenance men here knocked on our door in a state of high excitement.

“They’re coming this way!”

“What are coming this way?”

“The bears!”

EXCITING NEWS?

They’d seen a mamma bear on her way to bring her cub out of the woods just beyond us. He was sure they’d head this way. Oh, dear. So much for rhapsodizing over nature in a public fashion, tempting fate. Bears! (But it was also thrilling.)

So we retreated upstairs and waited by the front window. And waited. And waited some more. Maybe he’s wrong, it’s a false alarm. Just then, out from the woods, emerged a large shaggy brownish creature. It paused and looked to its left, waiting for something.

SHE APPEARS —

Mamma bear, black and glossy in the sunlight, massive in her still unshed thick winter coat, paused and sniffed the air, then signaled her big yearling cub,which fell into single file behind her. They both lumbered slowly across the lawn of the neighboring villa, heading directly toward us.

Frank grabbed his camera and began clicking away through the window. The bears kept on coming. The mother bear raised her snout from the grass just at the moment I raised my binoculars, and so there we were, eye to small round shoebutton eye. Miraculous. Awesome. SCARY.  I was thankful to have this encounter, and equally thankful to be safely in the house.

The bear was in no hurry. She sauntered along to our car (Frank claimed she kicked the tires as she passed), then rounded the neighbor’s end of the house and disappeared with her cub.

What an incredible happening! (If truth be told, I was thankful it was over.) We went downstairs, chattering to each other, glancing a little nervously out the back windows, but the meadow was empty.

WHAT, ANOTHER ONE?

Idly I glanced out the back windows and there, coming slowly but inexorably across the meadow from left to right, came Mamma Bear and yearling. They must have doubled around. This time they simply continued across the meadow, not quite so close up and personal, and disappeared again into the woods that lead down to the road and over to the swamp. (Excuse me, wetlands.)

Then, suddenly, in the magical three of fairytales, out from the woods to the left came a  tiny baby bearcub, all by himself, round and black and glossy, tumbling over himself as he bounced across the meadow and into the woods, to join his mother and brother.

Whew! We didn’t bargain on this when we left suburban Roslyn. Bears on Wagon Road? Don’t make me laugh. Listen: the wild turkeys are terrific, and the crows and the birds and the rabbits. Yesterday morning, early, suddenly three deer flashed into the sunlit meadow, gazed at us unseeing for a long moment, and then vanished on their way. That’s wild enough life for me, thanks.

COMPARED TO BEARS…

struggles with bookshelves are small potatoes. Background: we’ve discovered Walmart. It may destroy local economies but it also carries everything one could possibly need, at really low prices. Thereby, a dilemma. Having left behind most of our furniture because it was built-in, we have nowhere to put Stuff, which we possess in abundance, especially books. So we pick up a bookshelf for $19.95, which we can put together ourselves. Simple, huh?

Two hours and a fair amount of cursing later, voila! A bookshelf. Only a little bit lopsided; just a few drops of blood on the carpet where Frank wounded himself with the screwdriver; an intriguing kind of high-tech look, since the screws that should be on the underside of the top shelf somehow ended up on top —

Hey, but it stands. And it holds books. What more could anyone ask? When we put together the Audio/Video Tower (also $19.95) the other day, we did it pretty fast and without mishap. Quick learners.

WHAT’S THAT SOUND I HEAR?

Anyway, we haven’t seen a bear for days, although there’s kind of a funny chomping, snuffling sound coming from the swamp beyond the back woods — But I sent away for a pamphlet from the Massachusetts Division of Wildlife and Fisheries called Co-Existing with Black Bears in Western Massachusetts. So we’re ready for anything. The intrepids.

P.S. The photographs? As the photoshop guy on Church Street said laconically, “Well, you can tell they’re bears.”

May 2002

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