Now I wouldn’t fancy a pillow fight with a bear but I must confess I would like to see one. The State Park shop sells pottery bears, plush bears, bears on T-shirts, bears on hats. There’s a stuffed one in a glass case. But I sometimes wonder if there are real bears here at all. Or if it’s all a scam for tourists and befuddled foreigners. Yes, they drop stories in the local press about the bear that walked into supermarket and the one that turned up at a local high school. Children keen to see the bear, said the local paper, were “smashed against the windows”. Relax, that’s just an Americanism.
I’m a bear bore – asking everyone I meet whether they’ve seen one. It’s amazing how they all say, yes, they’ve seen one, or their husband has seen one or their brother-in-law’s cousin has seen one. My dental hygienist: “Lots of times! This one time we were cycling along the trail – it was a foggy morning - when we saw this dark shape in front of us. …and there was the other time a mama bear and her baby were crossing the road….” (“Uuuuhhh,” I spluttered, wanting more information but by the time I could talk, she’d changed the subject.) My neighbour: “Oh yes – someone once saw a bear at the top of the road. That was”, she thought for a bit, “About thirty years ago.” My sister in-law: “We were taking the dog for a walk and there was one at the end of the drive.” It seems everyone’s seen one except me.
“Don’t even think about it!”
“Joke” I muttered. We climbed further. I started to feel just a bit uneasy. Supposing we did actually see a bear? What should we do? Play dead? Climb a tree? The advice is inconsistent. I started to see dark shapes round every corner. We heard a rustling in the bushes. I clutched hubby’s arm. My heart pounded. Then with a swish, a tiny chipmunk scurried across our path. I thought, if the Lord had meant me to see a bear, he would have meant me to see a bear. There’s something called pushing your luck. We turned round and legged it back to the car.