When I rounded the corner, I was less than an armsbreadth from the young bear cub.
Unfortunately, I was also less than two armsbreadths from its mother.
On the other side of my body.
I’ve never forgotten that moment, somewhere back in the middle of nowhere, where I stood between a mother bear and her cub.
The way the world slowed to a fine, sharpened point as I carefully moved is an experience I’ve seldom repeated.
The truth is, neither the bear nor I wanted a confrontation that day.
Just like me, the bear’s eyes almost immediately focused somewhere, anywhere other than the body of the intruder.
Much of the survival of the wild things is about that kind of pretending.
Instincts are sharp, but they can be circumvented and redirected in less exhausting and dangerous directions.
That mother bear is not the first wild thing I have seen to work around its sharper instincts.
It is strange to read stories where the actions of wild things are so wholly tied to only the most basic of their drives.
I have seen curious otters, lazy squirrels, embarrassed falcons, playful foxes, and mourning crows.
It seems sad that even in fantastical adventures, the range of actions are so focused on aggression or flight.
When our fantasies are less varied than our realities, we truly miss a degree of richness in our idea of what puts the “wild” in “wild things”.
Perhaps it would have been a better story if I had rounded the corner and been attacked by a startled mother bear.
I think that the wildness was far richer in the brief moment she met my eye-
And turned her head back towards the forest.
I’ve been thinking about the way we write the world around us. These are some of my thoughts on the natural world.
I enjoy trying to work the natural world into my writing in various ways. If you’d like to see my own take on animal instincts, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.