My friend and I were hiking on a path that looped into the deep woods, and suddenly we heard an eerie, crackling noise—as if we were being followed.
I backed up a few steps and looked up, and there she was: Mama Bear, in all her ursine glory, standing on her hind legs, staring intensely. Right. At. Me.
Now I have heard all the advice: don’t make eye contact, don’t scream, don’t run, just play dead and cover your head. That’s all good in theory.
But I stared straight at that bear, screamed, and ran away. She got down on all fours and bounded down the hill toward me. While running up the path at what felt like neck-breaking speed, my friend was frantically searching for his camera.
“Holy $&*#, Jen! I gotta get a picture of this!”
Alas, the bear was approaching too quickly for a Kodak moment.
But suddenly she lost interest, turned around, and disappeared right back into the woods. High on adrenaline and feeling like the Luckiest People in the World, my friend and I hiked the rest of the way as loudly as we could. We were singing, yelling, clapping and chanting to scare off any other bears. (And probably freaking out any other hikers as well.)
We eventually found a ranger and reported what had happened. “They usually don’t stop once they’ve got their eyes on you,” she said, genuinely puzzled.
So what did I learn from that ordeal, besides the fact that there is such a thing as Bear Repellant?
Well, Mama Bear was “supposed” to go for the kill. But she did not. (Thank God, Buddha, and the Entire Universe!) Who knows why—maybe she'd already eaten that day? Maybe she was a vegan? Preferred berries? Whatever the reason, it’s fine by me.
Some other lessons from that day:
Sometimes even a Grizzly Bear can surprise you.
Try to give the “bears” that you meet every day more than just one chance to make an impression. Most of the time they will surprise you.
We can all try to be more like that bear, simultaneously fierce and gentle. Strong and forgiving. Protective and empathetic.
Be filled with gratitude to be here, alive, well, and loving life.
A plant-based diet can save lives. :)