in my real actual life, this all happened yesterday:
i woke up in the wee morning…in the early 5’s. DW has been sleeping up at camp for the past few nights. so my windows are open, with the curtains pulled back so far they look like indoor shutters. i’ve been falling asleep to the moon fattening and the creek swelling. i’ve been waking to the horizon pinkining and the flow of the water receding.
it’s the time of early summer morning i have spent with Debul for the past six years. now he has his own room upstairs and sleeps till 7. SEVEN!!!! he doesn’t hear the grind of my coffee beans anymore. he’s no longer in my lap while we chat in whispers and watch the day rev itself up.
i’m on my own now for the first while. while i wax poetic for losing that time with my son, i revel in the solitude it affords me. time to do with what i please. once 7am comes tick-tocking, it’s go-time till 8pm. certainly not in the way it was when we first got out here, nothing compares to toddlerhood, but intense and exhausting in its own right.
i’ve been busier in the past few weeks than i’m comfortable with. the kind of busy that keeps me from hitting my mark with consistency. i’m in that phase where i’m feeling unsynchronized and offstep. once i get my groove on in the morning, i’ve been a wrecking ball of to-do list checking and bullshit busy-ness. summer seems like such a wee short little window and everything has to happen allatthesametime in order for it to all work out. or so i tell myself.
once the homies were up and running, i sent them out of the house. i had a billion things to get together before our trip to town and their chatter, banter, bicker, inquire routine was getting under my skin. i am not a good rusher. hate rushing…yet there i was flailing in a rush. i cut, glued, and sewed up a birthday gift. only to realize once i was on the final star, that i fed it through the sewing machine backwards. it’s a funny thing about rushing. you don’t have time to make corrections for the errors you would not have made if you were not rushing.
once i had my ducks gathered in a sloppy herd, we headed to town. we skittled about our errands quite pleasantly and then landed at Shank’s. I’m the lawn boy (that’s a girl) this summer. it’s quite fun. his lawn is the pride of Painted Hills and i’m honored to care for it a little bit. today’s pattern was diagonal. i was digging it completely until the triangles on the outsides got small, then i got all buggered. Shank and the peeps watched Little House on the Prairie while i mowed. bless his heart.
when we got home, there was more to do. pull out hoses, set up sprinklers, water the garden, water the flowers, mix the gas with the oil, weed whack, chop firewood, stack wood, move things down to the garage, tidy up, come up with a dinner plan, feed the children, check for ticks…
i was weed whacking when i had the thought. of the lady in Alaska. the one who i assume who was living her dream in the bush with her husband and her infant daughter last fall. the one that made headlines when she was attacked by a grizzly bear with her daughter in her backpack. the one i think about from time to time. it could have been me. so easily could have been me, i thought.
my kids were out of sight, and with the obnoxious sound of the 2-stroke engine, out of ear-shot too. i thought about what a distinct difference that was from five summers ago when i barely let them out of arm’s reach. when i never walked to the end of the driveway without bear spray. when i had them attached to me at most times and my level of alertness and awareness was top notch. i wondered out loud inside my head if i had let my guard down too much. had i become too complacent in the safety of our domicile in the heart of the wilderness? today, while whacking weeds, i wondered that.
and once my string ran out, i called it quits. it was enough busy-ness for the week. i asked the peeps if they wanted to ride bikes down the road to meet DW on his way home. Once the mention of recording it on the bike function of the fitness tracker came up, everyone was sold.
we were cruising along. i am trying out a super rad bike. it’s deluxe. i love it a million times over, but know that it is truly too much bike for me. the three of us were giggling and laughing and inside joking while passing each other and waiting up for each other. we practiced staying on the far right side around all the corners and staying within eyesight. no one got off to walk on any of the inclines – a first. it was a really fun bike ride, we took bets on how far we’d make it before we ran into DW.
i took the lead into Monkey Tunnel/Crabtree Lane. Once it straightens out, you get a good look at the narrows. I called back to my peeps “Monkey Tunnel/Crabtree Lane all clear! Crush It!” and i picked up the pace. Debul was hot on my tail…Crit a bit further back. We were so very close to the turn at the end of the tunnel, smiles plastered from speed, when a grizzly bear came out of the turn straight at us at a full lope.
thank the lord for creating the fella who gave mountain bikes disc brakes, and thank Jeff Milton for letting me try out his bike on this very day. i skidded to a quick stop and yelled “BEAR”. Debul crashed and jumped off his bike. he panicked. for the shortest window of time, he freaked. i grabbed his arm and pulled him up. “Get your bike. Get on your bike and GO!” he was still frozen with overwhelm. i looked over at the bear, he bolted in his direction as fast as we boogeyed in ours. he wanted nothing to do with our scene. i looked at Debul again and said in a voice that may not have ever come out of my throat before, “Devlin, you cannot panic. You got this. Breath deeply. You should be afraid, but you should NOT panic. GO! Get on your bike and GO! Crit, GO!”
Crit kept her cool. She was frozen at first, but then turned her bike right around and sped off. She never once looked back. Debul did, over and over again. I thought for certain he’d wreck while looking back over his shoulder. I kept shouting “Don’t look back Devlin, you are safe. I got you. I’m in charge of back here. You are safe. Don’t stop pedaling. Keep a swift pace.” i said “swift pace”. WTF?
you never know how you might react when a grizzly bear is on a run heading straight for you and your two kids in a section of road so narrow that it is almost worthless to plow in the winter. i never knew i would use the word swift. but i did.
what i didn’t do, was bring bear spray. it is mounted on the front fork of the bike i normally ride. i ALWAYS have it. but i’m test riding. and when i walked out the door i thought, 5pm, trafficky road, campsites full, meeting DW on the road, don’t need it. i thought that. the same me that carries it to the garage with me at night if i empty the trash, thought that i wouldn’t need it this afternoon. and truly, i didn’t. but when i saw that bear’s paws lifting off the ground and pounding back into the dirt, i sure as hell wished i’d had it. i stayed back, just a touch, to give the kids a head start. it was the only defense i had for them.
we pedaled swiftly, that’s for sure. once the adrenaline flushed, and we felt safer, we pulled over and got off our bikes. we held hands and stood around a tree stump overlooking the creek. we took 19 deep breaths. we asked and answered questions. we held each other tight. we got back on our bikes and rode toward home. DW met up with us shortly after. he pulled the Subaru over and the homies shared their adventure. he rode off to meet the three of us home. as he pulled away, i realized he was the only vehicle we had seen since we saw the bear. if things had gone any differently, he would have been the first to arrive on the scene. the thought made me dry heave. it was father’s day adam after all (the day before father’s day eve).
that lady in Alaska. her daughter. her husband.
it could have been me, i thought again for the second time that day.
and my brain had a crystal clear answer my earlier wonderings. yes, i had become too complacent.
it is wild here. wild.