Yearling Bear

Driving alone up Vermont Route 12 this morning, in a forested area that winds between two ridges and along dead-tree-choked swamps, I spied a young bear on the pavement ahead of me. There was no one but me and the bear, and I coasted to the side and got out of little car. Overhead flew a single crow.

The bear, too young to see me at all, was small enough to be round in its four limbs and soft paws, walking in a circle, and I looked for the creature’s mother, as it seemed to be searching as well. Then, the youngster ducked beneath the guard rail and was gone, simple as that. I was back in my car and on my way. I passed no other traffic.

150 years ago, bear and deer were nearly extinct in what was a nearly deforested Vermont. The wildlife has surged back in strength, both in the dearness of its young, and sometimes in what would be the fierceness of its parents. I hadn’t seen a bear in a few years, and I was glad to see this one. I’m hoping its mother was just beyond my sight.

In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear….

From “The Bear” by Galway Kinnell


About Brett Ann Stanciu

A writer and sugarmaker, Brett Ann lives with her two daughters in stony soil Vermont. Her novel HIDDEN VIEW was published by Green Writers Press in the fall of 2015. Let my writing speak for itself.
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4 Responses to Yearling Bear

  1. j. coulter says:

    It’s a pleasure to find someone else who appreciates Galway Kinnell. His reading of “The Bear” which I heard at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the late 60’s was a transcendent experience.

  2. How I would have loved to have heard that reading! Poetry read aloud can be such a supreme experience – and this is one phenomenal poem.

  3. Bears are my favorite woodland creature. It’s difficult to see them here. A yearling most likely was pushed away from its mother in late spring before mating season started and is in the midst of figuring out life on its own. Sows drive cubs away, sometimes violently, to protect them from being killed by boars. If the wee one was looking for Mum it was probably this year’s cub. A yearling should weigh 125-150 pounds now, a cub between 30-50 pounds.

  4. That’s interesting to know. I hadn’t realized cubs could be so diminutive.

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