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
the chilly, enduring odor of bear….
From “The Bear” by Galway Kinnell