When I was in college, my friend BH tried to teach me to smoke cigarettes. I was having trouble inhaling. He told me to imagine I’d seen a bear. He demonstrated the sharp, shallow intake of breath that seeing a bear would generated, then followed the inhalation of breath with the words, “I saw a bear!” I guess the “I saw a bear!” part was supposed to get me in the proper state of mind to breathe in the cigarette smoke correctly. I don’t know. I never did learn to smoke cigarettes (thank goodness!) but I did find out many years later that seeing a bear did indeed make me gasp.
Between Arroyo Seco and the Taos Ski Valley, there are several free camp grounds along the Rio Hondo.
I pulled into one of the camping spots late one afternoon. I had maybe a couple of hours of daylight left in which to prepare and eat dinner.
I’d managed to back my van into a spot so that in the morning (and by “morning,” I mean around 4am), I could pull straight out onto the gravel entrance/exit and then onto the highway.
Across the highway from where I was parked, trees had been removed to make room for a large electrical transformer. This configuration made for a break in the forest and a sort of flat open area around the transformer. I was standing near the front of my van, texting Nolagirl when movement across the highway caught my eye. I looked up and saw a very large creature lumbering past the electrical transformer and into the trees.
“That’s a weird fucking horse,” was my first thought. My second thought (after a quick inhalation of breath), was, “that was a BEAR!”
The bear didn’t actually look anything like a horse. “Horse” is just what my brain told me until it could make sense of what it had actually seen.
(Gasp!) I saw a bear!
My immediate first reaction was to want to follow it. It was so cool, so wild, so interesting. I wanted to know more about it.
My second reaction (which occurred about two seconds after thinking I wanted to follow it) was me asking myself, Are you out of your fucking mind?!?!? Following a bear is a REALLY bad idea, so I didn’t do it.
I wanted to watch the bear from a really safe distance, but it was already out of sight. The bear was not going to be my entertainment for the evening.
I grew up watching movies and TV shows like Gentle Ben and Grizzly Adams where bears and humans are pals. Some part of me wanted to believe that I too could befriend a bear. I’m glad my logical side prevailed and kept me on my side of the road.
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