I opened the front door yesterday afternoon, saw an Amazon package on the front steps, looked up, and saw a black bear contemplating the garden. In the past I’d have instantly gone back in to bar the dog doors to keep the dogs inside, but I don’t have to do that anymore, could just contemplate the bear right back. It grunted a few times, displeased to see me on its way from drinking in the river. It made its way to the side of the house and slowly continued its climb up the slope and back into the forest.

Meantime, on Saturday morning, right after Stanley died and was buried, I went out and through a large web that practically covered the back door. I looked over my shoulder right at the large spider mourning the destruction of its handiwork. “Sorry, not here,” I told it. “Corners, eaves, hollows under rooftops, even beneath the picnic table and chairs, all fine. Live and let live. Not the back door.”

It did it right over again at least half a dozen times since then, and we’ve declared war. I’ve positioned a broom conveniently close. Down goes one web, and a new one rises in its place. No question of getting the perpetrator, it clambers up to its safe, distant hideaway as soon as I approach.

If you’re cheering for the spider, be warned: I do not give up easily.

August 31 will mark 14 years since Bernie and I have lived in this house; almost from the beginning, with dogs. More than 2-1/2 years ago Bernie had a stroke; now the dogs are gone.

So a kind of battle goes on inside. One voice says: LIFE! LIFE! LIFE! More dogs, more walks in the woods, even more bears. LIFE! LIFE!

But another voice whispers: An era is ending, time has passed. Mark all this, make a notch. Don’t rush headlong, look around you, read the stars at night. What do you see?

Nothing, I tell the voice. A dot here, a dot there, but I can’t see any picture, can’t read any story.

Voice 1: Don’t get entangled in all that depressing stuff, move forward, always forward. LIFE! LIFE!

Voice 2: Slowly, slowly. Find a way to mark things, make private notches in the heart, listen carefully.

The bear tells me of the wild woods up the slope, waiting for a return, while a small spider furls and unfurls its web, barring my way outdoors.