Mea culpa. I made an error in my last blog. I wrote about my mother and her escape from Europe after World War II, referred to her book, Childhood Lost, a truly great adventure story, and invited people to order it on Amazon or else write me and I’d send them a copy. Time had stood still and I knew just where all those copies were: in a bag in the supply closet of my office.
Sure enough, I received requests for the book, time moved on, reminding me that my office is downstairs now, and where are the books? I looked for them all over, including in the basement, and didn’t find them. I’m pretty sure they’re in the house but I can’t put my hands on them right now. Amazon also asked for more copies to restock and I don’t have any to send them. If I can ever get to Jerusalem again, I’m sure I can find more in my mother’s home.
I’d planned to write about my encounter with undocumented families yesterday. I’d planned to write about my friend, Jimena, and the 15 people we met, to thank you for the money coming in, and to give the latest accounting of what came in and what and how it has been spent. But occasionally events of the hour overcome events of the day. Natural occurrences especially are so vivid and overpowering.
Less than an hour before Green River Zen meets on Zoom on Tuesday evening, I’m having dinner when the dogs rush out through the dog door, barking insanely. Since they rushed to the eastern section of the yard, I go to the living room and look out east, and the biggest black bear is standing on the other side of the fence.
The dogs bark furiously, which often sends bears scurrying away (they don’t fear dogs but dislike the noise and disruption). Not this one. This one—a mammoth—isn’t leaving. Aussie stands a little back, while 43-pound Harry the Cur, true to his currish essence, jabs his head right into the fence trying to get at the bear’s throat. The bear, which must weigh some 500 pounds, pushes his head into the fence, too. It’s so big I’m reminded momentarily of the mythical bear in William Faulkner’s great story.
I go out and call them. Aussie’s ready to come in; not Harry: “Soon. I have a job to do.” I finally put something extra in my voice, a little more terror, both dogs come in and I shut up the dog door. We settle down to watch the bear through the glass door, Harry fighting me for the front seat.
The coast is now clear (Took you long enough, is the silent message I get from the bear), the giant animal walks around the fence (twice as tall as last year’s fence, courtesy of Runaway Aussie), with astounding agility clambers over it, and proceeds straight to a birdfeeder some 10 feet away from us. He gets up on all twos and tips the birdfeeder down to his mouth much like we tip a cup of water down towards our lips.
When it’s empty, he squats down in the middle of the hillock of empty birdseed shells that has accumulated over the winter, picks up mounds of shells with his paw and transfers to mouth. Harry in the meantime can’t stop screeching, pounding on the glass with all his might, while Aussie eggs him on: “Go get him, Harry. Go get him, Cur.”
She makes no move to join him.
The bear gets up and walks towards our door. Now it’s my turn to screech-is it coming indoors? Never known a bear to do that. But two feet short of the door it turns, rounds the corner of my office and goes to the birdfeeder hanging there. When it’s finished with that, it goes straight to two birdfeeders on the other side of the house.
The psychologist Danny Goleman once told me that bears have imprinted in their brains maps of yards with bird feeders, including the exact locations of the bird feeders. If I wasn’t sure before, I believe him now.
When he’s finished with the four birdfeeders this enormous black mountain—the biggest bear I’ve seen in my 18 years here—climbs over the fence effortlessly and slowly makes its way up the slope. A UPS truck stops in its tracks on the road above. I can only imagine the trucker telling his wife that evening: “Honey, you should have seen the bear I saw a few hours ago. It was a monster!”
I contemplated the porous boundary between wilderness and backyard that we enjoy here. Civilization has its limits, I thought, before hurrying upstairs to start meditation with the rest of the group.
This morning I brought indoors all four birdfeeders, saying goodbye to multitudes of goldfinches, and overheard the following conversation:
“There go my bird hunting and squirrel hunting for the season, Harry. What are we going to do now? We can’t run away all the time.”
“Don’t worry, Aussie, we’re getting another big toy to tear apart.”
“Which one? You’ve already destroyed Rhino Rhinoceros and Ellie Elephant. These are Brute toys, Harry, they’re supposed to last a week. With you they last a day, maybe.”
“I don’t know which one, but it’s coming in a big box and it says: For Aussie and Harry, from Donald Trump.”
“A fake toy!”
“Why does he put his name on it, Aussie?”
“Because he loves dogs, Harry. Can’t be any other reason.”
“Do you suppose he’s sending us Phillipa Giraffe or Rocco Raccoon?”
“Whatever, Harry. It’s a great act of generosity on his part. It shows he cares.”
“I prefer Allan the Alligator myself. What about the bear we saw last night, Aussie? That was some toy! Do you think Donald Trump sent us that, too?”
“Who else, Harry? There’s nobody like him. He’s got full authority over the entire animal kingdom. You know what my greatest dream is, Harry?”
“To tear the innards out of Carmen Coyote?”
“No, it’s to go to the White House and be the man’s dog. As far as I can see, Harry, his only problem is he’s got no dog. With me at his side, giving sage advice, he’s unbeatable.”
“Take me with you, Auss! When do we go?”
“Next time we run away, Harry, promise. Get ready.”