After the rain, the woods come alive with petals and leaves refreshed, and nurtured.
The thunder and morning lightning rejuvenating their zest to grow, and reach towards the sky, yearning for more life, and to experience the warm sun upon themselves..
The scent of earth, and lilac blossoms, wet leaves, and the creek spilling with happiness surrounds.
“The Canope of grace” is all around me as I walk. The lovely shades of trees are a green ceiling where birds dance to and fro from branch to branch . Beyond is the blue sky, dotted with a few wisps of white cotton clouds.
Coming towards me are two walking companions and friends. I see them most mornings when I walk. They are friendly, and we customarily greet each other with a warm smile. We are in sync, and destined to meet, even though our times of walking are sporadic, there is an appointment today, if seconds before, was not acknowledged.
I say,” Good Morning ladies.”
“Good Morning……and we must tell you , we just saw three baby bear cubs back there on the path.”
I stopped short.
Pump the brakes..what now?
Where there are babies, there will be a Mamma Bear, and I don’t know much, but I do know not to get in between a Mother bear and her babies.
My eyes must have grown wide, because we just kinda stared at each other. This was not news that I was expecting, and yet there had been mornings as I walked alone along the path, that I wondered if there were bears about in the woods.
It seemed, today was that day.
I do not think I was to be invited to this particular “ Teddy Bear Picnic.” I had no inclination or desire to be that close to nature.
“ Can I walk with you ladies?”I ventured.
“ Sure.. no problem. I am scared, but my friend, she is not.”
“I am scared too,” which was a gross understatement of fact.
I noticed that they both had stacks of leaves in their hands, and that they were continuing to pick carefully, and stack together quite a few.
“Why are you picking those…are they to feed the bear?”
I know now, and indeed knew as soon as those words left my lips that I had asked a bit of a dumb blonde question. So yes…..there are stupid questions, just so you know . The saying, “there are no dumb questions” has been debunked by me, and I am quite certain many before me.
The lady, named Athena smiled at me.
“No..these are grape leaves.”
“Really?” I was astonished. I had not considered that there would be grapes growing out in the wild. Perhaps the bears were aware of the growing grapes,and had come to partake of these sweet delicacies.
“What do you do with them,” I inquired.
“We cook them, with meat, and onions, and garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil.”
I asked them what nationality they were? They said, Greek.
“How about you?”I said, “Scottish and German.”
We introduced ourselves at this point. Athena and I were walking at a swift pace, while.. for the life of me, I can’t recall her full name, but Athena said we shorten her name to “ Rhea,” rolling the “R” as it’s spoken, walked casually behind picking grape leaves.
My breathing was jagged, and my heartbeat was accelerating. The “plum -pit- chi” stone was in my throat, and it wasn’t moving. I kept trying to gulp it down, but it was an immovable constant presence there…uncomfortably sitting there in my throat like an immovable rock.
It had started that morning. The feeling of choking on a plum pit that was impossibly lodged in my throat. I tried drinking ice water, deep breathing, concentrating on my happy visual place .. but the lump in the throat feeling persisted.
The sense of foreboding with the possibility of encountering an angry Mother bear was utmost on my mind at this point, and my eyes scanned the woods on either side of me, half expecting an enraged Mother bear to charge us at any moment.
So…we talked recipes, which was a most needful and helpful distraction, and discussed how to cook with the grape leaves, and different types of Greek food, of which I am a huge fan.
We mentioned “ pita, tzatziki sauce, roasted pepper hummus, feta cheese, black olives, and spicy lamb meatballs…”. I could tell these ladies were good cooks.
They gathered some grape leaves for me, then showed me how to pick the tender ones that were “without spot or blemish. “.
This was keeping my heart and mind from doing cart wheels, but I was scanning each side of the path, and into the woods, so aware of any movement.
At one point a man on his bicycle came rushing past us, and Athena and I both jumped out of the way, as the impending noise frightened us. We both grinned at one another, realizing how antsy we were. “Rhea” was unaffected, and casually, and methodically continued to stack freshly picked grape leaves on her open palm. She was “as cool as a cucumber.”
I thought to myself. Ok there are three of us, so all I need to be able to do is to run faster than at least one of these women. I am not proud of this thought, but I am just putting it out there. I feel as if there is a bad joke in there somewhere. “ you don’t have to run fast, you just need to outrun your friend.”
The fear was there, but then came the silent prayers.. for safety, for all of us, and the trust we would be able to continue with our walk without any Bear intrusions. I told them I was praying fir our safety. They agreed.
We continued to walk together, nervously chatting, and then as we parted ways on the street corner, I wished them well, and thanked them for walking the path with me. I was certainly grateful for their company that day . I felt keenly the comfort of not being alone on the trail. I had been provided a comfort of fellow travelers . A new friendship may be beginning. I am sure we shall meet again .
I greeted a young Father with his daughter, in her stroller, with her pink floral sun hat, hiding her flushed little cheeks. She looked at me and said,
I told him about the baby bear cub sighting. He did not seem too concerned. I asked permission to give his daughter a grape leaf? He bobbed his head in agreement, He was a man of few words, so I said goodbye to his daughter, and continued forward, pondering my excursion, and looking forward to being safely inside four walks, and to cooking something new.
The process of cooking and preparing I have found to be a meditative, and relaxing endeavor. I was rejoicing that I did not make contact with a protective Mother bear who would be standing in protection over her cubs…as naturally she should be.
I certainly feel protective over my own cubs , even as they are grown, so I empathize with this Mother instinct to defend, and keep safe. It is carnal, and absolute, a natural instinct.
Holding teddy bears close to your heart is healthier, calmer, and safer, then being near a bear in the wild.
It would appear that I am surrounded by bears. I was just thinking about how my late Mother would have enjoyed hearing about these recent escapades with bears. She would have shook her head with wonder, and laughed, but then been thankful that I was ok.
This woman who recently purchased these teddy bears, has an aunt who is also a teddy bear artist. Her aunt knew Mum. What a beautiful connection that was. God brought this as a specific comfort. I am grateful for the ways in which he does this. I can feel Mum’s presence near .
I just had an epiphany … this near bear sighting happened on June 21st. This is significant to me because my Mum passed away on March 21st. Three months ago on this date. Coincidence…..I think not. It’s a miraculous reminder to me of the importance of timing. I don’t want to miss these specific gifts…they are “God nods.”
Bears in the wild, or hand crafted.. both are are to be treasured.