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  • Kathleen Gill



I was walking up a steep road along the side of a lush green mountain. There was light fog and the road glistened from a sporadic drizzle.  The mountain dropped steeply to my left.  Peter was walking with me, but he had moved far ahead.  This was unusual because I have longer legs (as he often reminds me) and I generally have to adjust my stride to his.  But I had been distracted along the way by small bits of nature and had fallen behind.

A man came whizzing by on a riding lawnmower.  It was one of those you stand on, like a captain at the bow of a ship.  Too fast, I thought.  And too loud.  What was he doing up here anyway.  I turned and watched the man and mower fly down the wet road, then deftly turn the mower back around and begin to mow.  That should have been my first clue, I guess.  What was he mowing up here on this mountain?

I started to turn back around, suddenly needing to catch up to Peter.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a raccoon come over the edge of the road, from below, and I slowly backed away.  I’ve been afraid of raccoons since reading To Kill a Mockingbird when I was twelve.  Raccoons in the daytime are not normal.  There’s generally something wrong – specifically the possibility of rabies.

But that thought took only a split second as I realized the more significant danger to the immediate left of the raccoon.  A bear.  Not just any bear, though.  This bear was at last twelve feet tall, standing erect and still, and making eye contact with me.  I stopped backing away, remembering everything I’ve been told.  Make yourself big, make lots of noise, and don’t run.

So…there was a man on a mower below me and my husband walking away from me unawares, above, and neither of them could hear my yelling over the din of the mower.  Nor could the bear.  And when it came to making myself big, well, seriously?  A twelve-foot tall bear?

This was a dream, of course. But it stayed with me all morning.  Somewhere deep in my brain, a voice was telling me that it is pointless to prepare, because there is always something you could not have anticipated.


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