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WHAT I THOUGHT WHEN THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN by Rekha Valliappan

The best way of being kind to bears is not to be very close to them.

-Margaret Atwood

What I thought when the bear went over the mountain:

How green the earth looked on this side and on the other side too and if I could spot a wee brown movement through the canopy of green how much far less confusing it would be to not mistake the earth for a summer strolling bear;

That the meaningfulness of my life had gotten bleaker when I was no longer the super-human I thought I was, most unwilling as it turns out to join the bear on the other side of the mountain because goodness knows his intentions, or lack of intentions as the case may be in the face of chaos evidenced by irrational animals who are followed;

That all things considered the bear knows his mountain well, especially the side he climbs and over the other side, and that one gets the feeling he is a regular decent sort of fellow, pragmatic even, although hungry at all times, when he grows hard-working;

That in all this 300 square miles of pristine acreage of clean wilderness I was the one who got to the spot where the bear is sighted at the precise moment he grew mindful of maintaining his solid routine of food, fruit, sweet dessert, and river water and climbing up and climbing down productivity maneuvers for his daily needs;

That ironic immunity aside the authorities could have done a better job at signage than these rotted cardboard signs which unimaginably lead to the very exact favorite viewing spot of the great big brown bear;

That bears can and do zip around at a fair rate of speed given their bulk and agility and can and do make Machiavellian progress in life when their sole goal of attainment is to see the other side of the mountain;

That the tentative moment when I am sliding off the rocky overhang because I’ve worn the wrong footwear and it doesn’t give me a toehold on the slippery trail and I have spotted the bear, has arrived, and I no longer care where this goes;

That before the bear arrived to trek to the other side of the mountain I was perfectly happy with my grilled shrimp, barbecued trout, ripe plums and Prosecco, singing to the trees ‘The Bear went over the mountain, O/Oh the bear went over the mountain, O/Oh, the bear went over the mountain, To See What It Could See, To See—;”

That the bear is the hungriest creature imaginable when on the other side of the mountain, if stoked, especially if sweet-smelling fishy odors interfere with his olfactory observations;

That it is a universally accepted fact that bears do not have the ability to make political decisions but attack when their libido is stepped up and the backdrop is a steep lonely descent down the mountain on the other side;

That the bear in his eagerness to please himself evaluates his chances of success faster than I can squirm out of a meet-the-bear-face-to-face challenge;

That the mounting pressure from the bear makes me seriously re-think my life and the friendly everyday gestures of hugs, squeezes, air kisses, dainty crushes, empty, fake, true or otherwise;

That death rattles and soft prayers whispered to the fir trees or poetry to the winds and the clouds do not work as expected, when one is caught on the other side of the mountain, however hard one grimaces or growls;

That I developed a healthy respect for all of God’s creatures, animals, nature, the universe, especially bears, after my mind dreamed up all the possible thought-provoking bear encounters ever recorded in animal planet history, most of which ended painfully;

That Mr. Grizzly must always be accorded the full benefit of the doubt when one is nose to toe with a curious bear over the mountain, through no fault of one’s own, although one’s universe is basically ended, but the erstwhile bear does not know this;

That in the rush to hostilities one can hear one’s bones crunch into banana splits in the pivotal popping crush of a good bear hug and if one leaks any more bodily fluids in the tall grasses there would not be much of one left anyway except loose skin in tank top and shorts;

That the funny looking ball of dark brown twine wrapped around my fingers is not twine at all but tufts of animal fur;

That behind their tiny gumball eyes bears can actually think like a human and given that generic ability can live in human society with the rest of us;

That existential dread aside, the idiotic notion that I have enough resources to win an encounter with a bear bespeaks my own stupidity in following the bear to the other side of the mountain;

That the encounter could end disastrously anyhow even were I to be suitably equipped, which I am not,  in combat gear and adequate tactics and five alarm fire distancing recourse to off-set the terrible bear attack on the other side of the mountain;

That modern analysis of current bears on both sides of the mountain place greater emphasis on what the bear saw and learned from his experiences, than mine, which says a great deal about our indifferent universe, however absurd;

That the sardonic rictus of a smile the bear wears when he comes in close proximity to my face, leaking wetness and satisfying growls, isn’t his expression of frozen joy at having found a tasty morsel but his excitement of the view on the other side of the mountain, and the view is expansive;

That I don’t look happy when he shakes my head like a rag doll but it is what I would feel hours later when I can look in the mirror is what I am trying my damnedest not to remember, a Confucius conundrum; 

That all bear movies, including Grizzly I once saw in my youth, have taught me nothing, or maybe something but not everything;

That all humans have animal instincts which suggest not all soulful hairy beasts are bears, or maybe some who wear fuzzy brown torsos to pretend human existence, but those that are and have gone over the mountain might very well be the next Camus or Poe or hula dancer or President of a country looking for bears to lead them;

That my frantic soul aside, what could the bear have possibly decided it could see on the other side that wasn’t clearer on this side?

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