Bear Adjacent

Hiking with my husband on the trails behind our house, we came upon signs that indicated we were on the lands owned by Ben Kilham, a man famous for the bear sanctuary he runs in Lyme, New Hampshire. Wait, we just stumbled onto the bear sanctuary? Why isn’t that impossible? Where’s the fence? My husband laughed. You wanna build a wall? He joked. Not a wall, no, but wouldn’t a fence keep hunters out and keep the little bears in for rehabilitation? No fence? Really? I may have started to freak out just a little bit.

Am I afraid of bears? Yes. Has any bear encounter ever given me a reason to be afraid? Absolutely not. They always run away. Always. When my husband and I bought a house in Lyme, and I learned that the property abuts the famous bear sanctuary, I thought it was wonderful, but I just assumed the bears lived behind a fence. I thought we were bear adjacent but I’ve come to realize my property is just an unofficial extension of the bear sanctuary. Bears can’t read signs, or if they can, they’ve chosen to ignore them.

A friend who lives in Chicago told me that he and his wife had just visited a bear sanctuary in Canada. He pulled out his phone to show me pictures, and what I saw was disgusting. Bears were pressing themselves to a chain-link fence eating junk food that humans were holding out on the other side. Seen this way, the very idea of a fence was nauseating. What is this? I asked. This is a bear sanctuary, my friend responded, looking pleased. No, it’s not, I said, thinking about the bears that share part of the forest with me, and how lucky I feel when I see them.

Without fail, bears show up on my birthday, June 15th. Years ago, I woke on the eve of my birthday to what sounded like a baby crying in the woods. Bears, my husband mumbled, if it bothers you, close the window. Another birthday I was sitting on our porch typing on my laptop and what I thought was a dog nosing in the bushes turned out to be a little bear. Another year, when driving back from a friend’s house on Lake Morey, we saw yet another birthday bear lumbering along down the road, and this past year, I saw three bears in the month of June, and one of them was heading down to a nearby brook on my birthday.

Bear tracks in fresh snow is pure joy. In the late fall this year a snowy owl swooped low in the dusk as a black bear crossed our field. I love imagining my neighborhood bears hibernating. What are they dreaming about? Soon the bears will wake. I hope they remember my birthday.



About the Author:
Rena J. Mosteirin is a produced playwright, poet and the author of Nick Trail’s Thumb (Kore Press, 2008), selected for the Kore Press Short Fiction Chapbook Award by Lydia Davis. Her work has been featured in the anthologies code {poems} (Barcelona: Impremta Badia, 2012), The Waiting Room Reader II (Fort Lee: Cavankerry Press/UPNE, 2013), and a wide variety of journals including PoetryCrush and Ozone Park. She is an editor at Bloodrootlit.org and an MFA candidate at Bennington.

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