Not always, but sometimes in my youth I would dash out into the street against the light and as I’d hear the car horns and the inevitable shouts of “You wanna get killed?” I’d feel nothing but victory as I landed safely on the other side, my heart pounding, believing I’d gotten away with something. Which, of course, I had.
But crossing the road is an entirely different experience in the country, which is why I both was and wasn’t surprised to see a black bear crossing the road this morning as I drove back from dropping my girls off at their naturey summer camp. There is probably a better word to describe what bears do; maybe the word is “loping.” You know what I mean. There is something just so completely casual about the way bears move. Which is maybe why it didn’t seem too remarkable to me when I first noticed the bear loping across the road, but then I began to realize that it was, in fact, kind of remarkable.
I slowed down to watch the bear make it to the other side. It was a smallish bear and I decided that it was probably a female. The bear then simply stopped next to the tree she arrived at and stood facing the road. I stopped my car (I looked at her and she at me). I thought about how someone else might have wanted to take a picture at that moment of a bear that had just crossed the road and was now just hanging out on the other side. I thought this, but I did not take a picture. I simply stared and stared at the bear, wondering where she had come from and where she was going.
Then I drove off, thinking about everything that had ever crossed in front of my car over these past 12 years. I mean, there were of course the hundreds of squirrels and chipmunks that seem to spend much of their lives simply going back and forth in the world. But also there were possums, groundhogs, turkeys, deer (oh my god, the deer), ducks, geese, skunks, raccoons. I have slowed my car on more than one occasion to let a turtle slowly make its way across a hot pavement. Late at night, I have seen foxes flash across the road so fast that by the time you realize what they are they are long gone.
But that bear was something else. And I found myself thinking that I had gotten away with something again, something truly wonderful. Which, of course, I had.