When I launched the kayak from the shoreline onto Silver Bay, just outside Sitka, Alaska, I met an elderly Indian hobbling about the beach with forearm crutches making him a four legged. He said he was checking to see if the bears were still around. He said a sow and her cubs were seen earlier in the week and he wanted to make sure they were gone before he brought the children out to fish.
To watch the Indian get around was in a way like watching the bear itself amble about. He had a lot of weight to carry, but he moved with a natural ease that knew the setting, policing the grounds, thinking of the children to protect.
It was later after paddling down the bay about five miles that I actually got to see a grizzly. A blondie sow in the June estuary grass, too preoccupied to notice me, eating, roots and all. These blades of grass lush and oozing on long days of a sun that barely sets. Blondness and Greeness. Everything about this creature took in and shined back the height of summer.
Once on the trail the scat of this Solstice reaper loomed large. So fresh that none of the vernal green’s luminescence seemed lost to the convolutions of digestion. Heaps so large that my Iowa farm boy reference would have said a Belgian work horse had just plodded through. Then looking across the creek to where the bear ate, it finally decided to pay me some mind, interrupting its feeding to rare up on its hind quarters to size me up. It eventually turned and dissolved into the cover of the woods, but for a moment I beheld the mighty spark that only a vast span of wilderness can kindle.
I’m not sure whether a trip that starts with a four legged old Indian at the launch is in real time or dream time. And was the Indian looking out for bear to keep his grandchildren safe the same as the bear who turned when she saw me to protect her cubs in the woods. Gladly finding them, more or less, where she told them to stay. Her behemoth blondeness tipping over at their insistence to give them her green engorgedness, nipples geysering the afterglow of her graze before they can even begin to suck.
And the old Indian, finding no bear, returns home with a jug of milk for breakfast cereal announcing, “We will fish tomorrow!”