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July 23, 2004
A bear chased me, Rosie said, out of breath. It chased me all the way home. She seemed pleased. A person who outruns a bear can sleep the sleep of the just at night, for sure. Clearly, your number is not yet up.

A bear came up on our porch, I remember Madeline telling me once in a conversation about camp. Madeline hated camp. But the bear on the porch was good -- a highlight. You have a bear on your porch and live to tell about it, and you've got to feel pretty good.

Shakespeare has a famous bear: good old Antigonus in The Winter's Tale is ordered by crazy King Leontes to kill the baby girl the mad king has convinced himself is not his child. But he doesn't -- he leaves the baby, and a pot of gold, where shepherds are sure to find her. And then he exits -- pursued by a bear, we are told. Bear? What bear? Where did the bear come from? Later on, someone finds him, dying -- of bear bites -- and talks to him just long enough to hear the whole sad tale about the crazy king and the wronged baby, who will grow up to participate in one of the most achingly lovely reunion and reconciliation scenes in all of English literature. The terrible plot against an innocent baby did not succeed. But a random attack by a bear did. So watch out for bears.

Novelist John Irving put a bear in all of his earlier works. I'm not sure about the more recent ones -- I haven't read them all, and the ones I have read are so engrossing, I forget to check them for bears.

And you do have to check. Bears come out of the woods and into your life, always when you do not expect a bear. Large, lumbering but somehow fleet, dangerous yet darling, attracting us but ready to rake their heavy claws across our soft bodies and kill us. Live your day-to-day life, just going along, minding your own business, but be vigilant: there might be bears. One might chase you, or come onto your porch.

Run. Lock the door. And, if you survive, be joyful. It is not yet your time.
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