I have spent a lot of time sharing my passion as a naturalist guiding people hiking here in Alaska during the milder months of the year. This season was extraordinary in the number of bears I encountered while guiding. I had several encounters with the same mama bear and her two cubs and clearly witnessed her dramatic change. This has led me into some deep personal inquiry and soul searching.
The first time I encountered this amazing mama bear she was as laid back as a mama bear with two tiny cubs could be with hikers passing by. She had her cubs safely up the tree she was grazing beneath right next to the hiking trail. We were very respectful as we passed and she barely looked up. I asked my clients not to stop or take photos and the mama bear did not appear bothered by our intrusion walking by.
Our next meeting was many weeks later where I turned a corner and came face to face with the same mama bear perhaps 25 feet away. She immediately sent her cubs toward a tree and I immediately stopped my group behind me. The mama bear and I began very respectful and clear communication. Every bear encounter is unique and it is vital to listen. In this situation the mama looked at her cubs and then back at me to ensure I saw them and to express her intent to protect them. She began to step toward me as I in turn communicated that we were not a threat and would not proceed any further into her space. She paused and then stepped back. When she was clear that it was safe, she looked back at her cubs and called them to her. Then she slowly led then up the trail and eventually off into the woods. This encounter lasted at least 30 minutes, she visually checked in with me multiple times to ensure I kept my agreement and gave her that safe space. We never moved.
Some weeks later I heard a story of an encounter in that same area of the park where hikers were trying to pass a bear on the trail and used a hand-held road flair to scare the bear off the trail so that they could pass. Story has it that they didn’t see the cubs until after and only then realized they had separated the mama bear from her cubs. If you have ever met a mama bear you would know how fiercely she protects her cubs and how traumatic it would be for both her and her cubs to be separated in this way.
Another few weeks later I encountered this same mama bear and her two cubs again. This encounter was completely different although a very similar scenario. We turned a corner in the trail and she was with her two cubs about 20-25 feet away. This time she panicked. She sent her cubs (much larger now) up a very tiny tree and then panicked so much that she then tried to follow them up the tree but it was too small. I did my best to assure her that our intent was not to cause them harm and that we were leaving ASAP. At the same time, I was guiding my group not to panic or run but to slowly back out the way we came immediately. If anyone had turned around and ran It could have easily triggered the mama to charge me as I was in the front. She was way too big to get up the tree and she was clearly panicking and pacing. We slowly and gently left. I was heartbroken.
That experience affects me deeply. I love this land and these bears as my family and I feel their suffering as my own. What we are doing to our wilderness and Her wild ones we equally do to ourselves. Truly. There is absolutely no separation. May we comprehend this before it’s too late.
This weekend I was invited to share this story with other participants in a Sat Nam Rasayan healing workshop. Together we felt into this amazing mama bear and gently dedicated Sat Nam Rasayan healing presence and love for her. Quite honestly, I may have been affected by this offering more than that precious mama bear as it breaks my heart so wide open to feel her trauma. The trauma so many four legged and winged ones in our wild places share today. I am responsible, we are all responsible as humans interfacing with these precious wild ones in their wilderness homes. This story takes place in a designated wilderness park in Alaska. This is it, this is all the sacred wilderness we have left.
I remain humbled and in deep sincere inquiry as to the role I play in this and how I can more effectively and responsibly show up for and advocate for our precious Mother Gaia and Her sacred wilderness. It is equally our own wilderness at stake here. We are one and the same, there is no separation.
One thing we have in our reach to do right now is to vote. I am pretty much a bottom line voter, who is going to step up as fiercely as this brave mama bear and start advocating for our Beloved Mother Gaia now. We are out of time, this vote counts.
As Chief Seattle so precisely spoke: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread in it. Whatever we do the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”