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HUMOR |

BY ERIC PINDER

Chasing

Bears

BECAUSE BEARS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER

The first thing I see while driving to school on Wednesday is a fat black bear jogging up the sidewalk into town. I blink in surprise. At seven o’clock on a school day, you expect to see buses, not bears. We pass so close that the bear’s shadow touches my car. The animal grins and rushes past me toward the Big Apple convenience store, as if there’s a sale on honey and they’re about to run out. I hurry in the other direction, eager to tell my Nature Writing class. Every Wednesday we take a field trip, and I promise to show them moose and bears. I’m always optimistic that we’ll see exciting wildlife, but so far all I’ve been able to deliver are a few mosquitos, some tadpoles, and a disappointingly small garter snake. When I started teaching a college course called Nature Writing eleven years ago, the first thing I said as we walked to the edge of the deep, dark woods was, “Don’t worry, people on my field trips hardly ever get eaten by bears.” A senior arched an eyebrow. “Hardly ever?” To my surprise and disappointment, the only thing we encountered in the woods that day was litter. A damp cardboard box crumbled when I tried to pick it up. Apparently, that patch of forest was once a favorite hangout of drinkers and partyers. Shards of old beer bottles mingled with pebbles on the path. Perhaps for that reason the place was not a favorite hangout of bears. We didn’t find so much as a paw print. On later trips, the same woods yielded up beavers, bumblebees, and even box turtles, but still no bears. I hope my glimpse of one on the sidewalk this morning means our luck is about to change.

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Don’t worry, people on my field trips hardly ever get eaten by bears.

Rain is in the forecast, so I want to get outside while the sun still shines. I wait for the last student, groggy from lunch, to shuffle to his seat. He holds a fist to his face and yawns behind it, then drops his backpack in a chair with a thud. Sleepy sunlight floods through the windows. The bears may have long since awakened from hibernation, but some of the students clearly haven’t yet. The rest of the class chatters and flips through their books until I stand and make an announcement: “I saw a bear on the way to school today!” At once, every conversation stops. They all sit up straighter. Even the student by the door stops texting and looks up. A tense silence falls. Every eye is on me, and not a single person looks bored. Teachers live for such moments. My audience is eager to hear more, and all it took to get their attention was a single word: bear. Bears make stories better. They just do. Tell a story about an ordinary person or a dog running up that same sidewalk into town, and unless the dog has rabies and the person is planning to rob the store with Chekhov’s gun, no one will care. You’ll be lucky if they don’t fall asleep. Put a bear in the story instead, and suddenly you have their rapt attention. While I still have my students’ attention, and before they realize that nothing else happens in my story and start throwing rotten fruit at me (the bear shrank in my rearview mirror and disappeared when I turned the corner; the end), I read aloud a funny bear-versus-human scene from Bill Bryson’s bestseller, A Walk in the Woods. As Bryson’s book demon-

Around Concord Magazine Fall 2017  

In this issue: Great Hikes to Water, Finding Life's Balance, and the Community of Bread. Great places to eat, fun things to do, and town fai...

Around Concord Magazine Fall 2017  

In this issue: Great Hikes to Water, Finding Life's Balance, and the Community of Bread. Great places to eat, fun things to do, and town fai...

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