By Katharina Kelsey
Created as a part of the Aging Resource Center memoir-writing class.
I’m jogging on my usual route through a wooded path in the forest preserve next to our house. There’s a slight misty rain dampening forest sounds. The grass and woods are the lush green that comes to New Hampshire after the winter snows have melted and gone. My footsteps pad softly on the soft earth and moss. The route is remote, the next nearest house perhaps half a mile away. Our German Shepard, BJ, is with me leading the way as usual. Suddenly, I hear a roar coming from the left side of the trail. A black bear, hearty and healthy, tears out, straddling BJ so they are running as a unit, eight legs instead of four, eight hoofs galloping together.
Now BJ does a 180. They are both running towards me, still one eight-legged animal, a perfect rodeo act. They are half a football field away. Now a house length way, then maybe two rooms. Closer, closer. The bear spies me. She loses interest in BJ. She stands up on her hind legs, sniffs the air, toddles towards me.
“O my god,” I whisper with a huge intake of breath. But I know what to do. I remember the instructions I’d learned from the bear presentation three weeks ago.
“Don’t turn your back.”
“Make yourself big.”
I throw my arms high above my head waving, flailing.
“Make a lot of noise.”
I scream. “Ahhhhhhh!”
I’m not a screamer, but I scream with the loudest voice I know how to make.
This has absolutely no effect. The bear is still coming. I retreat. I’m pacing backwards, still flailing my arms, still screaming.
All at once she takes a step into the woods from the same left direction from which she came. Relief. Yes, she’s leaving. But she was not leaving, only looking. In less than a moment out she steps. Again she’s ambling towards me. Heart palpitations.
SCREAM…SCREAM….BIG ARMS….WAVE….WAVE…..LOOK BIG.
Now she steps into the woods. Phew. Leaving. She’s leaving. Nooooo. Here she is again, onto the trail, following, stalking. I cannot see where I’m stepping. There’s a big pile of brush on the side of the trail. I trip over it, backwards, and I’m on the ground. Heart racing, racing. I’m dead, I think. Done. Game over. Toast. And I think of the phrase I’ve heard so often, my life flashing before me.
But then, miracle of miracles she crosses the path and ambles off into the woods. I watch as she climbs up the hill. After every few steps she stops, hugs a tree, still on her hind legs, peers back at me. When she is finally out of site I run. But it’s slow motion. It feels like running through molasses. Like one of those dreams where you try to move but can’t get anywhere. I can’t breathe. I’m hyperventilating. In just a quarter mile I’m out of the woods. I catch a view of my house across the open field. Home. Safety. I’m alive. But what’s this moisture in my pants? I wet my pants! I remember. When I fell it was like a damn breaking. Not the usual stream. A bucket. All at once. I wet my pants! Scared it right out of me.
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