“Inspired by Bear Cam” Written Submissions
This is an archive of the 2020 written submissions for the “Inspired by Bear Cam” contest. Please enjoy these creative pieces by your talented fellow Bear Cam-watchers! If your written submission was sent as an image file, it will be featured in the Bear Cam Artwork Gallery.
Office Mates, by David Hazard
Staggering to my office, fresh out of bed, I look around to see if any of my office mates are in. My fivefoot commute is surprisingly painful, lumbering from bed to desk, but without the excuse of twenty-five odd years spent battling the likes of 856 and 747 for the best desk. Lefty is there to greet me, up on the lip, already hard at work. The boss, 856, saunters in. I avoid his gaze, don’t want him to catch me slacking. My pal Otis is working the swing recently.
I spend most of my time in the office these days. It now doubles as my bedroom. I’m supposed to be writing a dissertation, but salmon is on my mind—such a bounty today. I feel the urgency. I must fatten it up with enough words to finish before winter, or I’ll be left out in the cold. I see Lefty’s belly, 856’s bulk, and Holly’s evermore glorious rolls and realize I’m falling behind. I pine for all the salmon out of reach this year. One hits me in the face then disappears. How does Lefty make it look so easy? 856 tells 503 who’s boss. 483 and 747 are on a date. My office mates are quite active today. I’m getting an MRI on my back; I wish I had the boss’ healing powers. In the belly of the machine, I wonder what Otis is up to. Back in the office. Who’s the new guy? The boss doesn’t look happy with him. I check with my office mates in the chat to find out.
Otis arrives. Professor Otis is a world renown expert in energy conservation. His seminal work, “The Red Revolution: Salmon Revitalization and Smarter Energy” has him up for a Smokey Prize this year. I watch him closely, staring at the fish, not moving, somehow one just ends up in his mouth. I begin writing, somehow a paragraph appears. I study Otis’ slow and steady approach. Stay calm, catch one fish at a time. When you’re full, nap and digest. Then back to the office for more. A bear sits to my left, a fellow office exile sends me well wishes over the phone, Otis catches another fish. Surrounded by my good office mates, I know everything will be ok. Next year, I will reach the salmon, just like my office mates at Katmai this year.
Grazer Comes to Visit, by Barbara
Some of you may know Grazer was staying the winter with me in California. A while ago I posted some details of what happened on the first morning, but I didn’t include the remainder of our day as the trauma was still too fresh or maybe for legal reasons. For those who missed it, I will start at the beginning.
I see now that not teaching her any human aware behavior guidelines was a fairly serious oversight on my part.
One of my neighbors took it upon himself to call 911 (I made a mental note to disinvite him to my annual Fourth of July party) despite the mailman having just a few scratches and only one bite. But nothing was missing. He still had 10 fingers and 10 toes, and you know, it was still there. Then in a bid to drum up sympathy, he lay there dramatically clutching his chest. So up the street came the paramedic firemen in their big red engine. Ugh! Compounding my bad luck our neighborhood firehouse has the designation Ladder 747. Well, Grazer took one steely look… All I will say is thank goodness firemen are made of sturdier stuff than mailmen. And being paramedics, they tended their own not insignificant wounds.
After the stress of the day we were relaxing on the patio with a glass of tea for me and a salmon slurpy for Grazer while watching the kids next door play in their grandparent’s pool. Suddenly, and everything with Grazer does begin suddenly, she drew a bead on the neighbor’s dachshund which she mistook for a river otter. Bam! She was over that fence like nobody’s business for a tasty treat. Terrified, I watched it unfold between two fingers. Luckily, carnage was narrowly averted. I can’t say how, it was all a blur of screaming and growling as fur and water wings went flying. Lester and Gladys yelled at me to keep my dog on a leash if I couldn’t control it or they would be forced to call Animal Control. In my version of a bluff charge, I threatened a call to my attorney because their seven-foot-tall fence was irresponsibly low.
Note to self: Flowers and card to the hospital (cardiac unit), cookies to Ladder 747, and a pair of eyeglasses each to Lester and Gladys—after Grazer leaves.
P.S. Having built up a healthy tolerance to Xanax, I finally admitted defeat. While navigating a verbal minefield and avoiding eye contact, I suggested to Grazer that she might like to visit another friend. To my relief she agreed and left that very day. I heard she and the cubs turned up like a bad penny at Lefty’s mother’s place, who lives in a trailer park in Florida. His mother started carrying bear spray in her apron and Lefty developed such a bad case of nerves he made tracks for Alaska and actually dug a den. Tragic.
719, The Glue Between Bears, by Birgitt
The Glue Between Bears is your secret name, the one that embodies your role at Brooks River, one the other bears have not heard, and yet they have felt its power and will continue to through your friends and your cubs for years to come.
You were born in 2014, the seemingly ordinary single cub of a very focused mother, 435 Holly. You followed her tenaciously in her relentless search for food, chasing birds and playing where you could. Then, that August, in a place people call Margot Creek, you met another cub, one without a mother. Were you curious, looking to play? Was he? The meeting would prove momentous for all the bears at Brooks River. At the time, you were each just happy to have a playmate, he having lost siblings and you not having any.
You weren’t always delighted when your new brother 503 submerged you in the river or pinned you to the shore, but you were brave and game. And when he would leave your mother’s side, walking out to meet 132’s three spring cubs, you were there at his hip, curious about these new baby bears. You even wanted to meet your brother’s playmate 151 Walker, although he was all grown up. As long as you had your mom and your big brother, you knew you were safe. And the following summer, as a yearling, the three of you roamed Brooks Falls forming an imposing unit, as you searched for fish in that place full of big boars.
So it was a big surprise when, in your third spring, your mother suddenly didn’t want you around anymore and chased you both off rather violently. You tried to stick with 503, but sometimes you found yourself alone and very small in a big world. You were a very clever little bear though and hatched your own plan. 402 smelled like your brother, she was big and went where she wanted with her yearlings, 811 and 812. And so you started following her around. She wasn’t so amused by your plan, but her cubs liked you – especially when you shared your fish with them – and 402 gave you access to the falls and protection from all the bigger bears. You think she should have given you credit for babysitting and for making her family unit even more impressive, but oh well!
The following summer, when 811 and 812 were kicked out by 402, you were there for them, playing with them and keeping them company. You also began spending lots of time with 503 up at the falls that August and September. Mostly you stayed with your brother and 132’s girl, but you were bold and brave and so one day you found yourself alone in the far pool with 68 and then you had to stand up for yourself when the big bully objected to your splashing him. You were undeterred and continued to frequent the falls, playing with 503 and 806 and fending off 708 Amelia and her Looters to keep your fish.
In 2018, your former charge, your brother’s brother, 812 was ready to try his hand at the falls. But only if you went with him. (Well, at least at first.) The two of you took over the far pool, keeping an eye out for danger and incongruously sharing it with the giant 879. You both also played with 503, 821 and the subs who wandered up to the falls, following your Pied Piper brother. You were entirely capable of feeding yourself, but sometimes liked to hang out with the others – now including the Looters – waiting for 503’s scraps. There you were wholly unimpressed by the grumpy 854 Divot who liked to charge you. You had your mother’s easygoing nature, but also a streak of steel that saw you charging – and sometimes attacking – bears like Divot and 602 and Walker, carving out your own space even as a subadult.
That turned out to be a good thing. It seems that that spring, you had been up to some hanky panky with the aforementioned Walker and, um, brother 503. And then eaten everything but the kitchen sink, because the following July, you returned with two tiny spring cubs. The humans were shocked, but you weren’t. You had your mother’s famous fat gene and all the wisdom and experience of two great mother bears, Holly and 402, in your head. You kept your rambunctious boys close as you skirted lower river looking for food. It seemed to many that your social life would come to a screeching halt, but they didn’t know you. After you got your bearings, you hung out with subadults, greeted your bestie 812 at the falls and, on one fateful occasion, tried to play with 821. Alas, you had to content yourself with extended play fights with your boys that summer.
This summer though… Well you are continuing to carve out your own place at Brooks River and to rewrite the rules for mother bears. Your boys have grown large and they have your calm demeanor among the throngs of subadults and other families on the lower river. And you calmly walk with them among those throngs and sometimes visit with your old friends, finding your own path of protecting your cubs while socializing with other bears. The other night, we were privileged to watch you and your close friend 812 take a few minutes to play together in the river. Your cubs too are making friends with subadults and other cubs.
What seemed so bold when you and 503 tried it has become commonplace at Brooks River and the two of you are at least partly responsible for the change. And while the humans marvel at your brother’s friendly and generous nature, you are the one who is leading the change in the world of sows, cubs and subadults. You are the glue between bears, creating relationships that will continue into adulthood and ripple outwards through your friends and your cubs as they grow up. And you surely have a great deal more to teach us.
Ode to Otis, by Naturalista1
Bear waits in stillness
Hypnotic Patient Hungry
Salmon leap straight up
Back down to wild river froth
Caught! By skillful paws!
He is…..Zen Master Otis
Bear Life, by Megan Sorbo
The salmon are running.
The feast begins.
To Katmai’s brown bears, nothing is better than the salmon run. The bears have been eating grass, a few dandelions, maybe some mussels, and a rock eel or two. But salmon… this is what they’ve been waiting for! Now they can start hyperphagia! Hyperphagia is the stage before hibernation, where the bears eat as much as possible. They gobble up as many salmon as they can catch to put on weight for the long, dark, Alaska winter nap to dream about hyperphagia. Ask any bear what their favorite thing to do is, and they’ll tell you, “Hyperphagia!”
This is the life of an average Katmai bear.
But not all of these bears are the average bear….
“Mom’s got a fish! Two-Tone, Ashclaw, come on!” called Silver excitedly. Two-Tone snuffled sleepily through his paws, “I like coho salmon.”
Ashclaw swatted Two-Tone with her paw, then she bounded over to Silver, her blonde paws sinking into the smallish island’s sand. Ashclaw and Two-Tone both looked like a miniature of their mother Goldi- blonde in the front, brown in the back. Silver had a white coat, fully white, like a cloud in a sunny afternoon sky.
“Come on, Lazybear! It’s one of the last days that the sockeye will be here, and no coho are here… yet!” Ashclaw prodded. She was always positive. Two-Tone was always sleepy. Silver was usually somewhere in between. Two-Tone kept his blonde paw over his face. Ashclaw and Silver shared a look and rolled their eyes.
Silver sighed and said, “Oh, well, I guess that Two-Tone won’t get any salmon. How sad.” Two-Tone’s paw came off of his face and one of his dark brown eyes opened.
“Yeah, and sockeye salmon taste really good!” added Ashclaw. “Speaking of which, there won’t be any left for us!”
Silver and Ashclaw raced into the blue river, followed by Two-Tone. Goldi was licking fish blood off of her paws. All three cubs groaned.
A brown bear mother will share her food with her cubs, but won’t bring it to them. The cubs have to take their share. And if they aren’t there in time to get it… then too bad!
Goldi kept her cubs well-fed, although right now they were convinced that they were starving. She looked at the three cubs, sighed, and stuck her head underwater. The reflection of a snow-capped mountain peak was right above her. Dismayed, the two brothers and sister headed back to the island.
Goldi’s favorite fishing method was snorkeling, which was sticking her head underwater and walking or swimming around until she caught a fish- like now! Goldi’s head popped up, and in her large front paws she held a red sockeye salmon. If she hadn’t had her three cubs, she would have been at Brooks Falls, which was not far upriver. But it was too dangerous for them there, with big bears that might like to eat Silver, Ashclaw, and Two-Tone. Most of the bears probably wouldn’t try to eat the cubs, but Goldi wasn’t taking any chances. Besides, the wide channel was a good fishing spot. It opened up to Lake Naknek, which salmon swim from to get to Lake Brooks.
Silver nudged Ashclaw with his pale shoulder and raced into the river, water flying in his wake. Ashclaw and Two-Tone followed. Silver ripped off a piece of salmon skin as Goldi snapped off the tail. Ashclaw ripped into part beneath the gills, and Two-Tone bit into the head, grinding the skull as Silver loudly crunched the ribs. Between the three ravenous cubs and the hungry mother bear, that salmon was gone in approximately fifty-six seconds.
There were countless salmon around. Water glistened in Silver’s coat as Two-Tone and Ashclaw paddled to shore and Goldi snorkeled off, but he stayed in the blue water as fish parted around him, heading to their spawning grounds to lay their eggs- and then die. The mountains far above him caught his eye, and he turned to gaze at them. Somewhere up in those mountains, he knew there was a den, waiting until after hyperphagia to shelter his family from the freezing winter while they hibernated.
A gull squawked and pecked at the golden sand to see if there were any leftover salmon bits around. Gleefully, Ashclaw and Two-Tone chased the gull. The many multicolored salmon rocketed out of Silver’s way as he sped to shore to join his siblings. Together, the cubs bounded across the beach in the joy of being a bear.
I Am Not Perfect, by 719 aka Princess, by Ratna Narayan
My name is “Princess” 719 and I am 6.5 years old. I have 2 sons both just over a year old. My mother is the famous “Holly”. I learned everything I know about being a mom from her and also from 402 who I followed around after I was emancipated. I am grateful and appreciative of them, but I am not them. I am me! Over the last few weeks there have been some comments about my actions and how I must get my “priorities straight”. Some hooman said “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”. I hope this piece will help you understand me and like me for who I am 😊
I ran into my mother and her new coy on the LR ( she is such a chunky monkey). She actually stood on a branch as we passed and squeaked “ Your name may be princess, but I am the REAL Princess”. The brat, she mock charged us! The boys have heard so much about Holly and all she has done especially with 503. I would have loved for her to have met the boys, for her to have told me she was proud of me. None of that happened. We walked past each other as strangers. I wonder if she ever thinks of me and the fun we used to have?
Emancipation for a bear cub is traumatic, you go from being loved and protected by your mother to being all alone, having to fend for yourself. Brooks Falls is a scary place for newly emancipated cubs. There are enormously big boars like 856, 747, Popeye and Chunky. Then there is 68 (the Kylo Ren of BF, be still my beating heart) and ObnoxWalker, my brother’s friend, ugh I can’t stand him, maybe he is starting all these rumors about me! I have so many memories of BF with my brother 503, how he saved me from getting pushed over the falls by 780 and the looter cubs, of how I yanked 602 off balance in the office and he toppled on his back, sharing fish 503 caught in the J with me and Slobby (812), play fighting with them and Lipfisher 806, her coy is such a firecracker!!! She too is taking some flak as a new mother in letting other bears get too close to her cub and herself.
Does being a mother in the bear world mean I must forget and distance myself from any relationships I previously had? Is that even possible? Two days back as I was on LR with my sons, when Slobby (812, he slobbers and is so messy) passed us. He has grown so big, and when he stopped and smiled my heart overflowed and without a thought, I went to him . He is still such a Slobby! My mind raced with memories of me and Slobby playing at BF, sharing fish, teasing him and I held him close. My boys were watching, wide eyed. I know they were a little scared and worried that Slobby was such a big bear and that I might desert them. I hugged Slobby as long as I could then shooed him away to attend to my sons. My boys are a handful and are very precious to me. My heart goes out to 803 who lost her coy. I will teach my sons to depend on each other and form strong bonds with others! You can never have too many friends! Maybe one day my boys will meet 503 and 812 and 806 and make friends with her coy and the chunky monkey too!
Katmai Haiku, by Joanne Martin
Otis is in his office
While we work from home
Ten Things I Learned While Watching the Bear Cam, by Catherine Hanna (clovehanna)
- Big is beautiful. Holly and 747 taught me a lesson that hundreds of Instagram influencers couldn’t. Life is too short to skip the salmon skin. There are reasons in life to be big and strong. Spending all your time striving to take up less space can be counter-productive!
- Patience is a virtue. In this life, it’s easy to get distracted. Otis has taught me that multi-tasking is not necessarily the way to success. Pick a project – possibly your project is catching a salmon, but it could be writing a brief – and just focus. Conserve your energy. Stare at the water (page) long enough and eventually the salmon (great idea) will come to you. Then you can take a well-deserved nap!
- Take a nap when you need it. Yep, that lesson was from Otis again. Sometimes, you just need to close your eyes and catch some Zzzzs. Will people point and laugh? Maybe. Or they just might think you’re adorable.
- Sharing is caring. What, you ask? Bears don’t share! But sometimes they do. Mama bears share with their cubs. Emancipated siblings share with each other. And even the big boars will let the bulk of the salmon float down the river, available to sustain all the smaller, younger bears. There are times in your life when you’re living large on the lip and at other times, you’re fishing for scraps at the oxbow. It’s good to make sure there’s enough to go around.
- Pick your battles. Yes, Otis again. You can’t fight every battle. Sometimes the best move is to back out of the Office and live to fish another day.
- Find the joy. People can talk about work-life balance all they want, but it is inevitable that work bleeds into what people call “real life.” Why not make it fun? Take a page from 503’s book and splash a little!
- Bad things happen and you will survive them. I watched this year as a mama bear lost a cub. It was heart-wrenching. I don’t think it is too anthropomorphic to say that the sow was experiencing trauma and grief not unlike emotions that some human parents tragically experience. In the words of Angelica Schuyler (obligatory Hamilton reference), she was “living through the unimaginable.” But as hard as it was to watch her grief, the cameras later showed that same mama bear nursing her two remaining cubs. Life goes on and so does she.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. This year it has been a treat to watch my favorite fat bear Holly parent a cub with the most amazing chill attitude I’ve ever seen. I wish I had been so relaxed when my kids were young. Still, I find myself wondering whether Holly will be quite so calm when her little cub goes through its inevitable adolescent goth phase. Hot Topic is no joke, Holly!
- Procrastination can be your friend. Since the cams went live this year, I’ve found myself spending long swathes of time not getting my work done while I switch between the various webcams. I watch Lefty on the lip, waiting to see him catch that fish. I watch the Lower River to see cubs cavorting and sometimes find myself holding my breath for long minutes as I worry about that tiny cub climbing higher and higher up a tree. (Why am I worried? Holly’s sure not.) I watch the Underwater Cam for a while and make snarky comments to the fish. Then I suddenly realize the four hours I needed to finish my work project has evaporated into the Alaskan mist. That brief I thought would take four hours to write had to get pounded out in the half and hour I had left. And it was fine!
- Life is beautiful. 2020 has been a bit of a dumpster fire. Seeing the wild beauty of Alaska and watching these majestic creatures in their natural habitat has been a balm for my soul and experiencing (vicariously, I’m a bit of a lurker) the community of my fellow bear-watchers in the comments section gives me hope for a brighter tomorrow. Like Otis, I will survive.
The Fall Off the Falls, by Krista Keefer (Lily)
“Hurry up darlings, we mustn’t dawdle!” I called to my three energetic, playful bear cubs, Peanut, Hazelnut and Chestnut. I paused, looking over my shoulder to make sure they were still following me. But instead, they were playing a few feet behind me with a stick they had found. So much for getting to the Falls on time. I groaned, “Come on you three, there might be tons of salmon right now. We might miss out if you guys keep getting distracted.” I watched as my babies reluctantly abandoned the stick and joined me.
We trudged through the vast forest, climbing over rocks and fallen logs. I remembered my first-time in this wonderous forest as a small spring cub with my mom. It truly was a blessing to be able to share the beauty of the forest with my cubs as well.
When we finally arrived at the top of the falls, I warned my cubs to stay on land, where they would be safe from the strong current. They seemed to understand, so I went to claim my spot at the lip of the falls.
A few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Peanut, the smallest of my cubs struggling against the current, threatening to throw her over the waterfall. My stomach growled, Just catch a fish first, said my hungry bear self. However, my stronger mama bear side thoughts were different, forget the salmon, your baby is in danger! But mama bear mode kicked in as soon as I saw Chestnut tumble off the falls, swept away by the current. Soon, Hazelnut was thrown off too. My thoughts of salmon completely forgotten, I took one quick glance at Peanut, still struggling against the current. I abandoned my spot by the lip, climbed down some rocks to the lower part of the falls and raced over to Hazelnut and Chestnut, where they were being brought to the shore of a small secluded island away from the falls. “Are you two ok? I told you guys to stay on land, you two could have been swept away or drowned or…” I began to ramble other scenarios, but then I remembered, Peanut! I turned around just in time to see Peanut, who must have fallen off too, being carried towards us. All of us were shaken by the experience, as we climbed up on the island.
On our way home, the cubs apologized over and over again. “We’re sorry mama, we got distracted by something in the water.” I smiled, “All is forgiven. But see what happens when you get distracted. Let’s go home.” No one answered. I turned around, and there they were, poking at a bug.
Villanelle for the Bears at Brooks Falls, 2020, by Kayla Soyer-Stein
When I tire of the world within these walls
There’s one thing that can always get me through:
To see the brown bears fishing at Brooks Falls.
The sound of rushing water and gulls’ calls
Transport me from the city’s sweaty stew
When I tire of the world within these walls.
In the cold stream a fuzzy bather lolls,
Her mouth a trap for fish to jump into.
To be a brown bear fishing at Brooks Falls!
A wolf appears and really has some balls
To compete with this steady ursine crew.
When I tire of the world within these walls,
Why mourn museums’ still and stuffy halls
Or brave the germy masses at the zoo?
Give me the brown bears fishing at Brooks Falls.
When spread of the coronavirus stalls,
And life and travel plans begin anew,
I will escape the world within these walls
To see the brown bears fishing at Brooks Falls.
A bit about me, Cub 1, 2, 3, by M and C Cail
When I first came to Be
There was the comforting smell of dried grass,
Well packed dirt, leaves,
and the low murmurs from Mummy.
When I first met Bears
There were lots of Us’s
and You and Me’s,
And big Mum’s and Dads,
and Ranger Naomi.
When I first came to the River,
I spent a lot of time up a tree,
So much so, that my nickname was 1, 2, 3.
1 – halfway up a tree
2 – nearing the middle,
3 – I’m at the top of the tree!
When I first learned Water
it was where my mum caught her Fish
(Sockeye and Chum).
Mum swam here and there chasing fish,
As for me, I just swum behind her
learning all the tricks.
Diving deep, snorkelling, bobbing around,
and scooping up with a swish
and a flourish,
We ate our Fish.
When I first came back to the Den
that lies in a forested glen,
At the end
of my First Year
I am bigger
I have nothing to fear,
There’s NOTHING that compares
to being a BEAR.
HAIKU ENTRIES, by Kim Sowles
Snapshot in Time
Humpty Dumpty strolls
Big Chunk takes a rolling spin
oh unlucky fish
Lower River Sunrise late July
Golden orb at dawn
Burns warmth in the bleak new day
Melts my sleepy heart
Early Morning Brooks Falls
Sparkly light on falls
Dark bear crashes through the froth
Diamonds in the rough
Snapshot in Time (subtle Yankee commentary)
Optional Mask Use?
Ranger Naomi wears one!
Thanks, those who did not…
And finally, a shameless pitch Haiku:
Scheming of a plan
Coveting a Brooks Falls Mug
Damn, I wish to win!
First time viewer, lifetime fan, by Jacquelyn Kovach
My oh my the bears of Katmai
the birds and the fish
all make me wish
for their good
Cause Naomi and Mike
there’s been a big spike
in my bear nerdiness
With my sisters I share
newfound love for each bear
Of course I took notice
of Zenlike boy Otis
803 broke our hearts
and life moved forward
Too many to mention
I’m paying attention
all throughout the day
over coffee, on break, and as evening draws near
the comments i read from community dear
But a pebble is being tossed
and Heaven will surely be lost
a pebble has a ripple effect
pipelines and roads will intersect
Perfection needs protection
Let us preserve wild spaces
For those beautiful faces
wolves, boars, sows, coy, cubs, subs
fish and fish and fish and fish
All they require from us is to do
as Teddy Roosevelt said of the Grand Canyon
“Let this great wonder of Nature remain as it now is” he declared “you cannot improve on it”
*This poem is dedicated to all the Camera Ops @ Katmai and the entire NPS Staff for their dedication and generosity of mind, heart, and knowledge of this magnificent place
Ode to the Park Rangers, by KJ
a Ranger climbed the mountain
a Ranger cleaned the cams
a Ranger helped save a young sow’s life
a Ranger retrieved the dead
a Ranger called a play-by-play
a Ranger cared for the land
a Ranger kept visitors safe in the park
a Ranger broke up a bear jam
a Ranger monitored bears while sitting in a chair
a Ranger taught bear safety
a Ranger described the bear hierarchy
a Ranger shot darts for a study
a Ranger praised the ecosystem
a Ranger admired nature
a Ranger explained the ecology
a Ranger encouraged the people
a Ranger closed Brooks Camp and bid adieu to thee
For all that you share with us, and all that you do, I gratefully say thank you!!
Inspired by Bear Cam, by billsraiders
My story begins 5 years ago when I first came across the bear cams. I immediately was hooked and dreamed about a trip to Alaska. A little back story on myself I was previously married twice before and was involved in a serious relationship with Donna at the time. We had a great thing going and I was reluctant to jeopardize it by a ceremony, but she had other thoughts. One night over dinner talk of a wedding came up and I became slightly more interested when the thought of an Alaskan wedding came up. At that point she said why don’t we get married on the bear platform. I went crazy and for the first time was really excited for the wedding. That night I emailed the NPS to see if it was possible and it was. I started to make plans for the entire thing and then my dreams were dashed when she said she was kidding and scared to go but now was committed to the wedding so there was no backing out. She won.
We had a very private ceremony, officiated by great friends that were celebrating their 20th, in Denali with a bear picture as a background. While not the dream it was pretty close. I did have plans to go back to see the bears this year with that same friend and our sons this year but it has been postponed till next year.
Anyway, I am about to celebrate our 3rd anniversary and couldn’t be happier. I am sure that at some point we would have had the ceremony anyway but thanks to the bear cams for speeding up the process. Without them it would not have happened in Alaska and certainly not as quickly.
I love her and love the bears, although she sometimes questions the order.
Summer Bears at Katmai, by Tain Leonard-Peck
Shadow in ochre mother’s
power, frolic fat cubs, inured to cold.
Forest’s king, river’s lord,
feared, fascinating, and adored.
Bear Watching in Katmai National Park, by Terri Kirby Erickson
Always, there is the cry of gulls, the whistling
of eagles, and the sound of river water rushing
over rocks in the place where sockeye salmon
swim upstream. They jump high into the air like
corn popping in a hot pan, their silvery bodies
glinting like mirrors. No wonder hungry brown
bears heave their enormous, furry haunches out
of the long grass, mumbling and huffing as they
make their way to the rapids—all vying for the
best spots. Once they get there, the bears lower
their massive heads and wait for fish to swim by—
their claws like hooks made to pierce a salmon’s
tasty, neon-pink flesh. Over and over again, they
pounce and puncture their unlucky prey, tearing
strips of meat from a fish’s bones and woe to any
bear that tries to steal their catch or claim their
place. Then, snout and belly dripping, stomachs
full, they climb the steep bank and find a shady
place to nap and dream of fish and more fish,
their silver scales shining in the midday sun.
Katmai (tune: Country Roads), by Karen Fong
Melody by John Denver Verse Chorus lyrics by Karen Fong Bridge lyrics by Jeff Wilkinson © Karen Fong 2018
Katmai, there’s so much to see, High on Dumpling Mountain to Brooks River running free. Life is old here, more than you and me, Living together in perfect harmony.
Let it be, there special place, Roaming free in their own space, Don’t destroy it, just enjoy it, Let them live in harmony.
I see the sunlight shining softly through the trees, Shining down on me, Its true science is telling me, to be free, to be free.
See the sockeye, returning from the sea, End of their journey to their natal stream. Swimming swiftly up the river bed, Ready to spawn, so new life can begin.
Let it be, their special place, Roaming free in their own space, Don’t destroy it, just enjoy it, Let them live in harmony.
Katmai’s brown bears roaming everywhere, Searching for food, before they dig their den. At the falls fishing patiently, High-grading salmon, very expertly.
The birds are something else to see, Loons and mergansers fishing leisurely. In the sky cruising with the wind, Eagles, hawks, and osprey spread their soaring wings.
CHORUS: Let it be, their special place, Roaming free in their own space, Don’t destroy it, just enjoy it, Let them live in harmony.
White Water, by Joy in HK
Mother bear alone with
cubs at riverside where fish
The drop at the falls is half
what it was. Foaming white
water where salmon and
bears collect is now
neck-deep and empty.
Much effort to brace against
the wake of the crazed,
Perhaps the rest have tired,
eaten enough, taken a
chance to hone up on
Bears will waken and return. These
spawning salmon past their peak
will not. Soon the summer run will
Rivers’ flow without end. Does
the river hibernate in the sea?
Does it rest in the deeps till it’s
time to rise again?
Will the seas rise? Will bears
wake in winter dark? Will the
ice melt? Will the Pacific
circle of salmon come round
Will we know when we’ve
seen the last one?
Will we wake up
Poems for Otis and Walker, by Matthew Chamberlin
Walker, did you dream
this river? White
foam like a bed,
the bear-shaped rocks
and always-sudden pouring
rush that lulls
and wakens all at once.
I think so, I’ve seen
you drowsy, propped
against a mossy pillow.
The water pulls
you to itself,
flows lazily down granite stairs
and whispers secrets
to the gulls who scream
at you from stony chairs.
Along the banks the spruce-thrown
shadows grow and lengthen.
Then: just as languor
seems to set, it’s shaken loose.
You rouse, ears twitch
and muzzle raises, gaze
swings round–slow ramble from
gaining speed and catlike pounce
across the falls as
with each bound
you clap your paws
and root with snapping jaws
among the shallows.
Otis, when I watch you fish
there is so much
to admire. I don’t just mean
how big you’ve gotten. Along with
salmon by the bushel
you acquire hearts.
So many distant bear-besotted friends,
who’ll never reach
the scene you paint with
each broad, bushy stroke
Still I feel as though
I have done.
I’ll say I saw a master
at his task!
It has to do with soul.
Every moment’s art a piece
of something wholly wondrous–
how you seem to slowly
roll, unhurried to the office
where you bask and nod. The other bears
will lunge and splash
but you, with effortless panache
collect your due–an idle dip
of that big brown nose, a casual
alteration of your typical
repose–as with a single claw you
flip some hardy sockeye catch aloft–
but what I love the best is when
some young brash ingenue
draws near, and rashly so–
that faux pas might have cost
him dear with any other aged warrior.
But you just watch, maybe let
your jaw drift open, not to bite
but let him see
that wise and weary maw,
the canines lost in some dark
dusky hide, the scars
that glide like salmon down
your back and side.
Ode to Otis, by Lady Samantha
He sits alone in the shallows of his office
Eyes fixed on the water
His nose sniffs the air
He licks his lips at his prospects
As they float on by
He picks one up in his giant pawhand
Some salmon aren’t good enough
And he daintily lets it go
Back to square one
Eyes fixed on the water
Meditating on the patterns
The water makes on the floor of the lake
The roaring of the falls next to him
For a bit, the fish do not exist
The birds do not exist
Other bears do not exist
He is one with the world around him
Relaxed, he dozes.
When he wakes
There are gulls waiting for his scraps
Nearby, other bears have joined him
They have grizzly conversations on the fine art of fishing
He’s always willing to help
Or offer a word of sage advice
Or offer a kind word to a fellow bear
Not that he doesn’t get into arguments
For, he has that identifying scar above his eye
But nowadays he fights with raspy grizzly words
Eyes fixed on the water
Turning his head slowly as if he’s a salmon radar
And when it’s the right time
And scoops up the perfect fish!