The other morning, after my bear encounter, my husband heard a couple roars out in our back yard. It was early, and I didn’t hear it, and he didn’t get up to look, but I think our bear–and perhaps the sow–may have been back? I find myself constantly looking outside for black bears. On Saturday I had a southern BBQ (grilling on the front balcony), and afterward–Kentucky Mules in hand–my husband and two of his friends joined me out back so I could water my plants. My husband and one of his friends are very tall–6’3″ and 6’5″. The other friend is tall as well, but not quite that tall. I figured a bear might be intimidated by them, but our friend the bear didn’t show up.

I have decided to name backyard bear Mord, from Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Borne. On one level there’s not a lot of similarity, really, between VanderMeer’s Mord and backyard Mord. The former is a biotech creation that is huge and can fly and terrorizes a ruined city in some future time when climate change and other collapse has made life very very different. My backyard Mord is smaller and of course cannot fly, as far as I know. Bears can do amazing things like run along fence tops and open doors and open refrigerators. They can roll rocks into bear traps to set them off. But my backyard Mord has become huge, in my mind, like book Mord. I am preoccupied now with bears–always checking the driveway when I get home, and the front yard, and glimpsing at the empty lot next door, full of blackberries and dense weeds taller than me, trying to notice any lumbering movement. Tonight I will be alone when I get home and I’m already half-dreading, half-looking-forward to bears in the driveway. I read a story recently about a mom in my city going out to warn her daughter about a bear that had been reported, and then the mom turned around and there was a bear in her driveway–which approached her and, though not charging, was definitely not going away, as we are told black bears will do if they are afraid of people.

So the similarity in Mords lies in the fact that backyard Mord is big in that it represents so many things, the very sobering fact that these animals are so hungry. That bears being aggressive toward people and coming into “our” habitat is very much our own doing and creation, whether it’s because people have encroached on their territories or left food waste out, against city bylaws. Bears getting used to people is not the natural way of a bear–the habituation causes lack of fear on the bear’s part and can lead to aggressiveness. So after having seen a bear in our neighborhood, there’s now an uncertainty of what to expect. Like with real Mord in the novel, I am fascinated by/awed by/terrified by/respectful of backyard Mord, who is only huge to me in a figurative sense–though the thing was bigger than me physically as well.

The city I live in is the largest city in British Columbia for bear sightings, and yet we are an almost-border city like nearby Vancouver that has a lot of people. I used to think, well it’s probably inevitable I will actually see a bear in my neighborhood but still didn’t really think I would. Now, anytime I go outside, I am hyper-aware of coming face to face with one. There are so many stories of bear activities in our city. Some are kind of funny–a bear came in through an open door when someone was taking a nap and raided the fridge. I guess it was not so funny when the resident awoke (then the bear ran out). Recently a bruin was at a soccer game nearby and had to be shot three times with tranquilizers before being removed and relocated. Last year a woman was coming home around 11:00 pm and bringing groceries inside, when a bear sleeping in her yard awoke and fake-charged her. There are some dangerous stories too–a bear dragging a child into the forest last year (up by the Coquitlam River trail where Morgan and I have run and cycled). Luckily the child was saved by several adults standing right there.

I will once again recommend Borne as something to read; as a mother and a person concerned about global warming, the story has so many things to endear me–from the wonderment and child-like personality of the creature named Borne to the psychologically thrilling story itself to the humorous personalities that VanderMeer weaves in to the overall bizarre and fascinating worlds that he builds.

By the way, VanderMeer is a very nice person and very down-to-earth. I have found that 99.99% of people I’ve had conversations with, who are working in the field of climate change and storytelling, are that way, which means that most of us think that caring about the planet and each other is a good thing. I have an interview coming up soon with another author, who I found also to be deeply engrossing and genuinely kind. I am honestly refreshed by by these pleasant, supportive people. It really does inspire my own work, which I am very committed to.

A slight aside about the physical issues that have hounded me this summer: I have another doctor’s appointment today. I think I’ll get a referral back to the cardiologist so we can check that my SVT (which an ablation fixed in 2012) isn’t starting to happen again. I have heard of instances where a second ablation had to eventually take place. It’s not an issue of heart disease or anything like that. I’ve had so many tests on my heart in the last few years, and there were no problems. On Saturday night after the BBQ I worked out by dancing, and I’ve had really good days where I can climb stairs and walk distances without my heart having those palpitations. I hope this is all just good news and that I can run within the near future. I saw a runner today on the way to work, and it made me feel happy and hopeful!

The featured image is one I took at the Atnarko River near Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. I went on a rafting tour to see grizzly bears coming up the river for salmon. If you look closely, you can see bear tracks on the riverbank.

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