Seeking the Black Bear

BlackBearA few months back, a publication I admire reached out on social media for stories of unconventional women- those of us who, whether intended or not, just haven’t been able to find our way to and through life’s established tracks. Trouble with work, with landing a career and staying with it. Money fleeting and never sticking, we beg for scraps. Partners coming and going but never staying around. Dreams of children, or perhaps just one child, that fly into our minds like a plan, a real plan that migrates into our hearts, materializing as hope.

But ultimately unrealized, unattained, this hope too is vanished, finally, by the cruel clock that started ticking at the improbable age of, say, 14, when no girl is ready to have a child. It finally stopped at the equally improbable age of 43, when the woman’s chance of natural conception (per Kindbody) is reduced to the exact and inarguable figure of zero. No chance. Nothing. Zero. So that, too, has ended, which can often feel like another way of saying that the future is over. Perhaps it is. You are the last of your kind, singing your own dirge as you go.

I’ve spent so much time wondering about timelines, about being “on track”, and grappling with my anger, together with my own frank and unabashed jealousy of all those who seem to have found their way, one way or another, seemingly along a track of happiness and success. What are the factors that determine who gets to go one direction, and who must go another?

The other day I asked this question to someone I love dearly. He told me the coldest, most honest truth and I love him even more for that: “It’s all just luck,” he said. What do we do with the fact that luck is indifferent, that truth doesn’t care? The truth is cold and I want to love that too, to be bold and courageous. But the last thing a cold truth wants is company. Cold truths just want to be left alone.

I would love to sit down with all the fellow animals who know what I mean, who live those strenuously unconventional lives of cold, cold truth. I think of and invite the black bear. When she gives birth, she generally has twins or triplets. But sometimes she gives birth to just one. Then she regards her one cub, still mucus-covered and saturated in blood, before walking away. She abandons it. Raising one baby just isn’t worth her effort, it appears. This has been observed again and again, a hallmark of that ruthless black bear and whatever her calculations, her assessment and conclusion. The cub will starve or freeze to death within two days.

I would like to interview the coldest of the cold black bears. I would learn so much from them. I would listen to their logic, so ruthless and free. I would marvel at their easy release of just one of the many things I will not have but still pine for. Look how casually she walks away. Observe her freedom and her sense of choice. To be nonchalant in the face of monumental decision is a kind of wealth. So the black bear has that too- a long and indifferent fertility, unburdened by nostalgia and guilt, which she has burnished to a gilded, high wealth. The black bear is supreme.

I think it is unlikely we come back to this or any life. We live now and fleetingly, in this form, until the permanent death. All we have is our one, wild life as allowed at birth which, for me, is a straight, white, female. I don’t know if there was a chance to weigh in on this decision, if I had any say in my manifestation. If so, the choice is wisely stricken from our minds by the Brillo pad of the birth canal.

If I had had any say, however, I would not be a straight white female. I would be a large, ruthlessly large, and utterly indifferent black bear. I roam in my wild and free way, unencumbered, unsentimental, able to leave at any time. I will not be questioned and I will not be held back, for the other animals know and understand, nod and are reminded: Ah, yes, there goes the black bear. She is at her liberty, indulges no sentimentality, takes her leave, and is free. Observe her indifference for that, too, is a form of freedom. She is utterly within and beholden only and ever to her will. Yes, she is free.

Here is the story of my current freedom, as well as that of two other women recently profiled on the site Man Repeller. I wish I could know their true animal selves, too. I wish I could meet them again, not in a boardroom but in the rolling, open tundra of our truest beings, our respective fights for survival. Would those fights really be that different from the ones we are in now?

I would like to try. I dream about the chance. But, in the morning, I wake with a pain I can only and most closely describe as disappointment. I am not a black bear. I am not a black bear. Still, I am not a black bear. When and how do I become a black bear? I am seeking the path of the black bear. Black bear. Black bear. Carefully searching for the black bear. Carefully, and with a hope I had formerly applied to other endeavors– more conventional endeavors– I hope now only to become the black bear. Black bear. Black bear. You are so indifferent, so wealthy, so free.

Letting the whole world go

BEACHThe beach at five in the morning was deserted. Sometimes another surfer went by, lean and heading for the water. A red flag with a scull and crossbones marked the “No swimming” area. I hiked up my board and walked out , deep enough, pushed forward and was on. I began to paddle. Smaller waves came in. I met them at the nose, pushed up and then crested. They rolled on behind me.

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