He stopped and sniffed invisible messages in the air,
recognizing the telltale signs of observing watchers.
Then he heard the betraying clicks of cameras
and human voices hushed in secretive whispers
mocking the power and dignity of his bearing.
Some chuckled at the nickname ‘Friar Tuck’.
The bear resented their intrusions into his forest
and the increasing thefts of his territorial possessions.
He shifted his tremendous weight onto weary hind legs
in laboured effort to lift himself to the height
of his most threatening stance,
forepaws clawing warnings—open-mouthed
to show the teeth of his fierce pride.
He was a massive, battle-scarred male—
a combat veteran of grizzly skirmishes
who preferred the gentler moments of his life
when, in harmony with the spirit of the land,
he foraged for the offerings of the seasons.
He continually fed the hungers
of his voracious appetites,
resourcefully adding to the measure of his fat.
Fat was the burdening measure of his efforts
to succeed in facing the wilderness
of unpredictable challenges
and the long-wintered state of dormant denning.
For a brief moment his memory drifted back
to first comforting awareness
of his devoted mother
and the secure closeness of her well-hidden den.
He remembered the initiating discoveries
and memorized lessons of cub learning,
the strict discipline of the protective she-bear.
Then came roaming independence
and the instinctive spirit
that habitually called him in autumn winds
to the solitary confines of his cloistered retreats.
It was calling him even now
to stop wrestling with the world
and respond to consciousness
beyond brute force and flesh.
Yes, he must obey that call.
He humbly lowered his heavy weight,
no longer desiring to contest
these arrogant, curious creatures
who now ruled and robbed the forest he so loved.
He slowly retreated,
aching in every joint of his old body,
and wondered if he’d ever awaken
to the miracle of another Spring.
March, 1992 revised May, 2004