Bear Tree

This is about a bear roaming around at night and the daytime dream of the night. The narrator is unknowingly that night bear, but existing in the reality of the daytime human.

As I walked up the dusty trail snaking my way between some giant Sequoia trees in the desolate and threadbare forest, I looked up towards the deep blue, almost black sky where sunlight danced through the gently shimmering leaves. Autumn on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada is wonderful and the peace and tranquillity is quite stunning.

Sunlight filtering through bronzed leaves against the dark sky produced a glittering yellow pattern that twinkled like Christmas tree fairy lights. The only indication I had of climbing a hillside was my tiredness and the feeling of incessant, but bearable exertion. The surrounding trees were all very similar with huge trunks of incredible proportions. The formidable General Sherman tree is the finest example of a living entity still standing in the same place as it has done for over 2500 years, the top of this enormous tree looking down from over 275ft to the ground. With its huge waist of over 100ft touching the floor, I felt extremely insignificant, yet a strange inner sense of power momentarily surged through me. I was mesmerised and shocked by what I saw next as I moved to my left to go around the massive obstacle blocking my path.

The flickering sunlight changed and suddenly a full-Moon appeared on the other side of the tree. Magical. The colour change from green and gold to shades of dark grey was so sudden that I stumbled, lost my balance and tumbled to the ground where shadows played a merry dance. I watched some insects trying to escape my gaze, but tracked them by their scent as they disappeared behind a small mound of dark grass. The musky smell of the Autumn air returned without any announcement and the dark grey earth was covered with leaves that had fluttered down from somewhere above and glistened in the bright moonlight like fragments of silver paper. A winged-creature swooped down to catch an unsuspecting night mouse and I had the very strong impression that I had just witnessed a normal event for the night. Suddenly I saw a bounding animal in the distance rushing towards me and I became instantly alert, yet I was completely unafraid.

The Black Bear stopped at the carcass of a small rabbit ready to feast on a free night meal. After a furtive glance, it completely ignored me and started to eat. Presumably, I posed no threat and peculiarly, I did not sense any panic and had only a vague feeling that I should be afraid. It was as though I was invisible in the night, but moving through my own garden. The owl stirred into action and flew up into the shadowy tree as the bear stood up to its full height of seven feet to carefully look around. Two huge clawed paws gently fell against the giant trunk almost in a caress while it growled at the star-filled night sky. After a few moments it turned away from the tree and dropped its front paws to the ground. It padded off almost silently into the shadows with just the gentle rustling of disturbed leaves.

I moved towards my right and the Moon disappeared behind the tree trunk. The Sun reappeared from the other side as the twinkling fairly light display revealed itself again. The deep blue daytime sky was almost the same colour as the bedazzling inky blackness of the night. I found myself standing with my hands pressing against the tree trunk and the sun on my face when the thought struck me like a jolt of lightning that these trees must have a haunting and fascinating history of sights seen over hundreds of years. Blackened stumps provided evidence of the many devastating fires that had occurred over the centuries caused by the forked lightning of electrical storms striking dry timber. During this immense span in time, many thousands of animals had lived and died, but each of the trees had grown into an ancient giant harbouring many witnessed secrets.

The suddenness of the attack surprised me as everything went dark, though I still had no awareness of fear. Just alertness. The shadows rushed towards me as the grunts grew louder and the crescendo of the padding paws increased to a thumping upon the ground. My heart seemed to be racing, but I still sensed no fear. The strange combination of my racing heartbeat, yet not caused by fear, was completely unknown to me and as I turned on my feet and arched my back, I fell backwards. The shadow appeared to jump over me and in the instant I hit the ground, daylight returned. The sunlight exploded in my mind as the blinding light streamed relentlessly into my eyes filling my head with the incredible pain of a thousand needles. I began to roll over and over down the hillside. I could hear the Black Bear racing towards me as I continued to roll over. Down and down. Over and over. Dark. Light. Darkness. Dazzling light. Over and over I rolled. Dark, light, darkness. Then the light remained and I felt fear. Real fear. I was terrified, but the silence was deafening and my confusion absolute. I had stopped rolling and stood up. In the distance I could plainly see the General Sherman, though no sign of a bear.

Had I imagined the chase? The night? Was it all a terrifying dream? A nightmare? Daymare? I continued my lone walk in a state of confusion into the clarity of bright sunshine, but this time down the hillside. Nervously, but very briskly.

Louis Brothnias (2008)

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