We didn’t notice the big male until the next day, when we saw him watching us and the cubs and the mother bear from a ridge overlooking the river. While she is as big as a house, he is as big as a freight train. The animal is monstrous, heavy, and well fed. I am thinking that males, females, and grizzly cubs don’t mix. He heads for the river in our general direction. In his own awesome way, he is an extraordinary living thing. Grizzlies need a lot of territory.
The female grizzly sees him, too, and she scampers off into the woods with her bouncing offspring. Once again, it is time to leave the river. My son and I gather our stuff, the gun, and our dog, and we go inside. From the window of the cabin (much too small for a grizzly bear to get through) we see him move like a shadow through the trees. We call him Chahash’oh, the Navajo word for shadow. He is a towering, massive, dreadful creature.
The next day, we didn’t fish. It’s dangerous enough with just the mother grizzly and her cubs around, but when you add a male grizzly into the mix you have too many carnivorous possibilities. It rained anyway. We built a fire inside. It wasn’t quite dark when the fighting of the bears commenced. It was that middle place of light caught between the morbid and the mystical. The musical and the misbehaved. The grizzlies weren’t too far from the cabin. It wasn’t something you wanted to look out the window to see. I certainly didn’t want Tommy to see. But I was in some strange way compelled to look, because I had to know, had to understand what was out there in the infinite moonglade darkness by the river. Moving shadows and fury.
I put the shotgun on the table. I do not know why I did this; no bear was going to get inside. Indeed, no bear had made any attempt to break into the cabin. Where we were safe. The fighting of the bears was a loud and awesome thing out there in the fanaticism of the night. Out there where the very earth was made to tremble. It made us feel very small. This was the wilderness.
This was where life and death existed side by side in the mercurial, agitated grip of robust profusion and reciprocity. This was where life and death existed side by side and neither one was a moral judgment, and grizzly bears could only be what they were.
— From “The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams” by Nasdijj. ) 2000 Nasdijj. Used by permission, all rights reserved.
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