Wednesday, November 11, 2009

footprints

It's way early and I am up writing. I'm starting on a novel I began years ago. The impulse to write it began out of an attempt to understand the strange world of professional bear hunting guides. They are fascinating men: tall, capable, able to anchor a boat in rough seas, find a way up a mountain. They have stories nobody else has. They love the wilderness; some of them could not live anywhere else. But they lead city men to kill beautiful wild bears, animals they don't even eat, leaving everything but the hide behind. I wanted to know how they reconcile their desire for wilderness with the job that requires that they take an essential part of it out; leave a gap in a wild place that makes it more tame.

So it's not light out yet, the trees only a faint scary outline, and I'm writing. Trying to write more like. I suspect I will never understand the bear guides. I spent a lot of time with them in my last job, helping them bring a boat to shore, standing on the bow to check for rocks. I watched Jim and Mick do a stalk but turn back when they saw it was a sow. I'm glad I never saw a bear killed. Even after I was charged last summer, I don't believe we should have the right and the power to kill something we don't eat or use.

Today I will walk up a mountain in a safer place, where the grizzlies were hunted out years ago. Definitely here I feel much more relaxed; that wild edge is missing. It's easier here without it. I'm not always alert; I slump into the wilderness without wondering what could jump out. Sometimes I miss it though. Those shivery rainy afternoons belting out sixties tunes at the top of our lungs, those deep-set bear tracks in moss bringing a sense of awe and fear, mixed together.

I meant to write about something completely different. Thus the title. Maybe next time.

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