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7°C – misty, mountain hop

It always seems like a good idea to bring a camera along when we go on our walks.  I’m ever hopeful that the stars will align and we’ll get a picture to effectively capture the beauty of this place, juxtaposed of course, with Ozzy’s handsome self.  Inspiring vistas are plentiful and a digital camera provides an endless supply of second chances, now if Oz wouldn’t mind finding a place to pose that’s five or six feet away from the camera, we’d be set.  So often we find that both the core of our problems and the seed of our opportunities can be found within the spectrum of communication.

they might be cars

long, winding road

To keep an Ozzy leashed in this part of the world would be ludicrous.  Our travels, however, can find us walking on sections of public roads meant to be shared with vehicular traffic.  For everyone’s benefit, Oz and I agree that he’ll stay close to me when we’re on a road.  While we stroll along, he’ll stray an easy, loose couple of feet to my left. When a car approaches he immediately falls into single file formation, tucking in directly behind me.  In favor of the communication we’ve shared about the danger of approaching vehicles, Ozzy does this of his own volition.  He used to run at cars on the road.

When we’re in the woods or on a trail, he’s free to romp.  This is where the problem comes in.  Ozzy now chooses to stay close.  Thinking that he might respond to an applicable command, I’ve tried a variety of likely ones:“go!”, “run Oz run”, “romp”, “ok, now”.  I’ve even added several body language gestures, taken directly from Bowling for Dummies, in an effort to visually reinforce the message; nada. His tail wags his entire rear quarter with enthusiasm and he just gives me an indifferent non capisco.

To condition a young elephant for domestication, i.e. inter-species slavery, trainers use leg shackles to secure the animal to trees.  Over time the creature learns that it can’t move while the chains are attached.  A fully-grown, male African elephant weighs upwards of seven tons, the equivalent of three American-sized automobiles and, it has the power to snap a four-foot diameter tree.  For comparative reference, a typical thirty-five foot telephone pole has a diameter of twelve inches.

If one of these big boys decides to go to the store for more Nutella, there’s not much that’s going to stop him.  Yet, for the most part, they don’t just walk away as though they are capable or entitled to.  An elephant will only learn if it trusts and trainers use punishment and reward so to coerce a sense of trust in the young animal.

One can only wonder about what would happen if a middle-aged elephant, in a moment of clarity, glimpsed a difference between reality and his tainted illusions.  It could ignite a panorama of excruciating comprehension.  He would know that his notion of trust, the foundation of his relationship with the world and his own place in it, has been concocted.  The values that have defined his boundaries of right or wrong, love and hate, benevolence to immorality would dissolve into a smoldering blur.

The punch line arrives with the realization that the façade was created so that he could be exploited for the benefit of those he held in trust. With nothing left to grasp, it’s possible that he’d find the illusion more tolerable than the truth.



So it is with beast, populations or Ozzy. Many beliefs, which we defend as truth, may well be only valid within a very specific context, have aged beyond their expiry date or were never in our best interests; yet they keep us from getting the Nutella.  Or, from taking a romp in the forest.



-1°C – snow and snowing


Snow what?

History is written by the victors.  This has probably been true since victors learned how to write.  Doesn’t seem very surprising.  If the people of warring countries are able to work up enough hatred and fear to kill, to annihilate each other, it is highly unlikely that an unbiased account will be forthcoming from either side.  We’re going to see one official version of the story and it isn’t going to come from the loser.

Guantanamo Bay.  Tough deal.  Undoubtedly, innocent people were inadvertently swept into the place whose lives have been destroyed.  Many wives, children, parents and siblings have missed too much sleep for too many years, left only to ruminate in helpless desperation.

Conversely, ruthless and conniving shitheads have been inadvertently released from Guantanamo. These people are responsible for unconscionable and indefensible violence.  You can bet they didn’t take up lawn bowling or start group therapy after spending those years under American care.

So it goes.  Injustice exists where there is justice.  The bucket of shame that Americans find themselves firmly seated in is deep and steep because the principles violated at Guantanamo are principles Americans purport to hold dear.  If there wasn’t shame and accountability, the world would have a more significant problem.

History-books and the military channel tell us that we used to fight our wars much differently than we do now.  There was a time when the use of atomic weapons and fire bombs against civilian populations was justifiable, apparently.  Instead of being judged as evil-doers, the victors earned the gratitude and respect of the free world and a place of glory in the history books.  At least that’s what I’ve read.


13°C – overcast in the way it looks before snow falls

Bear Mug

Cubbing soon

Sieve la différence. I never did finish reading, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, the 1992 best seller purporting that an understanding of gender differences is the key to a successful relationship. At the time of its publication, learning to find and appreciate our similarities was the more widely held theory. Over the years, two copies of this work have found their way into my library and, if memory serves, there have been another two instances where it was a strongly suggested read.

I’m sure the book is puffed full of insights that have furthered inter-gender understanding and thereby enabled better communication amongst enlightened couples everywhere. I will note, regardless of its apparent potential to spur new levels of boy-girl appreciation, not one of my male friends has recommended, quoted, or given it a breath of praise. As far as I know, the only manly mention of the tome in recorded history occurred when one husband told a story of how the reading of the book had been included as one of several options offered to him by his chagrined spouse. Apparently, they used some sort of relationship point system and he was deep into negative territory.  Several years later he ran off with a younger woman.

Beyond the physical attributes, I doubt there is anyone with more than ten years of life under their belt who would dispute the existence of fundamental differences between men and women…such as the way we think, evaluate, understand, see, hear, feel, and communicate. I’m sure that the effort needed to reconcile the consequences, which inevitably surface from the differences, challenge both him and her in equal measure.

Most of us brim with first-person examples to colorfully illustrate the playing out of these differences in our day-to-day lives. Many people do thrive on the inherent conflict and choose to view the friction as a catalyst that nourishes their personal growth. Other people leave to live in the woods.

A trail that meanders beautifully through the mountain forest, the woods, has become a mainstay of our walks. A week ago the authorities responsible for such things, posted a notice at the trail entrance, warning about the known presence of a Black Bear.

This warning was a surprise to me and not because there are bears in the woods, but because I’d understood that there weren’t any bears in the area.  Back when I was in the process of finding this house in these mountains, the owner, Dr. Ruth, described the area as being home to most of the species indigenous to the terrain; bears being an exception. Of course, if you’re planning to get outside and enjoy nature, it is a bonus to not have to be concerned about nasty critters, the way you do in the city.

Discovering that there was a bear around didn’t create any particular problem for me and I certainly wasn’t miffed just because this news was contrary to what I’d been told. A wild animal living amongst people however, is bound to create issues for both species that are unlikely to be resolved favorably for either. What to do?

I met up with Dr. Ruth several days after I’d seen the notice and mentioned it to her as a heads-up.  She responded with a verbatim quote of the advice offered by the warning poster; use a bell and don’t carry food.  Then she added. “They only eat berries so there’s nothing to worry about”.

At that moment, I was struck with the realization that a geographically remote location will provide no protection from the gurgling sound synapses make when simple logic has been sideswiped.

My approach, presumably more “male” than the dear doctor’s, was to assess the degree of the risk and figure out what I needed to do to prevent a confrontation with a bear. As a plan B I wanted to know how to be smarter than said creature, assuming this Ursus americanus to be an average representative. I wasn’t convinced that waving a bell at it would do much for either of us. I needed the facts.

A male, adult Black Bear weighs in at six hundred pounds and stands seven foot; they can be larger. It has impressive strength, proven by their ability to take out a nine hundred pound elk with one swipe. Unlike a typical mug shot, the bear warning notice provides no descriptive information, so we don’t know the vital statistics for our bear.

Ten to fifteen percent of their diet will consist of meat, coming from kills and carrion. They will also hijack kills from other creatures and seem partial to cougar food. Most animals, except humans but including the Black Bear, avoid unnecessary conflict.  Understandably, a bear with cubs can be aggressive. They can also turn nasty if they sense that they’re being cornered or, if they’ve been injured.

When these bears do kill people, it’s the result of a predatory behavior. This is surprising given that the Grizzly Bear will usually only kill humans while acting defensively.  Rolling up into a ball and playing dead might shake a Griz, but a Black Bear with an attitude will be grateful that it didn’t have to run to chomp. They’re excellent climbers so to head up the nearest tree isn’t going to work and forget about jumping into the lake because they’re great swimmers too. As for bells, a sound that is more human is considered more effective in alerting a bear that a human is approaching. A bell might even arouse their curiosity.

I don’t know how Ozzy would react to a bear.  His standard greeting tends toward friendly enthusiasm and I’m not sure how a bear would view a prancing, sixty-five pound, blue French Poodle. I doubt that “food item” would flash in its brain. I do know that a Black Bear can run at thirty miles an hour and a poodle can run faster than I can.

With the facts in hand, it seems just a matter of acting like a human to avoid sneaking up on the bear. We haven’t heard that there are cubs so, if the bear doesn’t feel threatened and hears us approaching before Ozzy goes galloping for a meet and greet, we should be fine.

It’s possible that I’ll finish reading the Venus and Mars book one day. The bell? Na.