First, let me state for the record that I love to be outside.
I just don’t like running into things that live outside.
My family and friends have long been used to this. Like the time when I walked into the fruit section of Whole Foods pushing a cart with the kids in tow, saw a lizard on my cart, screamed at the top of my lungs and sent the cart crashing into the apple display. (My kids were absolutely mortified and management seemed to keep a close eye on me as I shopped).
Or the time I was walking along a wooded trail with my friend Denise and a snake dropped out of a tree and landed right in front of me, slithering every which way. I screamed loud enough to wake the dead and scared Denise half to death.
Or the time my friend Jackie and I were walking through my neighborhood and a big dog came running full force at us. I promptly screamed, grabbed Jackie, and threw her in front of me. Not my finest moment, clearly.
Or the time I was visiting the zoo and a bird emptied the contents of its bowels all over my head.
This past Saturday morning, Denise and I were walking through a quiet wooded neighborhood in our little town. I was blathering on about something when all of a sudden, Denise stopped short, put her hand on my arm and whispered, “Don’t move!!!”
I followed her gaze…and saw a huge black bear crashing through the trees. It must have been three to four hundred pounds of solid muscle. And it was only about 300 yards away.
I. was. terrified.
I remembered my neighbor telling me in a very matter-of-fact manner what to do if confronted by a bear. (As he has been while walking in our neighborhood).
“NEVER run,” he cautioned soberly. “They will only chase you…and you can’t outrun them. Instead, you have to stand right in front of it, wave your arms around, and shout as loud as you can. This will make them back off.”
My first instinct was to cry. Then to run away as fast as I could. Panicked, I looked to my right at the nearest house. There was an inviting screened porch on the side. For a wild moment, I envisioned the outline of my body visible after I crashed into it, just like in the old cartoons. Maybe I could make a run for it!
Fortunately, Denise was there to maintain calm and sanity and I remained still.
We watched wide-eyed as the bear seemed to glance at us and then kept on running across the street, disappearing deep into someone’s yard.
The whole thing lasted only seconds but it was as if time stopped.
I stood rooted to the spot, my heart pounding like a jackhammer. The closest I had ever come to a black bear was watching one saunter casually across our back yard one summer morning from the safety of our kitchen window.
In that moment when we shared the road with that bear, I never felt so small and helpless. It was sobering.
“This isn’t good for my high blood pressure!” I said, holding my hand against my chest as we resumed our walk.
Despite our earlier fear, we began to giggle.
Eventually, heart rates returned to normal and we resumed our pace. At one point, I was telling Denise about a scary moment in my life (that once again involved critters). I turned to look at her and to my horror, saw something black quickly approaching us over her left shoulder.
We both turned…to see a young jogger dressed in a black running suit.
I thought the black bear had followed us.
We scared the daylights out of this poor girl
She turned and ran the other way.
I felt like an idiot.
As we (finally!) finished our walk, Denise pointed to a tiny chipmunk on the side of the road.
“Look!” she said. “The wildlife is getting smaller!”
I just may have to look into renewing my gym membership.