A photo of a bear, taken by Deborah Schildt, appeared in the Anchorage Daily News in 2004. In her field note (caption to the photo), Schildt says: “A large female walked up behind us on the trail today. She sat down, then sat up with her paws resting on her knees, looking up at the leaves in the treetops scattering with each tug of the wind. We watched her as she watched the wind.”
I remember the day the photo appeared in the paper, because our younger son and I had one of those parent and child moments you treasure – both of us were stopped by the photo. It seems to capture pleasure (though wildlife photographer Schildt doesn’t make that judgment), but it says something about all we don’t know about animals. I thought the bear looked happy. Our son said to me: “Look, she must know so much.” He was thinking about her life in the wilds – mostly alone – coping with everything in her world.
Just before Christmas I found the newspaper copy of the photo again, and thinking it would be a great present for the younger son, I found Deborah Schildt’s web site (http://www.alaskafilmservices.com/) and ordered it.
Then the other day at school one of the wee scholars read to me a book about two orphaned polar bear cubs being reared in a zoo, far from their Arctic birthplace. The cubs began their zoo life indoors, with all sorts of play things (including each other) and human attention. When they grew, they moved outdoors into a spacious enclosure with plenty of play objects like balls and straw bales and a large water pool for swimming. But their attendants noticed the cubs were most fascinated by the sky – that they spent a lot of time gazing upward.
The tale of the cubs made me wonder again about the bear in the photo. What she’s thinking is unknowable – but so “feelable.”
It led to a New Year resolution – to simply look more at the sky. Pause an instant and make note of it. Let clouds or clear, slate gray or heaven blue register, and not take sky or treetops for granted. Wonder what a bear would think, and enjoy what I see.