Monday, January 3, 2011

Naked and Bears

There is nudity in our living room.

In record time (which for me constitutes Jan. 2), I stripped away all the Christmas decorations in the house except for the tree itself, which now stands naked in the living room. For the last few weeks, it was always there welcoming me as I rounded the kaliche road to the house. Thanks to the miracle of the $9.99 timer I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond, our front window was aglow each evening with the twinkling of colored lights. I couldn’t wait to get in the house and get cozy by the tree with a glass of wine or a mug of tea.

Then Tanner would come home and ruin it all by changing the TV channel to Rambo III and making me watch guts spill all over the screen.

Now, I feel kind of bad for the tree. Maybe it reminds me too much of what my face will be like in a few years – dry, discolored, plain. I’m already using line-smoothing under eye concealer for goodness sake!

Really, I think I just remember how jolly and beautiful the tree looked just days ago. I imagine the tree feels a little sad now. Which is stupid, because it has no feelings. However, until I was married, I had to arrange the discarded stuffed animals from my bed comfortably on a pillow on the floor because I didn’t want them to lay all askew and disjointed on the floor through the night – that might hurt them. Now I just have one stuffed animal. I might or might not sleep with him.

I could easily draw all kinds of deep symbolism from my dejected tree about post-holiday sadness or how all earthly things lose their beauty and fade away. If that’s what you’re thinking, awesome. Elaborate in your mind and discover new hidden meanings. Critical thinking, self-examination and cultural analysis are so important.

I, however, am going to tell you about some of my favorite Christmas ornaments. I snapped pictures while I packing up.

This bear represents the fact that I am bear bait. When I lived in Canada, my family took the visiting Keaton family to the Canadian Rockies. We went on lil hike from the roadside to get a view of a lake. We walked out onto a foot bridge, took some pictures, then turned around to see a huge 800 lb grizzly bear blocking our way.

I was about 12 and I cussed in front of my parents. I either said the s-word or the f-word, I can’t remember. I tried to run away, but my dad told me to bring back the camera. The men started stomping and clapping, which is ill advised. I imagine the bear rolled his eyes as he started walking away. Then my dad whistled, and that pissed Griz off. He started coming back. My dad instructed me to run, also ill advised. I ran so freakin fast, there are no words to describe it. I found a horse corral, a truck and a shed at the top of a hill. I tried to hide under the truck, but there was a disgusting marmot or some kind of large rodent under there. So, I hid behind the shed for what felt like hours, then walked back down the hill expecting to find my family mauled and eaten.

But everyone was fine and my mom was mad because she couldn’t find me. I was hidden pretty well.

Last year, Tanner and I took a trip back to Canada. I showed Tanner where I used to live (Edmonton, Alberta) and then took him to the Rockies. (I should/might blog about this trip someday…) One evening, we decided to go for a late hike. It was sometime around 7:30 or 8 p.m. It wasn’t getting dark until around 9:30 p.m., but these dusk hikes are not safe. As I found out upon later research, they are somewhat ill advised.

The hike started on the side of the road then wound up through a thickly wooded trail. We parked in the parking lot of a horse stable across the street. I had bought some bear spray in town before we went for the hike, because my original bear encounter had left me ridiculously freaked out and afraid of bears/hiking/the Rockies/Canada/life/etc. The guide who sold us the spray told us a story of how he and some friends were attacked by a bear as they were bike riding in a similar area to where we were heading… but that was just because the parks dept. had scented the area and hung up lines to catch hair samples. Oh.

Tanner and I were creeped the whole time. The man’s story story, dusk, heavy forestation and an active imagination let to a severely freaked out state. The whole time during our ascent through the woods, I was thinking of how scared I was and how I wished we hadn’t gone on this hike. But, not wanting to ruin it for Tanner, I tried to act brave and pretend I was having fun. Some comments to the effect of “this looks like a perfect place for a bear” were made him or myself, but that was about it. Finally we made it to a beautiful clearing that overlooked a bog. We watched for a while, hoping to spot a moose, the turned back around to head back to the car. On the way back, we both felt really uncomfortable and it was obvious. We had a weird, scared feeling and I was clapping my hands and singing bear deterrent songs. I have a really scary voice.

As we were getting fairly close to the road, we rounded a blind corner. Sure enough, there was a dang bear. I got a nice profile view of it walking across the path. I looked at it for about only a split second before cussing (apparently I need to work on this), turning around and hissing at Tanner, but I was pretty sure I saw the distinct hump of a Grizzly. It looked like a yearling bear, which immediately made me think of “mama” somewhere nearby. (It might have been an adult cinnamon Black Bear but I’m really not sure and Grizzlies are more dramatic, so shut up.) Apparently, my little outburst alerted the bear to our arrival, because after I had made an about-face and given Tanner a clear view of the bugger, it was standing on its back legs and looking straight at us.

We were on a trail, surrounded by trees, in dimming light at 8-something p.m., with no one around and a bear blocking our way back to the car. Tanner whipped out that bear spray, and we started walking back the way we came. I was by this time praying out loud very fervently and somewhat incoherently. At least I had matured spiritually from cussing to praying. I saw the error of my ways. And I was afraid I was going to die.

We found a break in the path and a fork that looked like it would take us back toward the car. The fork ran parallel to the path the bear was on and although you couldn’t see one path from the other, they didn’t fee too far away. 50 yards, maybe? Walking back toward the road and knowing how close that stupid bear could be at any moment was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It was a moment of serious elation when we finally hid the road and saw the parking lot.

Of course, there was a car driving by at the exact moment Tanner and I busted mad-eyed from the woods and stumbled and ran to the parking lot. They were probably confused.

This turned out to be a long story.

One ornament is apparently enough for today.

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