I saw a bear one evening last week when I got up to put a log on our campfire. He or she was sipping from the creek-let on the far side of our screen house. It was still light enough that I could stand there paralyzed and stare at the bear's profile. Bill asked what was wrong. "Bear," I finally got out. Bill stood and turned in time to see the bear run up the mountain. A week earlier Bill and Susan saw a bear a little farther off. These bear sightings—plus the non-sighting where the bird feeder used to be—remind me that other creatures have lived in these woods a lot longer than us.
"Shy and secretive, the sighting of a bear is a rare treat for most Virginians," according to ursine expert Linda Masterson in Living with Bears: A Practical Guide to Bear Country. I find myself making a lot more noise when I tromp down the path to the house. Bill's the same way; he does a lot more whistling now. We don't want to surprise some shy, unsuspecting bear. Plus, we've permanently removed the bird feeder. Also from Masterson: "It takes a bear many hours of foraging on natural foods to get the 12,000-plus calories it can down in five minutes at a bird feeder."