By speaking of the forces that dwell within us we bring them to life.

Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work for You

So I’m down on the river bar in the afternoon taking a break from the farmer’s fields. I sit back on the sand looking over the river, relax and start to doze. I’m asleep for a bit, somewhere between dream state and only mildly awake, when, out of the blue, I feel this big wet sensation on my face: I’m being LICKED! I reflexively push away with my hand, sitting up & turning to see that I have rejected the advances of a cougar cub! The little one instinctively nips my hand in response to my abrupt rebuttal! I scramble up the hill, retrieve others and upon our return, we are graced with the sight of momma mountain lion leading her babe up the hill across the river. Thank goodness we didn’t have to meet her! I am full of gratitude for the mystical gift that youthful creature bestowed! For such an elusive entity, reaching out and touching a person like that must be a rare treat!

When I first came to the farm, Catherine and Russell took me down to the Salmon River for a dip. We all settled into the river bar, I took a quick skinny & was napping with my shade hat pulled down over the face (to protect from Cougar-Face) in an attempt to catch the last rays of warmth before the sun fell over the mountain ridge. All was quiet, until Catherine suddenly blared out, “BEAR.” I popped my hat up and was about to turn & look over my shoulder but there he was – black bear – sitting on the ridge right across the river from us. His nose was in the air. He stayed, sitting there by an evergreen for several minutes, sharing our company. I was charmed. What a magical greeting! Well, I thank you for the welcome! Before long black bear moseyed on, climbing the hill in his slow paced way. It was my first direct encounter with these animals, but I was left with the sense that their presence is deep – drenched – in peace.

Shady Brady (farm intern) was lucky in that he had the opportunity to co-habitate with our local black bear: his tent is pitched down by the river & nestled near a berry patch. Brady would start suddenly in the early morning hours, startled by something, which was then startled by him, taking a few steps with a gruff grunt. It was these steps which again startled Brady, but it seems that everyone stayed startled enough to keep moving on their own way! More often than not, the black bear presence is felt rather than encountered. It’s a brisk brush with a powerful but peaceful steward of this land.

One afternoon Shady enters our outdoor kitchen announcing bluntly, “Bear ate my soap.” I had to laugh! Ha! Ha! Ha! Bear ate my soap? Ha! “Tell me, dear Shady, just how did that happen?” I inquire jokingly. “Yeah, yeah,” he replies, “Everyone’s a skeptic, but seriously!”

It’s really quite simple. Draw your own conclusions. You are on the river bar. There are bear tracks on the beach approaching a cairn, which once marked the location of a bar of soap. And there are bear tracks down the beach, departing the scene. And yet, for some, this is not enough.

I ribbed Mr. Brady, “How do you know he ate it? That nice black bear may have just balanced it on his head & then hopped right into the river to lather up! I bet he\’s full of lavender scent right now and got a nice shiny coat to boot!” But Brady stuck with his story, “Just down the beach in the berry patch there was a little spittle on the ground. Bear spit-up.” Guess that bubbly block didn’t go down so well… But I wouldn’t speak too soon, because later that week I caught sight of black bear swimming over to our river bar. Back for more black bear? Since the “Bear ate my soap” incident, I suppose my imagination has run wild, at least, in dream states… Am I dreaming? I invited black bear into my sanctuary – literally welcoming him into my tent! My companion in the tent was skeptical that this was a good idea. Being wary of a big black bear in such close quarters is understandable – appropriate, even. But I was unyielding: I’m tryin’ a hang out with da bear! I’m down. I’m down! I encourage black bear again & again – come! Welcome! I unzip the tent for him. And he immediately blesses me with a wonderful greeting-hug-romp. We wrestled about playfully feeling each other out! Then, at the appropriate time, he exited and took his bear-pace over the hill and on his way. See? All is well.


  1. nauhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – you\’re joshing me. I love your stories Case! so vivid and full of details – feels like I\’m right there. but no bear in your tent right???? and did a cougar really lick your face? I want a photo!!love, cho momma


  2. \”what\’s wrong with that girl?? a bear in her tent, a cougar licking her face…\”\”well, I think she\’s on drugs – I mean or else well she does have a vivid imagination\”\”she\’s just using literary privilege – and getting the reader\’s attention\”well – I\’m upset – what\’s wrong with her? is she trying to kill herself?scare us? entertain us – maybe she just wants some replys. you knowwe never really got upset about her leaving – maybe she needs to know we care – or this is her rebellion coming out – she never really had one did she?oh well -sweetheart – you are the best darn author of children\’s stories alive!!!and your photos are great illustrations. get a publisher!!


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