Yesterday morning, when I woke up, I opened the bedroom door to find both of my cats sitting expectantly in the hall, like they’d been waiting for me to get my lazy butt out of bed, even though it was still a decent hour of the morning. It was strange, to see both of them there like that, but I wasn’t awake yet, so I ignored their faintly superior expressions. When I walked into the living room, the drapes towards the lake were open, because I’d opened them at 5:00 when the beginnings of sunrise woke me, usually also a good time to feed the cats so they’ll let me sleep for a while longer. I’ve only been at the Cabin for a few weeks, but learned that if I opened the drapes to allow them some external entertainment, I’d also get more sleep.
But there was something wrong with the view, but it took me longer than it should have to figure out what that was. I was still not fully awake, since I’d stayed up late reading. And then I realized what was missing, why the cats were staring at me: the bright spot of red that was the hummingbird feeder wasn’t there. And when my eyes focused a little, I saw that neither was the seed feeder. My first instinct was kids! but then I realized that there were no kids around here (and secondarily, realized I’ve been living in a city for much too long to suspect vandals first). The red hummingbird feeder was on its side on the ground, empty, its bird perches bent. The seed feeder was just gone, except for the broken pieces of the squirrel guard.
Bears. It has to be bears.
As I walked down to the lake, wondering where in the world the feeder went, I tried to keep the tune of “Waltzing With Bears” out of my head or the story that my favorite essayist Paul Gruchow tells in “Visions” of watching a bear tear apart his camp or the descriptions of baby bears in John McPhee's "Under the Snow," but failed. Had the feeder still been there, I would have suspected deer, but it’s a pretty deer-proof spot and a pretty deer-proof feeder. I called my neighbors to the south, at the resort, and they hadn’t heard of any bear activity in the area—and as resort owners, were not excited to hear about my visitation. I talked to my neighbor Audrey to the north and she hadn’t noticed anything, but she doesn’t have feeders. I certainly didn’t hear a thing. Audrey remembered my grandparents talking about being visited by bears—and I remember those stories too. I thought about getting the other bird feeder out of the garage and taking pity on my poor confused hummingbirds buzzing around my head or my poor confused goldfinches sitting on the pole, but I don’t want to encourage a repeat performance by my new bear friend. I don’t want him to get used to finding food here.
Is it wrong that I’d still like to see him?
My sister Kim, after I’d told her about my visit, said she was having a hard time being anything but excited about the prospect of the bear. My sister Kristi texted, “Don’t you just love northwoods problems?” To which I replied, with a smile, “What problems?” My parents were driving into my grandmother’s assisted living facility in Minneapolis when I told them, so they would have a good story to tell Gram. Gram loved hearing about it and told my mother some of her best bear stories. I told my mother I hoped she wrote them down.
Later in the day, Penny from the resort called to tell me that we've got a confirmed bear, and he or she's a big one. Apparently he walked through the resort and a few of her guests saw him--and Penny said that her dogs had gone nuts the night before that and she thought they were excited by the porcupine who's been stumbling around, but now she thinks it was the bear. Probably right.
I still haven't found any trace of the bird feeder itself, not in Audrey's property or the resort's or ours. I have no idea where it went or if the bear ate it, plastic and all. Who knows? But the hummingbird feeder seems to have survived intact, though I'm not sure about when I should put it back up. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the bear last night, but he didn't appear before I went to bed and the times I got up to see if he was there were, he was not. Oh, well. Best to be on one's guard anyway while walking to the mailbox...