City BearAmazing!  The black bear population has quadrupled in the Lehigh Valley since the 1970’s, even as our wild lands have shrunk.  We pave over 4 square miles of open space per year, but have nevertheless managed to ‘bring back’ the bears. They wander through the 25,000 acres of remaining  fragmented forests,  moving from one pocket woodland into another, criss-crossing suburban roads and powercuts, entering back yards and school yards and city streets. They get into trouble at bird feeders and garbage cans.  This summer, a yearling climbed a tree near the library in Allentown. Another showed up in  Southside Bethlehem.  Police anaesthetize these ‘nuisance’

bears for removal, but when that doesn’t work—as in Easton in 2012— they shoot to kill.

The clueless bear seems to have sleepwalked his way into the human world. Struck by tranquilizing dart or bullet, he topples onto the trampoline like a person in a bear suit. His sleeping body’s shipped off to the Endless Mountains, his dead body to the landfill.  But he’s not really gone.  Just pixelated. He’s made the paper and tv, gets shared on Facebook, Tumbler, Twitter.  Shown on the street, in the tall grass, running down a highway, a moving shadow a sleeping corpse, his image lights up our screens. Hashtag: #bearsinthecity.

Roaming?  Craving garbage?   What if the bear’s whole purpose is to surprise us with delight and fear and wonder?   “Maybe I’ll see a bear!”  So we keep our eyes peeled when we drive.  We pause by the garage, listen like the dog does at the back door. We attend to the blue jay yammering at the squirrels and the mourning dove’s lament, notice the cloud of paper wasps, the praying mantis on the downspout , the diligent ants building in a sidewalk crack.

In an old Delaware ritual, man wakes the bear from slumber and asks him to sacrifice himself for the tribal feast.  The bear gives himself and the people sing to the now Celestial Bear, honor him  with grateful dance and story and art.  Celestial Bear comes to EarthAnd so the bear returns  to earth and plays his part all over again giving himself over and over in a cycle of life and death, growth and renewal.

This time, we are the unconscious ones.  The bear awakens us.  He asks us to sacrifice something of ourselves for the good of the other-than-human. He asks us to give up some of the technological conveniences that separate us from the living planet, and join the rest of creation in the intimate life of the sentient earth.  As we do, the whole planet sings.

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