Saturday, September 26, 2009


With the possible exception of
a dog stretching his
limber neck through a speeding
car window, jabbing his snout into the
aroma-feast of the world’s passing
velocity breeze, wet nose
perusing the Sears catalog of its living
scents, nothing in nature
(and, yes, isn’t this nature too)
appears more orgiastically
self satisfied than a
McNeill River grizzlybear.

Think of the river
as a Southern California freeway
for fish: but this isn’t a Hollywood movie, and
the bear isn’t Jackie Gleason,
and none of the salmon even remotely resembles
Burt Reynolds.

As fast food goes,
McDonald’s has nothing
on this: wriggling silver-scaled missiles
of saliva-stoking flesh just a

It is a church
of sorts, their house
of worship, and they populate its banks
at standoffishly respectful distances,
like a small congregation of furry
Episcopalians in a remarkably
mammoth cathedral of unstained glass.

Admittedly, there is no Bear-
naise sauce, no cole slaw,
no french fries, not even
tartar sauce or mayo,
and the wine cellar,
sans sommelier, is distinctly
sub-par. But the bears are nonetheless,
inordinately full of
themselves, and strangely aware of the
luxury of not having to carry
hardhats, or lunchboxes,
or even to stuff brown paper bags into
leather attache cases, or to worry about
shattering the silvered linings
of Thermos bottles. The exceptionally
white noise from the rolling field
of the water’s ornately scalloping surface,
the glimmering spears of shine
flashing from its liquid
mirror, the grizzlies appear to have such a
refined awareness of this
you could be forgiven for imagining them
devotees of Rousseau.

For them a mouthful of fresh fish
is something radically foreign to us,
the jawlocked death throe of twenty pounds of
squirming, ichthyous, blood-squirting thrash-flap;
and though they can make do
without the chirping hi-tech beep
of barcode scanners in the checkout line,
and perhaps do not miss the convenience of having
someone else to clean and bone their fillets,
there is a kind of clumsiness in the
bulk of their supersized morsels, as if
a bear’s reach was destined always to exceed
its mouth’s grasp, a fact that
conveys a faint longing
for better tools, some silverware or at least
a butcher’s cleaver
to reduce this nourishment
to more digestible
proportions. Like the words of a language,
rendering the stuff of fantastic appetites
into manageable, fork-sized

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