My Encounter with a Black Bear

A few years ago I came face-to-face with a large black bear on a run. As I came around a corner, the sight of her made me immediately stop. Then she stopped, turned her head over her right shoulder, and looked at me. She stood tentatively, weight on her back legs, front legs ready to bolt. Standing there for a moment, she looked at me. Really looked at me. She locked eyes with me. It was as though she understood me in that moment. She did not judge me. She was curious. She was innocent and wise.  It lasted maybe a second or two, maybe less. It felt like I lost an hour in that gaze. I have never felt more respect. More admiration. More beauty. All combined with a very calm, yet very intense fear. We said a simple hello to each other. We acknowledged each other. She a bear, me a human, momentarily occupying the same patch of forest.

Finding purpose (especially in my work) is like having a fleeting encounter with a bear in the wild. It is a rare sight. Something I catch infrequent glimpses of as I am puttering along in life. As I am driving/running/walking/biking/traveling through the mountains, I am constantly looking for wildlife through the dense trees. Always scared, cautious, and diligent with my loud bear calls around every blind corner. Sometimes I only see signs of it. A footprint (a photo). Some hair on a tree trunk (a moment of pride). Some scat on the trail (a deep sense of well-being). These signs are enough to know that it is out there somewhere. It is elusive, often hidden in plain sight. It sees me more than I see it.

Every once in a while, perhaps even once in a lifetime, I will come face-to-face with my purpose (the bear). We will look at each other. We will see each other. I will feel intense fear, respect, and a calm knowing. The experience is so profound, it’s impossible to fully explain in words. It is beyond labeling. It’s a feeling. And just like the bear, it will run back into the deep, thick woods to continue with its wild existence. I may never come face-to-face with it again. Then again, I might see it again on tomorrow’s run through the forest.

Love, Erika

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