Last Tuesday, I awoke to the sound of crashing ocean waves; the softly wafting sea air, and the cadent ‘caw! caw!’ of the seagulls making their morning sojourn to the shoreline for breakfast. I truly do live in paradise – a funky, red-trimmed, Cape Cod-style home, surrounded by blossoming sweet peas and Queen Annes lace – nestled at the end of a short gravel path that spills out onto thirty miles of pristine oceanfront property.*
*Of course, we are also Ground Zero for the impending Cascade Subduction Zone’s apocalyptic 9.0 earthquake/tsunami. So, it’s only a matter of time before the Pacific decides to go all ’50 Shades of Ocean Spray’ on our asses and we are vaporized by a 100 foot tidal wave like the end of some craptacular Tea Leoni movie. But. . .you know. . .YOLO.
Anyhoo, as it was garbage day, and I was feeling all proactive and shit, I punched the ‘on’ button on the coffee maker, jammed my pitifully unpedicured feet into my husband’s flip-flops, and wandered down the porch steps to drag our trash can out to the street. Approximately 23 seconds later I clomped back up the steps in a stage 4 huff and angrily confronted Norm, who was blithely humming as he retrieved the half-and-half from the refrigerator.
“Some stupid teenagers knocked over our trashcan!” I sputtered, kicking my (his) flip-flops into the sunroom. “There’s garbage all the way up the hill, so those little bastards must have drug it off into the woods!”
Norm cocked his head and looked at me with his patented ‘do not arouse the crazy woman’ look and smiled. “First of all, I find it hard to believe that our discarded coffee grounds and empty toilet paper rolls are a hot commodity with the local hooligans; and secondly, we live in a town of less than 2,000 people. We don’t have neighbors, Jen, let alone roving bands of dumpster-diving miscreants."*
*Oh, yeah. Before you ask, the answer is: Yes. In thirty years I WILL be the barefoot cat lady standing on my lawn, waving a rake and muttering about ‘those meddling kids’ like a geriatric Scooby-Doo villain.
Norm shrugged amiably as he slowly sipped his coffee. “Not a lot of wind coming off of the ocean last night, so it must have been a bear.”
Wait. . .wha-what?
I froze to the spot, thinking (a) how can my husband be so blasé about the fact that our home is surrounded by wild animals that would love nothing more than to play our intestines like a meat harp, and (b) I really hope that wasn’t the last cup of coffee.*
*Because. . .priorities.
“Bears?” I asked tremulously. “Like. . .bowls of porridge and pic-a-nic baskets, bears?”
Norm calmly nodded and handed me a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee (My preeeeeeeecioussssss…). “Well,” he mused “a little less Disney and a little more Animal Planet, but yeah. Bears.”
OK, now I feel I must insert a few bullet points here to better elucidate my husband’s and my rather divergent reactions to our front yard suddenly turning into the Hundred Acre Wood. To wit:
- Norm was raised in Northern British Columbia on a farm with his five sisters. By the time he was eight, the boy could hunt elk, drive a logging truck, and build a survival shelter.
- I was raised in Eugene, Oregon, with one sister. When I was eight I was kicked out of the Girl Scouts due to my glaring lack of functional life skills.
- When Norm was a boy he walked five miles to school in the snow...uphill...both ways.
- When I was a girl, I rode the bus...6 blocks...because I was afraid of the neighbor's dog.
- Before we met, Norm owned a hobby farm with 18 goats, 130 chickens, two horses, and a mule named Walter.
- So far my death toll includes 2 hermit crabs, 4 goldfish, and a hamster named Biggie Smalls.
See where I'm going here?
"You seem shockingly cavalier for a man who has just announced that Yogi and Boo Boo were recently having brunch in his front yard." I said with an arched brow.
Norm chuckled. "They're just black bears, Jen. They live all over the peninsula. In fact, last year I was jogging down the main road and one crossed the street right in front of me."
I sputtered, coffee turning my once-white T-shirt into a caffeine-laden Jackson Pollock.*
*Because I'm classy like that.
"It just, like, WALKED in front of you!?" I cried. "Like, how did it walk? What did it do?"
Norm shrugged and refilled his coffee mug. "Oh, you know. It just crossed over to compliment me on my running shoes, we exchanged business cards, and. . .it was a BEAR, Jen! It just looked at me like 'Hi, human, I'm a bear' and it walked away. No big deal."
"No big DEAL!?" I countered, futilely dabbing at my coffee-stained shirt with a damp rag. "It's a 400 pound bag of teeth and claws that is -- based on our garbage -- not terribly discriminating about what it eats. And once the Berenstein Bears get a taste of human food, isn't it a pretty logical and food-chain-y step that eventually they'll see humans AS food?"
Norm smiled patiently and kissed me gently on the forehead. "Pretty sure they're more interested in our leftover meatloaf than in a 120-pound bag of crazy." He chuckled and wandered back upstairs to his office, calling over his shoulder,"If you're that worried, start carrying the Buck knife I got you."
"Yeah, sure!" I called after him. "For the record, I'm pretty sure that bears have, like, FIVE of those on each paw!"
It has now been one week since that conversation. So far, no bear sightings. But tomorrow is ((gulp)) trash day.
Hold me. . .