Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grin and Bear It

I wrote the piece below for Eagle's Nest Camp, a summer camp that formed me in the ball park of the shaping done to me by church and family.

Here's a poem I wrote for my blog,, and a reflection below. Picture is from Wikipedia--American Black Bear.

The Bear

not a care in the world
in the high grass
of a field
just up a hill
from the Little River Valley.
The blood red bear
pulsed and pumped
as I reared back from running
to watch the
as she loped away

When I was 16 it was the summer of 1991. I was a Junior Counselor at Eagle's Nest in Cabin 10. I was given the okay to go running in the early mornings so long as I was back in the cabin by the time the bell rang. I'll never forget the morning that I ran into a black bear. There's a trail that runs up hill off the trail that connects The New Lodge and The Sun Lodge. This trail that heads up hill is pretty close to the Rabbit Hole. At the top of that climb is a small clearing before the trail picks back up on the way to the swing, and turtle overlook, and to the power lines. Some of you might know just where I mean. If you don't, imagine the best of the property that starts to feel like ENC's gateway to the rest of Pisgah Forest.

I saw a bear just as I was cresting the hill. She was less than 50 feet away and running away from me, thankfully. I felt safe. I took a good look and emblazoned the image into my mind and onto my heart and then headed back down the hill in a hurry. I did not think I would be chased and I wasn't. The bear was doing her morning run and I was doing mine. No harm, no foul. The image remains as one of the pristine moments of my life--an encounter with something powerful and beautiful, quiet and almost surreal. It was one of the watershed runs of my young life and I think I still run trails to this day in the hopes of recapturing moments like that one half a life ago.

By the time we were walking from flag raising to breakfast, the rumor had spread among all 200 or so people in our little community. I can remember my feet sinking into the white quad rocks, but the rest of me was on cloud nine as I shared the information. Helen Waite was ecstatic. For her, it was no coincidence that I was a Natseeho and therefore it made perfect sense that I might have such a run-in with a blood red bear. I thought then, as I do to this day, that she hung the moon. The story was a centerpiece of Indian Village the following Sunday. Grant Bullard mentioned that he had recently seen bear scat up that way and in talking to a Pisgah Forest ranger, there was an estimate that there might be as few as five bears in Pisgah Forest from the ENC property all the way to 276. That's thousands of acres, so I guess I was pretty lucky to catch a glimpse of one. In case you are wondering, I am pretty sure the bear population has grown in that neck of the woods which is good news for bears and good news for us. More of us might get to see them!

This encounter with a bear is one among many memories of my nine summers at ENC that only grow more and more vivid as the years pass. If you have vivid memories of your time as a camper or a counselor you should write them down or tell them to a loved one. Thanks for reading mine.

George Linney is an ordained minister in the Ecumenical Baptist Church and a middle school teacher in Durham, NC. He was a camper and counselor at ENC from 1986-1993. He can be reached at
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