I’ve been in my writing retreat now for a week, plotting my novel, dreaming my characters, imagining murders and mystery. Unexpectedly, I’ve become embroiled in a mystery of my own, terrified of the bear sightings my neighbor Earl has recounted to me. I know he is only trying to frighten me. I’ve tried to ignore him.

But I can’t. I’m afraid.

When I awoke this morning I could feel the chill air through the closed window by my head. It was foggy outside, mystical.

I wanted to walk out in the morning grey but my bear-fear stood before me. Do bears roam at dawn? Perhaps also at twilight? Isn’t that when deer stir as well and take to watering holes and marshlands for refreshment? I’ve decided to stay put during those transitional moments in the day.

A pity.

I like the magic of twilight, the suspense of dawn. It’s hard to see, to be certain of what is seen. Everything is suspended and secret. But those moments also allow my mind to spin out of control, to invent dangers.

Old logging road

I see bears wherever I go. Isn’t that one over there by the rhododendrons? No, it’s only a stump. Mid-morning, however, with the sun bright and climbing, there are no secrets. No shadows. No maybes. Everything is clear and certain.

And so I set out with Wilson to the northern point of the property. The land is circled by old timber roads.

The trucks and equipment crawled up one side of the mountain, passed along the upper ridge, and dropped down the other side. Here and there the roads jut onto landings where sawmills were set. When my father bought the land, those sawmill sites were thick with sawdust and piles of slag. They are gone now. Reclaimed by the creep of the forest. The roads, too, have narrowed as new growth press along the edges and promise to cover the roads eventually. Now the roads are more like grassy paths. Here and there they are blocked by fallen trees or crossed by networks of branches and vines. But for the most part, they allow comfortable passage for woman and dog.

I kick at the fallen leaves as I walk, eager to make a racket, to let the bear know I am coming. I feel a slight trepidation watching Wilson race ahead of me. But I am happy to see him happy. He has seemed depressed of late. I think he misses his house in St. Louis and its safe comfort. But he shows no signs of languor on our walk today. He sniffs and prances and when he pulls too far ahead he stops and waits for me to catch up.

Wilson in the Woods

Despite my racket, the mountainside is quiet. When I stop along the path, I can hear the leaves falling, crashing crisply through the higher branches to settle softly on the ground below—still damp with morning dew. The birds are particularly festive this morning—calling to one another and flitting from limb to limb. I see a pair of geese cross overhead, so close I can make out their feet tucked neatly under their bellies.

Winter is not far behind.

Featured Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash