I am wearing my old black jeans tucked into my ancient wool socks because a writing friend reminded me this morning that this is what one does when going into tick country which is where I was just a bit ago, picking blueberries in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
But, oddly, I am not afraid of ticks when I’m blueberry picking. I am afraid of bears. I think that, at any moment, I could lift my head and see a bear twenty feet away glaring at me. Or feel a bear’s heavy breathing at my back. Or see steaming scat next to a blueberry patch. Paw prints.
Years ago, we took our kids to a campfire chat at the national park near us. The ranger talked about bear safety. I remember everything he said. The rules about bear prevention are tattooed on my inner wrist. We adhere to all those rules when we’re camping. But it was the advice about bear encounters that confounds me.
Look big! Wave your arms! Back up, don’t run away! And this: If all else fails, punch him in the nose!
So I think of the ranger’s advice every time we are in a place where a bear could also be.
Would I have the gumption to punch a bear in the nose? Or would I yell for my husband to come punch the bear on my behalf?
Sometimes, I think it would be better to just run into a bear and see what happens. Then, at least, the worry about seeing a bear would abate. I’d know, once and for all, what I’d do. Know I could handle it. Or not.
That’s the deal with fear. Once you know you can punch the bear in the nose, you’re afraid of nothing. You can just pick the damn berries.