I saw the bear coming in the almost dark wilderness campsite. My small band of teenagers I was leading through a long canoe route in the BWCA Wilderness had spotted him and booked it for camp a few seconds ago. I ran and grabbed the camera turning on the strobe flash hoping for a good closeup picture as I positioned myself between bear and food pack. I stopped him about 15 feet away with the flash temporarily blinding him while yelling for the teens to quick get the pack up in the air. The rope was draped over a high limb and the food pack was ready to pull up higher than a bear could reach, all they had to do was grab the rope and pull hard and fasten it off to a nearby tree.
Too late, the teens were in the lake trying to get away from the bear. The general consensus was “let the bear eat Gary.” The bear had run behind a big sloping rock shaking his head while trying to see. I ran up the rock a few feet higher than the bear, when he looked up at me I flashed the strobe again to further blind him. Agitated he ran back to where he was before and I once again ran between bear and food pack. The 3rd strobe flash in the bears eyes was the closest but something snapped in his bear brain that said “I’m out of here” and he turned around and ran straight into a tree with an umph. Bouncing off he broke brush and made all kinds of noise including snapping his teeth to show his displeasure as he ran into the dark forest. The teenagers became suddenly very brave as they raced past me yelling and whooping after the bear and disappeared into the brush. I heard them stop as it was quite dark in those woods, so I yelled after them “He’s coming back!” A few seconds later the teens were in the lake again.
I have at times in my life been accused of “Poor Risk Assessment Skills” and I suspect there was more that could have been said with another dozen stories similar in nature. There are actually a couple stories that were on the line whereas this one was more normal. I am, in my defense, quick to point out that I, and those who have gone with me, are still very much alive. This proves that my risk assessments are actually very accurate. So far.
One of my life skills is helping people “Really Live”
So when I got the call that a northern border river had cleared of ice in most spots, I was ready to go this past Monday with two other guys who have living life qualities similar to mine. I mean, raise your hand if you want to go fishing. Don’t put it down because it’s cold and the winds are, well, brutal. That’s why we put on warm clothes.
After a two hour drive we fished all day. The water temperature was 39 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind chills at zero and the walleye were not abundant. After 8 hours in the boat we agreed it was time to get off the water. Sigh…it was so good to be out there in the wind and cold with the fish sometimes barely hitting. I really don’t know what drives us to call this “really living.” We cannot wait to get out there again. Three men who are so different, but in the boat we have a fellowship of brothers (including the disagreements).
“Really Living” may find one chasing bear and living on the edge. “Really living” to another may be dirty hands and knees in the garden. “Really living” may be in the work shop full of sawdust or metal flakes. “Really living” sometimes forms words, phrases and paragraphs. Sometimes “Really living” is creating special life experiences to communicate, influence and even mentor others.
I get T-shirts and mugs with catchy sayings like “I Fish Therefore I am”, “Fishing Is Life”, “Born to Fish Forced to Work” and a host of other phrases that depict my passions in life. I have, however discovered a passion that works well with my passions. Bringing groups of teens and adults far into the wilderness both in summer and winter forces real life gifts and problems to the surface. On the fear spectrum, I am not afraid of much. I would rather face a bear (risk) than tip a canoe in a storm (high risk) or rescue a drowning man in white water (high high risk). My cliff diving days are over. I think. I probably will do mild weather winter camping from now on. Bringing Teen groups into the wilderness is possibly past, but, I still find myself living on or over the edge as a recent post depicted (Ya, laugh at my expense!!)
The truth of the matter on fearless risk taking is that my ball of twine in life will someday run out of string. I know that. We all die once and then face God while He asks us “why should I let you into my heaven?” The worst answer we could give is “Because I am a good person”. If you cling to your good you also keep all your sin and are thus disqualified to be accepted by God. Risky risky risky!!! don’t go there.
This is My own Easter message to you
Instead, accept that Jesus died for our sin and gives us his goodness to present before God. That is “Really Living“
Meanwhile, I am a follower of Jesus. I do not follow from afar or slide from tree to tree hoping to not be seen (you know the type) I am really alive when I am in tune with God and his ways….Who would turn down having Love, Joy, Peace and a host of other very real things in ones inner life?
“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (Jesus)
PS the bear pictures did not turn out. I’m sure glad the strobe worked.