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Conversations with a Black Bear


Silly me. I’m such a silly bear. Me with my head in the clouds, halfway through this dead baby deer I tripped over on the way to the river for my morning drink. I’m crepuscular, that means I like to eat in the early morning and late afternoon, when the light is low and faint, needless to say it takes me a while to wake up. But where are my manners?! What kind of carrion do you like the best, hmmm? You look like the small intestines type, am I right? Why don’t you bring some of those delicious berries over here and visit with me for a minute. There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about, and, well, the whole thing makes me a little bit sad.

Do you know about capital W Wilderness, have you heard of this? I love it. I like big Wilderness and small Wilderness, old Wilderness and new Wilderness, placid Wilderness and vibrant Wilderness. I mean when it comes down to it, I just can’t get enough of Wilderness, period. I just love it so much. But what about you? I mean you are here, and you do have a fawn’s foot in your mouth and berry juice dribbling down your chin, talking to a silly ole bear! But seriously YJ-guy, how do you feel about Wilderness?

Well mr. bear, do you mind if i call you Scott?, you look like an uncle of mine named Scott and because this is turning into such a nice little informal chat, it would be nice if you had a first name. First of all this is delicious, I can’t tell you how surprisingly rich this rotting meat is, how long would you say this deer has been dead? Two, maybe three days at the most? Okay so if the question is, and I think understand you here, does Yonder Journal love Wilderness? Yes. Scott, the answer is y-e-s yes we L-O-V-E wilderness! Rockers, Dragsters, Grizzlies, Monsoons, Waterfalls, Hyenas—you name it, if it’s wild we are into it, whatever it is. Wilderness is the place were wild things get to do their wild shit without worrying about being tamed. Scott you live and breath this wild life but there are lot of folks out there who don’t understand why all this wilderness is important. It’s important because tame is boring, tame is mayonnaise on white bread missionary style with Law and Order replaying quietly in the background. Not that there isn’t a whole heap of good times and cool vibes in the Mundane, its just that Wilderness is front loaded, the interesting things are right there, in your face, making you hot-cold-wet-hungry-starving-bloody-injured-raptured-awestruck all at once, right out of the gate. Wilderness operates prima fascia.

Scott, I have to tell you, Wilderness is not only important to Yonder Journal, it’s also a big deal for millions of Americans, in particular Bob Marshall, Howard Zahniser, all of the 88th Congress1 and President Lyndon Johnson. You see Scott, in 1964 the government of the US of A established official Wilderness Areas throughout the nation, areas that were legally dedicated/committed to doing it primitive-style; no wheels, no motors, no roads. In fact, Wilderness personnel aren’t even allowed to use machine powered tools when working within its boundaries: handsaws instead of chainsaws, shovels instead of tractors, etc. These areas are kept necessarily archaic so that animals—like yourself, Scott—and plants don’t get hooked on Coca Cola and smart phones. This is a good idea for some many reasons. I mean who would want to watch a Mountain Lion check its email or have to listen to a pinion pine rocking out to Smash Mouth?

The problem is, and I think this is why you’re staring at me with that big brown frowny face of yours Scott!, is that keeping flora and fauna wild isn’t universally prioritized by all of our citizens. There are those among us who would gladly see the Mountain Marmot hooked on The Settlers of Catan if that meant that we (Capitalism in general, Natural Resource Corporations and Foreign Interests in particular) were able to access the valuable resources hidden in the hills of its habitat.

I know I know, I already know what you’re going to say Scott, marmots shouldn’t be playing strategy based board games, marmots should be scampering, chewing, breeding. And bears like yourself shouldn’t be eating out of dumpsters and trash cans, not that you’ve ever done that!, not that it matters to us if you have!, NO JUDGMENT!, I mean we certainly wouldn’t have a problem with it, what with shrinking habitats and all that, it’s just not, as I’m sure you would agree, ideal.

I mean consider that Smokey character for a second Scott. Sure he is trying to do the right thing, he wears the hat, the belt, the pants and his heart is in the right place but come on Scott you and I both know that completely preventing forest fires has actually created some pretty serious problems. You of all people know what it’s like to tramp through a forest choked with ground cover; just the wrong way to do it is all I’m saying. You might think, “oh yeah but Smokey’s got it made.” Smokey’s got a comfortable little setup sure but he gave up some wildness and look were it got him. He has a nice Hi-Fi system and has a company car but that’s a bear who eats out of his own trash can Scott. Eats out of his own trash can! Now what kind of bear life is that?

And there’s the spotted owl thing. And deforestation and mining and the ozone and yada yada yada. You’re right Scott, we can and must do more.

Dear Reader,
WE (THE SCOTT & YONDER JOURNAL COALITION) need your help keeping the Wilderness wild. It is through your action and the action of your peers that we can ensure that Wilderness areas will be secure. Yes it will take a little effort on your part. Write a letter, make a phone call, volunteer for a trail day, or make a small donation. Your efforts are necessary, important, and meaningful.

Illustrations by Matt Hall

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