Here is an equation:
Magnificently Beautiful Wild Land + Remoteness + Risk = Compulsive Desire for Yukon / Alaska / Northern British Columbia
I re-launched this blog on 12th January 2014 with an account of a night on Sleeping Beauty Mountain in western Canada. This was the most recent in a series of ‘nights out’ in isolated locations, sometimes several nights in a row, travelling light and alone with a bivouac bag and minimal provisions.
There is a lot to say about the heady joys of these experiences, and some of my poetry and prose is about just that.
An interesting sub-text, however, has been a new recurring theme in nightmares. The Grizzly Bear.
I don’t experience many nightmares, and am comfortable with the fact that they are a healthy processing of potentially problematic data received by the brain.
Since 2007, when I spent nights out amongst Canadian forests and mountain tops for the first time, any nightmares I have are routinely centred around a Grizzly Bear prowling around inside my home. Previous nights out in bear-free environments had no impact on my dreams.
Elvis Costello coined the excellent phrase “complicated shadows” for the title of one of his songs. When predator risk is part of the equation at the start of this piece, the night’s shadows are certainly very complicated. As are the sounds from those shadows.
The word “bugbear” has lost much of its force since it was first recorded in the 1580s. The “bug” part was a term for an object of dread or goblin. “Bear” was a bear. A bugbear would eat naughty children.
Here is a poem by the naughty child inside me.
Top of the Food Chain No More
How long will this flimsy barricade keep you out?
Snout snaggling and snuffling the bathroom door
as I huggle my own arms, rock gently on the floor.
Again and again you descend upon my dreams,
stumbling heavy across my nest you curdle my blood,
my peace, my sense of safe: your threat is numbing,
potent, mysterious in its will-you-won’t-you assault.
Invited invasion? I trespassed on your roam lines,
spent wakeful nights listening for your interest,
your scenting of me, your hearing my breath
amidst the smoky lungs, the panting of my burning pines.
In daylight we met often enough, and close enough,
for you to show me your tiny eyes, your rippling bulk,
the massive, rugged rug of your Humvee frame.
Now I should be home-free, each night sleeping well
in lands where my own kind are predators supreme:
but the stories of my drowsy hours subvert such pride –
you lurk inside,
you grow in my house, you prowl me to the edges,
the hides where I cling to the hope of the hunted:
that some night you will return to the deep forest,
signalling that I have survived, that I will always survive,
that I have learned my place, that I can be alive.