Randy and I just spent a much-needed vacation backpacking in the Allegheny Mountains, in Pennsylvania. I enjoyed our un-distracted time alone, very much.
We didn’t get into the mountains until 7.30 Sunday night. We decided to hike in right away, and try to find some flat ground to set up our tent. We also decided to try to camp by the water reservoir, so we knew we were in for a hike. What we didn’t know was that the hike was going to end up being 5 miles long. Now 5 miles doesn’t seem like a long way, but 5 miles, in the mountains, with heavy backpacks, ends up being very very long. Two hours of our hike ended up being in the dark. We saw hundreds of “diamonds,” AKA spiders. If you’re wearing a headlamp in the dark, spider eyes reflect back at you. Yeah, it kind of grossed me out.
We finally arrived at a place we thought would work for our tent, set up our tent, ate a snack, and went for a swim. The lake was beautiful—all shiny and quiet, and surrounded by mountains. It was a full moon, and the moon lit everything beautifully.
When we wanted to go back to the tent, we put our headlamps on and started climbing a dry riverbed uphill. Randy stopped to hang out our bear bags (with our food in them), and I was about 10 feet ahead of him. All of a sudden, we heard a noise in the woods. It was loud, but we had been hearing noises all night, and seeing a lot of deer. The deer were everywhere. Randy knew it was louder than deer, so he immediately grabbed our bear spray, just in case. I thought it was deer, so I just stood there stupidly, 10 feet ahead of him.
The crashing became louder, and I turned to my left to see two very big retinas reflecting back into my headlamp. No, actually, they were CHARGING ME! Oh my god. Those eyes were running at me, from what looked to be a distance of about 20-30 feet. In bear distance, that’s about 3 seconds away…because it was RUNNING. I did something immediately, without thinking. I yelled. Now, to clarify, it wasn’t the kind of scared yelling, or screaming, that you would think would come out of my mouth at a time like that. It was a yell that came from deep within. I yelled, “HEY! GO AWAY!” In hindsight, I wish I had used a phrase more powerful, or more clever, to add to my story. Instead, what came out of my mouth was if I was yelling at a big mean dog. A dog that needed to know I was in control. A very BIG dog.
But it worked. The bear stopped and looked at me. It didn’t immediately run away. It thought for a moment, probably only a few seconds. In those few seconds, I thought, “It probably will not eat me, but it’s deciding if it’s going to maim me for life. I wonder if it will take out my eye?” That’s the funny thing, in the moment when something was thinking of attacking me, I was thinking about my eyes. But only one eye–I thought it would only take out one eye. I’m not sure why I thought the other one would be okay.
Then it decided to run around me, and not eat me. In thinking about it later, I realized I hadn’t been scared. It happened so fast, but there wasn’t any panicking, or fear. I just took AUTHORITY over that bear. I think my tone of command scared Randy—you know, for the future of our marriage relationship. Although he did say that he was impressed that I had acted so quickly. He had grabbed the bear spray (a from of very strong pepper spray) when he heard the noise, and was just about between the bear and myself when the bear stopped and made its decision not to eat me. He thinks he could have sprayed it before it attacked. I’m not so sure. I’m thinking one of us would have been hurt if I hadn’t yelled.
The whole experience was, well, special. I’ve never been on a food chain before. It was also very unusual for a black bear to charge a human. It was obvious that it was attacking me as prey. In the morning, we found out by looking around that we were on a game trail when it attacked. It was probably his bear trail. We thought it was our hiking trail, and had walked on it for some time in the dark. Along with just eating some delicious beef jerky, and being on my menstrual cycle (which attracts bears, btw), the bear probably thought that I was the most delicious piece of wounded-venison-from-heaven that he had ever smelled. So it wasn’t really his fault. Overall, I felt that the entire experience was confidence building. I scared away a bear. How many people can say that? I decided that having the ability to scare away charging bears is probably the best skill I can ever put on a resume. I might contact the girl scouts, and see if I can get some kind of patch for this.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
On a date the other night, Randy mentioned how his middle-school teacher read this poem in class, started crying, and then deep sobbing. He went on to say that she wouldn’t confess why she was crying for ten minutes straight, which he thought was rather cheap.
However, the conversation got me thinking, as I said aloud, “I wonder if there was a different road I could have taken…probably not, everything I was attracted to didn’t make much money, which is why I didn’t pursue anything in college.” Randy replied, “Hmm…you know? It’s kind of funny that you never thought of something like wildlife biology.”
“Wildlife Biology? Oh gosh…that never occurred to me.”
Because you know what? If it had occurred to me, I WOULD HAVE PURSUED WILDLIFE BIOLOGY. In reality, I have this dorky-booger-eating kid inside of me, who still loves animals (I try to hide it most of the time). When I was 18 and 19, and trying to figure out what to do with life, that dorky-booger-eating kid was a little more obvious than it is now, and before 18 and 19? You don’t even want to know. I keep a picture of me as a teenager, on my office wall, just so I can look at it when I feel discouraged…so I can remember how far I’ve come.
If I had become a wildlife biologist, it would have changed and helped mold me, just as photography has. I can imagine what family gatherings would be like…
I would go on and on about this little guy:
A Pika, my favorite animal, and probably what I would choose to research. I would corner some poor family member, and barrage them with Pika facts; how they mate, how they love, the dangers they face–and how they are trying to communicate with us about our shaky global environment. I’m sure I would go on for at least 45 minutes, or until Randy pulled me away from the shaken family member.
During our date, I was enthralled with the idea of an optional road–of being a wildlife biologist. I said to Randy, “I’m sort of surprised that my parents never mentioned that option. Because I would have pursued it 100%.” Randy replied, “You know? Maybe that wasn’t an accident.”
It probably wasn’t. When I told my sister this revelation, all she could say was, “Ohhh…ohhhh…I am SO glad you didn’t pursue that road.” Overall, I think photography was the best road for me, at least…that’s what the picture on my office wall tells me.
When I married, I was definitely a 75% sort of girl. If I were to be honest, it could have been even lower depending on the circumstance. By grading myself in percentages, I mean: I am grading myself on general life accomplishments and motivation.
If I made breakfast, I would make my coffee, eat my cereal, and not finish cleaning until noon. However, I think a lot of people might do that, so maybe this is a better example:
I would photograph, edit, create a few final edits, and then not post the photos on the internet for a week or two. You know, until there was an obvious deadline.
For quite a few reasons, this was killing me. Not only because I was dropping the ball with client expectations, but because it made my lovely husband start to get annoying.
“Rachel, did you post client photos yet?”
“Don’t you think you should post now?”
This would go on, like I said, for 1-2 weeks or until I realized that maybe, just maybe…posting wasn’t that hard.
However, I’ve definitely gotten better. I have gotten past the part of needing Randy to kick my butt constantly (although he still does frequently). This blog post is an example.
“Rachel, have you posted?”
“When do you think you are going to post?”
I swore that I would post today. And I think I’m doing well. It’s only 11.15pm. I have 45 minutes.
I’ve been doing so much better, though. In my life percentages. I’ve at least gotten to 80%, possibly even 85%. Unfortunately, Randy is learning that I sometimes react better when he thinks I’ll never do it. Like how I’m running now. I hate running, and I’m only running because he thinks I can’t. I know that sounds immature…but hey, it’s helping me get past that 85% mark. If I get past that…perhaps I can do anything. I mean, next year…I could possibly get to 100%. You know, next year…like how I think of tomorrow.