San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA
August 15
A "writer" in that I transmit others' words, all the time, on a huge variety of subjects. A professional observer; a silent listener. I nonetheless have a voice, which I like to let out once in awhile (nice doggie). Owner of children and cats and one puppy. Standing still, battling fight or flight syndrome.


OCTOBER 23, 2009 3:55PM


Rate: 32 Flag

It's typical morning rush hour on 101 Southbound.  Four lanes, one for carpools and buses.  Me trying to maneuver over to the second from the left, a calculated guess as to which will be the "good" lane. 

 Also typical:  Bright sunshine overhead, this far north, rockin' the Lennon-esque sunglasses, but looking ahead, Mount Tam shrouded in fog.  Ready for the Golden Gate to be the same.  Regular glasses close at hand.  Nearly everyone has on their headlights; red tail lights in front of me, a sea, pitching and flowing, occasionally radically slowing.



Listening to morning talk radio, flipping back and forth to NPR.  Please, anything, god, but a freakin commercial.  In the back/side/front of the mind and the eyes, a sudden change in the atmosphere.  Brake lights, all on, every lane.  I don't even have to bemoan that I once again chose the "bad" lane.

Okay, wtf.  I mean, WTF?   Usually one or two or three lanes move.  Is it a particularly gnarly accident?  (Loathe to admit I'll look ... curious, interested, horrified, self-congratulatory.)  We are at full-stop.

Drumming fingers.  Switching stations.  Craning my neck.  Waiting for the glowing red (hmm, cool sunset effect, if I squint my eyes) to dim, change, shift.  Look at my phone.  Should I call work?  Or just sneak in... a few minutes late?

Oh, my.  What's that?  Is that a man?  He's on the highway?  What's he doing there?  Picking up broken pieces of glass, headlights, license plate, stripping, rubber?  Where is the accident, goddammit?  Which lane should I attempt to invade? 

No, that is not a man.  What is it?  A man in a gorilla suit?  It's nearly Halloween, after all.

No, that's no gorilla suit.  That's -- that's -- oh, no, fuck me, that's a Bear!  Looks kinda little.  Must be a black bear.  Geez, why couldn't it have been a grizzly?


But Nooo, he's not in a field like he's supPosed to be, is he?  He's smack dab in the middle of the highway, which now looks a little like this: 


(Only, of course, with a bear standing in the middle.)


Well now, this is interesting.  What are they going to do?  Who are "they"?  This bear, he's standing up, kind of sitting on his hind legs, but upright, like a man.  Sweeping his head back and forth, obviously sniffing the air.  Well, we must be foreign to him, as he is to us.  Musn't we? 

What was that movie, Tony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.  Jeez, what a metaphor of men's illusion of the ManBeast within.  Oh, and that stupid - stoopid! - manchild from Long Island via SoCal, living up in Alaska, thinking he had a connection to Bear.  That wonderfully dotty director chronicled the life and demise of a fool.  But those were grizzly. 

Hmm, I wonder if black bear are as Mean.  This one doesn't look mean, just bewildered.  Reminds me of my dog who, when confused or abashed, rakes his right paw over his face, managing to communicate both apology and baffled ignorance.  This one, this Bear, shakes his head, raises his snout, kind of defiant, but mostly seeking escape.  WTF, indeed.

Ho!  This is gonna get good (where's the popcorn).  People are getting out of their vehicles.  Oh, yeah, that's a good idea.  Contractor guy get out of his pickup, pulls a prybar from out of the bed.  Approches bear.  Lawyer guy pops out of his BMW (5 Series), starts hollering and clapping his hands, aligns himself with contractor guy.  Approaches bear.   Soccer mom hops out of her crossover (minivans are So Last Year), blowing her anti-rape whistle, cheeks aflare.  [Oh, wait, that's probably a whistle for soccer, yeah, she doesn't live in the City anymore, doesn't Need an anti-rape whistle - geez, I'm so judgmental!]  Approaches bear.

I get my phone's camera cued up (why don't I have the Canon with me?!  Because people Steal cameras out of your car in the City, that's why!).  You never know, I might make some money off the carnage.

The bear looks at the humans.  The humans attempt to flummox the bear.  I look at my watch.

Then he sees me.  No, not the contractor guy (though he's kinda cute).  The bear.  No, really.  He looks right at me.  He knows everything I've thought just now, even about the rape-whistle.  He knows about the grizzly munching on the idiot up in Alaska.  He knows about Alec Baldwin, and his fascinating arc(s).  He knows that I bemoan my weight and yet eat bread for lunch.  He knows that I yell at my children, yet lay awake at night wondering if I'm scarring them for life.  He knows about sunrises and early snow.  He knows about loss and loneliness and braggadocio and fate. 


 He knows how I feel about sky - skies, and lonely trees on hillsides, and sailboats on the deep blue.

He knows.  


He looks deep into my eyes.  He tells me it's okay to worry, it's okay to yield, it's okay to win sometimes, too.  He tells me to slow down and make sure I appreciate what's around me, but it's okay to kick ass when necessary.  He tells me.


He shakes his shaggy head once, with a snort.  "You got that?"  He asks.  I nod.  With a swing right, then left (the contractor guy and lawyer guy jump back; the soccer mom freezes), he lumbers to the highway's edge, always vaguely falling forward in that way of the bear.  He jumps the ditch, disappears into the brush.



And then. 


And then...


I go to work.






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Rush hour can be Such a bitch!
You think you got problems? I live in LA.
Great pics, fine piece. R
Yes, the commute can be a bitch but it is always nice to have what the Indians considered an Animal Familiar to send you timely messages.

A splended reminiscence, my dear Mlle Mack!
Oh, wow, Connie! That's pretty amazing. Sounds like you had a spiritual experience sitting in traffic.

I'm so hoping that you wrote a new post. I've missed ya! Have a great weekend.
I always say life is interesting, if we pay attention. And sometimes we are forced to pay attention. And why not? Did anything nearly as interesting happen to you the rest of the day? We get tons of geese around here, waddling across the road getting confused by the honking they generate from stopped traffic. I was first in line stopped for them when I noticed a guy on the other side starting to wade thru them, which would have left half the gaggle on one side of the road still trying to cross. I hit the flashers in my truck and hopped out and, very cop-like, escorted the whole bunch across the road. Felt cool about that all day. People got out of their cars and clapped. I think for the bear, I would have just waited. Cool post.
Helluva lot more interesting than my commutes ever were. Sheesh.

black bears are a common sight in Connecticut. Most aren't in to directing traffic: they like to relax by the river and ponder the human condition. ~R~
this is a perfect story. The part where the bear is looking into your eyes and the things that you say is devastating and beautiful This is the best thing I have read in a long time. It brought tears to my eyes. I felt like both the bear and you.
Bear was just trying to hitch a ride into his own work!!

That was God, girlfriend. Checking in with you.

I can always tell when it's God and not just a normal bear/man/homeless person....there's this look....
What an excellent message! Now I've got to look up what a bear message means . . . old habit. If I find anything interesting, I'll be back!
You made this up, right?
Connie-You are truly a story teller! Great story and I believe it when you say he looked into your self-examining self!
Great story. That bear *knew* things, and you were in the right frame of mind to get it. What did you say to the boss? "Um, I was doing a mind meld with a bear on 101 in traffic, see?"

I was sitting in class a few years back, and a friend shoots me a jpeg. It's the guy that got eaten by the grizzly. I guess it was a boring lecture. I don't remember anything about it, but I sure remember that guy. Oddly, I think I'd like to go that way, too. Eaten by a grizzly. Something very primal about that.

I hope your bear friend made it home safe.
rated, love love love and chill.
Poor bear, he must have been having a bad day, fortunately it was not his last.

Did you hear about the bear who wandered right into a supermarket in Wisconsin? He went directly to this beer room/area. Maybe they're related.
I stopped driving in rush hours a while ago, but I've become oblivious to the world walking around with my iPod or blue tooth. I guess it's time to take out the earbuds and look for the bear. I liked this a lot. Rated.
Thank, y'all. I promptly went out of town for the weekend (Tahoe freakin Beautiful this time of year) and juust got back.

I like the spiritual messages and big medicine read into this post. I like the idea of stopping and thinking.

I like you.
How unexpectedly poetic. You didn't have a drive to work - you had a journey. They are different.
There's a bear there!

Bear where?

Bear there.

Over here?

Over there.

Where there?



Oh dear.

Deer near?

Deer here?

No deer.

Not here.

Just a bear.

Over there.
I so love it whenever anyone can use flummox in a sentence! And, I LOVE bears! r
Mr. E - where is that from? Vaguely familiar - though might just be Seussian.... I can almost picture the picturebook that would hold it!

Tiger - I know! Aren't words so much fun! Thanks.
this is quite good, I like it and I don't like much.
I love the part about the bear looking into your psyche. It was scary to hear your fears... your concerns. So many of them mirror mine. Where's MY bear? It would be nice to have a bear say "It's going to be OK." My spiritual adviser.
Wow, I finally made it over to the cool looking avatar's blog! What a story. Former Alaskan here, so the bear seems more familiar than the traffic. This was great. Nice2MeetU.
I am glad you made a comment on one of my posts as it lead me to this wonderful story.
Yes, reflection. Wherever we find it coming or going.
Wonderful! Again the natural world unexpectedly imparts wisdom.
Setting a new high in LATE. Brilliant, again. Dammit, you fell off my favorites. Very mysterious. So I lost you. But now you are found -- just in case you were wondering round lost or anything!
Rush hours could really be so annoying at times. But a long rest when you get home is really such a reward. I remember one place where streets are always crowded by cars with head light of the succeeding car nearly touching the tail light gasket of the first car.