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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Bears in the Woods?

I have a love-hate relationship with water. As I recall, I nearly drowned, twice, around the age of four. My mom may tell the stories differently, remembering my intense fear, and inserting words like perceived. She likes to recount the time my daddy had to carry me wrapped like a traumatized chimpanzee around his torso, over a mostly aesthetic creek-bridge, spanning mere inches of water. Nevertheless. I did eventually learn to swim, my parents forcing me to endure several years of lessons, which they claimed were for my good.

Today, ironically, I live on water, and love it. I am drawn to water. The same way I’m drawn to mountains, even while admitting I’m afraid of heights. Or a blazing fire, mesmerizing at the lakeshore with friends at dusk; devastating when left to its own devices.

The last time I visited Yosemite National Park with my family, we were browsing a park store, when a book caught my eye. Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite. One story after another of exactly what the title implies. My husband and firstborn son had just reached the summit of Half Dome earlier that day. I had done most of the hike with them, but I intentionally stopped just out of view of the cable climb required to reach the top. I didn’t even want to see it, knowing it would give me nightmares. Instead, I found a picturesque setting for a hammock and good book, where I remained until my men had accomplished their goal.

I love mountains, and I fear them. I once wondered out loud if I’d be able to hike in eternity without fear of falling. To which Kyle responded, “What would be the fun of that?”

A couple of weeks ago one of my neighbors sent out a group text letting us know a wolf had been spotted in our area. A few days later my husband and our dog were out walking on our still-frozen lake, when Kyle noticed what looked like giant dog prints following the tracks of the deer. Which of course makes me think twice about things that might lurk as I meander my beloved wooded paths.

Similarly, during a recent visit my granddaughter was telling me about “hibernation”—a big new concept she’d studied at preschool that day. I eagerly showed Maisy the video her Uncle Luke captured of the "cute" black bear walking across our front yard last summer—and I wondered out loud if Mr. Bear might be sleeping out there in our forest? Maisy’s eyes grew big as she uttered, “I don’t think I like your woods.” I quickly changed the subject.

It does seem like there are dark sides to so many good things in this world. Everything wonderful seems to come with its warning. And I wonder—was this what God intended? Or is this the result of our broken creation?

My husband finds joy in risk and prefers to mix aesthetics with a healthy dose of adrenaline adventure. I on the other hand find a good bit of solace in the poetic landscape painted by the prophet Isaiah:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:6-9

I’m pretty sure my Maisy girl would prefer Isaiah’s vision, too.

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