A girl picked berries in a meadow. We could see her off in the distance as we stood on our ridge. The hills of heaven, we thought, and other such things, as she moved slowly through the green.
In another place we walked along a river. Cottonwoods grew wide and tall and spread branches across grassy fields. We thought to rest there as long as we could and fell asleep beneath the trees.
All that green and fluttering leaves leads to longing and that sort of trouble. Don’t you know we missed the bears? They were nowhere to be found all the summer. Not in the high meadows or down along the river.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking, that we can’t recognize them when we see them. You think we can’t know their presence or read the signs or recognize clues for what they are – like torn up rotted stumps or the ripped bark of living trees. Maybe even a print in the mud.
One night we camped beneath hemlocks and heard all night the hum of bees.
Maybe you’re right. Maybe we don’t know where they walk, here now or in the half moon nights after the berries ripen or when the cold wind comes and clouds thicken and every bare place is covered in white.
You might want to pick up stones now and put them in your pocket to bring home and set upon a mantle. Remember the mountains, you’ll say, and the lack of bears.
Except when you return home there is beneath the boughs of the apple trees, splayed with four legs out, a bear. There like a god, acting as if he owned the place. Owned the yard and its trees, this valley, these mountains, this whole big world and its drunken air, ripe with fruit.