The car bumps over the rough road into my campsite. I’m eager to park my new A-frame hardwall pop-up trailer. My first weekend solo writing retreat is minutes from commencing, and I just had my first inspiration after several weeks of writer’s block. The news just issued a warning about a dangerous suspect escaping custody into the very forest I’m camping in, the northern part though. The public is being asked to exercise extreme caution until the subject is apprehended, and this is my jumping off point for writing exercise number one.
The fresh air lifts the funk off, and the beauty of nature rushes me. The greens and browns around me hum with an energy all their own. I feel alive and plugged into life. With a familiarity that surprises me, I undue the travel latches and push up the lower roof followed by the first wall. Within minutes my forest home is set-up.
A chill crosses my back as I finish the last of my set-up, it’s coupled with an unsettling feeling of eyes burrowing deep into my back. It’s my unconscious motion of trying to flick the eyes away that calls my attention to it, jars my attention, so that I stop and spin peering intently into the darkening forest. My mind jumps to the simple sign I passed just moments ago composed of red, white, and black. The red box at the top is framed by white which acts to highlight the white letters stating Keep Out. Slightly below there is black print contrasting this message in a large white space where the Wildlife Act & Provincial Park Act advises Area closed due to bear activity. A rush of voice wash over me, all the warnings rolling across one another about the dangers of me camping alone.
Everything seems too silent, I feel afraid to move. I imagine a black bear’s dog like nose breathing down my neck to close for me to escape. Could I fight off a cute black bear with its short black claws? A male black bear weighs between 220 and 440 pounds. The sound of rustling brush behind me interrupts my thoughts and sends me fleeing into the trailer. No fire tonight. I won’t be going near the door let-alone outside with or without a flashlight!
A soft pitter-patter sounds on the fibreglass roof above me, it seems I came inside just in time. I strain my ears, but the forest has gone silent.
* * *
Stifling a yawn, I reach my arms up pulling my spine tall. It resists slightly before giving into the pleasure of stretching out after hours of writing, it pops once and cracks mercilessly. “Ahhh.”
The darkness outside the camper is opaque, a stark contrast to the soft warm light that washes throughout the trailer. Its cozy inside, warm and quiet. The rain stopped some time ago leaving only the occasional plop of water to drop on the roof. The spicy smell of cinnamon tickles my nose while I study the interior shadows, my cinnamon rooibos chai is almost finished and dreamland is calling.
* * *
The light around me is inky, it feels suffocating. The branches of the forest are close around me, and they are teasing me with slight movements. I’m not alone, my bones ache with the urge to flee but I can’t see my enemy. My breath is so loud it drowns all sound, and then it’s there in front of me: yellowish-orange eyes glowing. My heart stops. The eyes are running toward me, disembodied eyes, speeding through the night. The impact will surely jump start my heart, only to stop it again…
My eyes fly open. My arms and legs are raised to fend off a blow. I’m rocking from side to side. It takes my groggy brain a minute to realize that I’m not in the forest with an unknown predator. I’m in my trailer, and something has bumped it from outside.
Another slight bump, a huffing sound, and a crunching and rustling like someone prowling around. A wave of fear washes over me quickly followed by one of anger. I look around noting the retreating night, it is a hazy light out. There is just enough morning glow to see who or what woke me up.
I’ve been cooped up since my hasty retreat from my own imagination yesterday afternoon, I won’t let it get the best of me again today. I take a deep breath in, and place my hand on the door. Slowly I ease it open and peek out into the rising dawn. My limited field of view shows nothing but grey morning light and damp morning trees. A deep breath, slowly I ease my head out to look around.
My breath catches and I almost close my own head in the door trying to get it back into the trailer as I close it. It had a pronounced hump on its shoulders, small round ears, and a pig-like nose. That brown silver-tipped fur body had to be pushing 700 pounds. Terrifying. I didn’t see its eyes, but my dream floats to the surface of my mind and my mouth goes dry and my knees buckle.
After a couple deep breaths I rise from the floor and remind myself that I am on a writing retreat and I have just been provided with a new inspiration. So I fill the inside of the trailer with the scent of coffee, but I settle for a banana and yogurt instead of bacon. I slide into writing mode just as the rain begins to fall again.
The day passes without further thought to the bear, and I haven’t bothered with any media updates. Solid writing time is what I came for, and as I slide exhausted into the bedsheets I know it is what I accomplished. Tomorrow I pack up and head out.
Sleep is restless. The back of my eyelids are haunted by glowing eyes, silver hair, huffing sounds, and imminent danger. There is no point to continue fighting my bedding so I rise and prepare the inside of the trailer while waiting for enough light to collapse it.
The lighting is murky, it is the in between stage of night and morning haze. Forest morning life can be heard stirring just outside my scope of view with chirps, hums, bumps, and rustlings. The air caresses my skin with a fresh coolness while the earthy after rain smell fills my nose. It is with startling clarity that I become aware of a heavy silence invading the forest. The tiny hairs all over my body prickle in fear pulling bumps of flesh up with them. I slowly cast my eyes toward the sound of a cracking log, peering into a thickened area of trees. My last thought, we shouldn’t fear the grizzly bear, but the grizzly man and the grizzly mind…
By Shari Marshall – 2016