Stalking brown bears while sick with giardia and other stories from 'The Wild'
On Friday, October 14 we gathered to enjoy "Stories from The Wild" with eight stories presented in front of a live audience at Seattle's McCaw Hall.
(Story continues below video)
"The Eyes Have It," by Dean Burke
Alone on my paddle board, I had what seemed like the entire Salish Sea to myself.
When in the distance, I heard a familiar sound: the blast and whoosh of air and water — the sound of a mammal breathing.
A flash of shimmering black caught my eye, then another, and another, followed by more blasts of air and water. And there they were: a pod of eight orca whales.
(Story starts at 12:11 in video.)
"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," by Erica Hilario
One year for Fourth of July, (being immigrants in the US, celebrating the Fourth of July was imperative), my parents allowed me to travel with another family to Wisconsin to watch fireworks.
As soon as the deep hue of blue began to disappear, the fireworks began. There was this rapid conversation of lights and smoke, and more lights and more smoke until I thought it was over then it would begin again.
When it ended, my face still pointed to the sky, the smoke disappeared and all was left was this vast darkness with all these tiny speckles.
I remember turning to someone and asking, “Do fireworks leave ash in the sky?” They chuckled and told me, “No, those are all stars!”
(Story starts at 21:06 in video.)
"Virunga," by Ylfa Muindi
We woke up late that day in Virunga National Park. I never, in my life, dreamed that I would be late on the day I got to finally see mountain gorillas, but life doesn’t always play out in the ways you expect.
When my husband and I arrived at ranger headquarters, the ranger was already irritated with us. In a blend of rounded French and smoothed-out Swahili, he explained the rules and safety guidelines we were to follow with the gorillas.
Don’t touch them. Maintain a safe distance of 7 meters. Always wear the medical face mask near gorillas. Don’t eat in front of them. Do as the ranger tells you.
(Story starts at 29:06 in video.)
"A Cabin Recalled," by Garth Donald
I’ve got a personal rule in the back country: I only go as far as I can crawl back from. That’s my security policy. Worked so far.
If I had to, I could probably crawl for a day or two on a trail. Snow, however — snow complicates things.
The sun was setting soon. Trail was gone. My little cabin was up ahead, somewhere.
My ego got the best of me, so I kept on trucking. I had to guess the direction, snow wasn’t giving up any hints. Just sort of upwards. Forwardish.
The further I got, the stupider I felt. I was stupid. This little map was stupid. This trail was stupid.
(Story starts at 38:56 in video.)
"The Land of Giants," By Chris Morgan
Squatting: I was never very good at it. I think I’m too tall or something.
But this morning I had no choice; I had to master it. Because this morning I have giardia, and I’m a long way from the nearest toilet. Just four little sticks straddle the opening of the pit latrine underneath me, sticks for me to carefully place my big feet on and hope they hold my 230-pound body.
My concern is that no one in camp is that big, including the fellows who dug this latrine. These sticks have never had to hold someone my weight.
It was 1994, and I’m 25 years old, and I’m the only non-Pakistani member of a swat team of bear experts here to find one of the rarest bears in the world: the Himalayan brown bear.
I’d begged and borrowed my way here and it's a big day.
(Story starts at 47:13 in video.)
"One Night in Felton," Katura Reynolds
To celebrate my graduation, we rented a little cabin in the town of Felton, which is in the woods north of Santa Cruz, for a few nights. It was there that they gave me a special graduation treat: my very own night-vision wildlife camera.
It was about the size of a cam-corder (if you remember those days), which is to say it was a little smaller than a loaf of bread, but not by much.
My right hand slid into the strap to support the thing as I held the ocular up to my right eye. I’m guessing the night vision camera was originally designed as a tool for deer hunters.
My parents were sure that I’d find it super useful for…drawing pictures of wildlife...after dark?Anyway, new toys are new toys.
(Story starts at 1:01:02 in video.)
"Gyotaku," by Shin Yu Pai
I felt a terrible sense of responsibility for this animal’s life. It had been preparing to spawn when the lighted lures hanging off of our barge attracted him to swim towards our vessel. The opalescent animal met my gaze with an unblinking and silent stare.
I’m a Buddhist. I’d taken vows to do no harm. To respect all life and to honor all sentient beings.
As the group gathered around the limp squid, the marine biologist scraped a plastic fork across its body to activate a rainbow of chromatophores.
I felt myself in the active act of breaking a vow. I had violated a commitment. And not only did I feel a profound disconnection to nature, I felt aware of being cut off from my own humanity.
(Story starts at 1:12:34 in video.)
"Nowhere to Run," Monte Montepare
It was just past peak foliage, the leaves were mottled yellow and gold, dead but not yet fallen.
I felt like my marriage was a lie, like my life was a lie. I felt like I died on that couch.
I felt lost in the world. Then I realized I was lost in the woods. I was a wilderness guide lost in his best friend's backyard — killing it.
In my defense it’s brushy and Chester is the kind of guy who meticulously doesn’t walk the same way to keep it wild. Regardless, I’m disoriented and try to gain my bearings.
I take a step forward, a twig snaps under foot. I look up to my left and 25 yards away is a 750-pound grizzly bear.
(Story starts at 1:19:48 in video.)