Bramble the Bear Splashing in the WaterPhoto by: Polly Klein

— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —

Bramble the grizzly bear could be a bit of a brat—except in this incident, it was also so cute.

We hold many types of retreats here, from conservation to artistic to spiritual, in keeping with the belief that Life is not simple and we need all perspectives to help us make sense of it. Thus we were holding a four-day shamanic retreat, and it was the end of the last day. The leader, Rose De Dan, wanted to take the participants on a shamanic journey in the company of the animals, so we all went into the main compound and lay down on the grass. Rose began the journey, leading us along with words and using her rattle to pulse out a rhythmic beat to help us enter other realms.

As she began, Bramble, who was in the pool room a few yards away from us, began to carry on. He leapt in and out of the pools with great resounding splashes and slammed his bear-sized ball against the metal side of the enclosure where it would make the most noise. BANG BLAM CRASH! He raced around the enclosure, jumping up and down and making huffing noises. He kept this up for the entire duration of the journey—about 15 minutes. SPLASH CRASH CRASH REVERBERATING CRASH! Like a young child being bad.

The poor participants didn’t know what to do: follow Rose and do their best to go on the journey, or laugh. He was so obviously being—and intending to be—disruptive. It is true he likes an audience and knows how to carry on and entertain when he goes to the outer pools, but this was different. It was clearly meant to be either a disruption or a plea for attention. The question is why? Because we were all silent, which was weird from his perspective? Because we were ignoring rather than admiring him? Because he didn’t like the idea of a journey? Or he thought we needed to lighten up? Rose thought it might be the energy of the journey that made him “frisky.”

I have no idea, but I lean towards we weren’t paying proper attention to him.

Humble Bumble the Grizzly Bear

Humble Bumble the Grizzly Bear | Earthfire

Humble Bumble Refuses to Go to Bed

It’s a problem, having a specially-abled grizzly bear. This is January, and Humble Bumble still refuses to go to bed, no matter what we try. All the other bears behave in a properly bear-like manner. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of them—or black nose peeking out—for more than a month now. But Humble Bumble sits there, pathetically asking for food. It’s not right… he should go to bed. But what can you do when a bear looks at you that way? We tried not feeding him for a while so he would do what is proper, but he just started to lose weight and that wouldn’t work. He needs fat to hibernate. And those innocent pleading eyes…

So to the grocery store I go on a dark, frigid January afternoon, to get more apples and other food for him. I call the grocer; “Do you have a big box of apples?” “What kind?” “Well, it’s for a bear who doesn’t want to go to bed and he doesn’t like red delicious and he doesn’t like green apples.” A long silence. Then: “Would honey-crisp do?” “Yes.”

I pick up a couple of gallons of peanut butter as well. He likes his peanut butter smeared on his apples.

Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.

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