Retreat Participant Honors Teton Totem

A Journal Entry by Environmental Educator Deb Matlock
Grizzly Bear surrounded by aspen trees

One of the most beautiful things in life is when we are touched at our very core. When our preconceived notions are shifted dramatically in an instant, when what we thought we knew well is deepened. Thanks to Teton Totem, I experienced such a moment.

Gazing into his enclosure, I marveled at his gentle grace and polite willingness to engage all of us who visited him that day. As a person who works in environmental education, I came to Earthfire with a deep love and respect for these amazing animals. Intellectually, I understood that each and every one of them was an individual deserving of life and dignity. However, I was completely unprepared for my interaction with Teton Totem.

As I slowly approached his enclosure, he looked at me, his gaze penetrating and powerful. That didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the magnitude of kindness and gentleness I saw in his eyes. I have met many kind people and known many kind animals, but never before have I seen such a depth of kindness—and in the eyes of a grizzly bear! I was utterly moved to tears and found myself feeling a connection with him that transcended human and bear. The connection I felt reached a depth of spirit that allowed me to glimpse into the sameness we share with each other, regardless of whether we are human or bear.

The experience changed me and touched me in a way that I didn’t know I could be touched. I was reminded of why I went into environmental education in the first place. I was reminded of why it is so absolutely critical to consider non-human animals in our definition of community. I left with a deeper resolve that the work of connection is critical to healing our world. Thank you, Teton Totem.

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