Ruminating on Omnivores
Chip was counting the brown bears across the river, and checking for goats on the mountain with his spotting scope and I was on the couch with my knee on ice last night, and telling him about Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, a great book-- so full of information about what Americans eat and why. (Mostly corn, it seems, although not the kind from the can, rather by-products in everything. But you'll have to read it, and should.) Anyway, Pollan makes the case that omnivores-- that would be humans-- have a bigger brain because we have to make choices about what to eat that animals like koalas who only feed on eucalyptus leaves, don't. That may be why we are in charge, food-chain wise. Then Chip said, "This is a huge bear." And wished I'd get up to look, but I took his word for it. I asked if he'd seen the brown bear in the yard, the one who has been in the neighbor's cherries, while I was in Juneau, and he said no. Then he said, "You know, humans aren't the only omnivores, bears are too. They eat everything - meat, plants, fish-- cherries, they'll even diapers at the dump." He wondered if bears had bigger brains because of it. I thought about how human a skinned bear looks, especially the "hands"-- their paws are beautiful, and kind of creepy because they are so close to our own. I also thought of how one of my Tlingit friends says he's descended from bears, not monkeys, like we white people, and about those bears at Holly and Pizza Joe's wedding. They seemed to be enjoying the music, and I thought about Timothy Treadwell, who along with his girlfriend was eaten by a bear (or bears) in Katmai out on Kodiak, bears that he had played with like friends each summer for years. (A huge mistake.) One of the comments in Werner Herzog's film about Treadwell, came from a longtime bear observer who said that the fact that he had lived so long among the bears, acting like such a fool, was a testament not to Treadwell's bear-sense, but rather to the patience of bears. In other words, those bears had more brains than he did.