At about 1:30 in the morning Pearl began to pace, and then make loud, low growls which turned into barks. She stuck her nose against the screen on the bedroom window and huffed and puffed and growled some more. Trixie dove on the bed and buried her face in my neck. “Bear” my husband mumbled and put the pillow over his face as Pearl barked and Trixie whined. I listened for telltale sounds of wood cracking (The chicken coop? Garage door? A tree branch), or brush tearing (The strawberries? A stump full of ants?) But all was silent. When Pearl wouldn’t quit barking, Chip got up, turned on the porch lights, and opened the back door and hollered “Git! Go on,” and came back to bed. He said he didn’t see anything. Pearl persisted, so a few minutes later he groaned and found the binoculars by the window and focused them on the beach. It was dusky, but not too dark to see. “There is a bear,” he said. “He’s swimming.”

“What?”

“Come look.”

Sure enough. There was a big bear, his head and back above the waterline, legs sort of kicking and working as rudders. He was lolling about in the water. The tide was high, right up to the tall summer beach grass, and that bear was swimming past our house and the barking dog, about ten feet off shore. I watched as he climbed out, just past my daughter’s place, give a shake like the dogs do, and amble South on the tideline.

Swimming bears. Who knew?

The other day, a neighbor from River Road said she saw an “incredible” bear trick. A big sow and two little cubs walked near her house, and then one cub jumped on his mother’s back and she ran off. The little guy held on tight, and his brother barreled along behind. She even caught a salmon in the river with the cub holding on like a rodeo cowboy. “Have you ever heard of that? How does he hold on? I wish I had a camera.” She said.

Then, on local social media there was a video of  a bear at the golf course. He played with the yard markers on the driving range, running up to them, knocking them over, sometimes jumping up and down on them, and then dashed to the next and swatted it over. On the fairways, he played the same game with the yard stick markers, pulling them up and tossing them like juggling pins. He seemed to be having a grand time.

And why, I wonder, do bears walk down the middle of the road to poop instead of, as the saying goes, use the woods? Every morning on our bike ride we follow fresh plops on the pavement. Is this commentary on the presence of humans in their territory? Or do they see roads the way a cat does a litter box?

Then there is the other bear in our neighborhood that has taken a bite of an ATV seat and left a smudge from his hot breath on a window. And that little black bear that sits in the grass just outside the electric fence around my friend’s garden. He’s cute, but needs to move on she says before he gets into trouble.

That’s the problem with becoming too attached to bears. If we make them comfortable around us, it pretty much always ends badly for the bear. That’s why Chip yells, and we let Pearl bark. And why when there is a warning on a trail, we let the bears have the right of way. It’s more for the bears safety and health than ours.

And  I really love it that a bear swam by last night, gliding with the current, down here where the river meets the sea, so quietly, so easily, and so politely, don’t you?