"The woods are lovely,
Dark and deep…"
NOT SURE WHAT Bear-walker means in Ojibwa Indian folklore but in my survival training courses, it was noted as uncontrolled fear or anxiety, either individually, or collectively as a group, with the end result being impulsive and dangerous behaviour that would impede or extinguish your chance of survival in the great outdoors.
It's a seasoned hunter lost in the wild for only a few days whose mind has snapped and who runs away from, and not to, a Canadian Forces search and rescue helicopter. It's a firefighter who gets lost in the wild, and keeps pushing forward, going, going…trying to catch up to friends, until exhausted, at which point both thirsty and hungry, he slips. Down a small hill. And his leg, is now broken. So, now what?
And when you're in the wild… you are not at home. Which should be obvious enough, but it often isn't.
You are far from having the usual community supports.
And that's when the Bear-walker can descend on you suddenly.
And if you lose the battle with the Bear-walker… you can easily forfeit your life.
I was taking a few shots of a Great Blue Heron that was in the clearing, near-by. It took off from a rock and I followed its flight when suddenly my camera strap caught my canoe paddle handle, wrenched the camera from my hand with great force, and out of my hands it went.
I last saw my Canon DSLR fly straight away, and then immediately down into the mirky waters.
My Canon SLR that had cost me $2600, my pro lenses that cost $1300, my memory card etc., now gone!
Enter the Bear-walker.
The Bear-walker is telling me to jump in. Go after your equipment. Quick!!!!!!!!!!
Cool head prevails.
The water is mirky. Can't see a thing. Could jump in and get skewered. What about lake reeds? Could get tangled up and hopelessly trapped. Not likely any undertow. Not likely. How do I secure the canoe so that it doesn't float away? Actually I can't. If I jump in, I could capsized all the canoe's contents! And of course, there is no one else around!
No, no, no…jump in. Soon there won't be a trace of your camera…
Did you catch that, readership?
The Bear-walker is using my $4,000 anxiety to get me to react without heeding the danger. I acknowledge he is there, and remind myself of his existence by entering into brief dialogue with him (that single shut-up I issue to quiet my mind). He is the watcher in the woods. But the harmful one. He waits for you to make a mistake. Then, he'll help you to make more, always, always under the guise of making your situation better.
Desolate areas are always the haunt of demons.
At least that's what my Catholic version of the New Testament alludes to.
All right. Take a breather.
Slow it down.
Surprisingly, a steady stream of bubbles are marking the descent of my camera.
Gee, how far down is it?
Clips of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea fill my head, briefly.
Seaview One. Damn, I loved that show. Whatever happened to that show?
Paddle goes down into the brackish waters.
And my arm and paddle are now submerged up to my armpit.
I think I'm hitting bottom.
Yes, I am!
I pull my arm out. Hey, where'd that black licorice come from?
Uh, oh… not licorice, but leeches!! Deal with those later.
I maneuver the canoe about. There is sun glare everywhere.
I take the second paddle, and block the sun over the canoe gunwale. Turns out to be a good idea.
Can see a little into the mirk, now.
Is that my camera strap shooting straight up, with the eyelet drifting backward from an unseen current?
Damn hell, it is!!
Oh, no. Can I even reach the camera-strap eyelet?
Plus, I've also got to deal with light refraction in the water.
Where the camera strap appears to be… is NOT… where it is.
Try to snag it.
I'll use the thoughtfully placed hook on paddle's hand grip, yeah! Who thought to put a hook there?
Damn, good, idea.
Numerous snag attempts. Numerous more snag attempts. Fifteen minutes pass.
Keep light blocking paddle in place. Leaning forward, but… careful, don't TIP the canoe!
The Bear-walker wanted me to lean further out. Nope.
Almost there… almost there…
I got my camera.
Pull slowly to the surface.
Yahoo, I got my camera back! I ACTUALLY, got it back.
But… is it any good?
Remove battery. Remove memory card.
Back on shore I separate lens, and camera to dry out separately.
I return the canoe to the outfitter. I tell my tale of camera woe to a disinterested youth manning the canoe hangar.
He looks away, as I speak. Women in bikinis, frolic by. I reach back and grab one of the canoe paddles, and slam the oar down on the picnic table he is sitting at.
He is now max. attentive to every word I say.
Damn, I hate the rude.
I realize right away, I don't think he's ever met a real Canadian.
Bet, he never forgets me.
He smiles and waves as I leave. The smile is fake.
Back home, I put both lens and camera back together, and right into a ten pound bag of basmati rice! That should pull the remaining moisture out of the camera.
In five days I should know IF my camera and lense can be saved! Keep ya' posted.
And Clear may laugh at the Bear-walker. But the Bear-walker has claimed many, many lives. And he's right there in your thoughts, pushing you to keep going, to act quickly without taking inventory, to not bother to hydrate yourself etc. and a million other things ill thought out things.
The Bear-walker stalks people in restaurants. Sometimes, even in your home.
Do you know how many people have died from choking in restaurants?
Here's how it unfolds. A person in trouble, starts choking and can't clear his/her throat. They don't want to make a scene so they get up and leave the table. They'll wave off others who try to help. They make their way to the bathroom because it's embarrassing to cough up dramatically in front of denizens of other folk seated around you.
If a cougher leaves the table follow him, and alert staff. Panic is starting and the person is not thinking clearly. With each step, the person is running out of air.
In the restaurant setting, the person can maintain their composure. But in the bathroom, pure panic will set in. And now the person is alone!
It will end horribly, and quickly.
That's exactly what the Bear-walker wanted. You remove yourself from friends, and family, and specially trained restaurant staff who could very easily have saved you.
When you are running out of air… you won't be able to save yourself. Remember that.
And at home don't let the Bear-walker tell you to ignore that unusual pain in your abdomen, or chest. Don't let him trick you into thinking you can sleep it off.
Yes, be aware of, and beware, the Bear-walker!
© Paul Cardin
© 2009 Special Projects in Research
Sunday, September 6, 2009
"The woods are lovely,