A family of bears, a pack of coyote and the strawberry: delight in the present moment

Parts of New Jersey really do justify its label as the ‘garden state’. Out in Hunterdon County where I live, there are still acres and acres of farms and forests. And, increasingly there have been sightings of black bears. For the most part, bears will retreat at loud noises. So, if you are walking in the woods and you carry bells with you, you should be safe. A major exception to this is if the bear is a mother bear with young cubs. Then all bets are off, and the mother will defend her cubs from anything she perceives as a remotely possible threat – and that includes any human silly enough to be in her line of sight or her range of smell. Be forewarned.

Those of you who have been regularly following justalchemy stories will remember the cloistered convent of the good sisters of Saint Mary Magdalene which is tucked in a corner of  rural Hunterdon County. Well, one day two of the good sisters were out for a walk along a forest trail near the convent and they came across a mother bear and two of her cubs.  The sisters both saw the bear family at the same time, and together they broke their vow of silence and whispered to each other, “RUN!

As you read this, you may find yourself wondering how fast you have to run to outdistance a bear? Common wisdom says, just a bit faster than the other person with you.

And, so Sister Septimus fairly quickly outdistanced Sister Visentia and made it safely back to the doors of the cloister.

Sister Visentia was a bit more Rubenesque than Sister Septimus, and so she lagged behind in the sprint for safety. Soon enough she found herself on the edge of a cliff overlooking a quarry. Just as she was about to despair, Sister Visentia notice a honeysuckle vine draped over the edge. She very quickly wrapped the vine around her arm and leg and lowered herself over the edge of the cliff. And just in time too as the mother bear was in close pursuit!  

There she was dangling precariously over the edge, calculating how long the vine is and how deep the cliff was when Sister Visentia heard a coyote pack snarling below her. As she lifted her eyes to the heavens and began to take some calming breaths, Sister remembered her mantra and meditation practices. Just then Sister Visentia also noticed the mice who were gnawing at the vine that was suspending her between the bear and the coyotes. She deeply inhaled and exhaled. She looked to her left and noticed a wild strawberry plant with a deep red berry on it. Reaching out with her left hand, she plucked it, tasted it, and her last thought was a prayer of gratitude and appreciation for the wonderful sweetness of the delicious strawberry.

Viktor Frankl reminds us that there is always hope if we are but open to noticing it. Remember to celebrate the joy and delight of the present moment!

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