Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Maryland’

“…and bears, oh my!”

In Camping, Nature on June 6, 2022 at 4:15 pm
Hello, cutie-pie. (Not my photo.)

We’re spending the summer volunteering at a state park. A lot of folks are unaware that Maryland extends west to the Appalachian plateau. Properly speaking, Garrett County, were we’re living this summer, lies in the Allegheny Mountains, which form the western flank of the Appalachian Mountain Range. They’re called mountains. Frankly, they’re more hills, lovely hills, but hills, nonetheless. You’ll find us here, nestled in these lovely hills, banked against a lovely lake, living in our lovely Airstream, under a thick canopy of lovely oaks , beech, and maples. My feeders are regularly visited by a host of neighbors, goldfinches, nuthatches, ruby-throated humming birds, a variety of woodpeckers, and titmice. The traveling warblers are moving on now but the last few weeks have been tremendous, warbler song filling every nook and cranny of the woods. 

Life under the awning.

Birds aren’t our only neighbors. Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates a black bear density of around 65 per hundred square miles in Garrett County. Garrett County consists of 656 square miles. Do the math. We’re home to about 425 bears, give or take. And a few have stopped by to pay us a visit. 

We have a bear box, as is necessary, in this campground. Every night I take down my bird feeders, six total, and place them in the box. The box sits about six feet from the end of our picnic table and about twenty feet from the door to the Airstream. A couple weeks ago I heard a terrible banging outside. It was the middle of the night. Carole from the safety of the bed: “Don’t open the door!” My flashlight didn’t penetrate our smoked glass windows, only reflected back in my eyes. Consequently, I slowly opened the door. Momma bear turned to give me the stink-eye. I shined the light in her face. She grunted and the hair on the back of my neck stood at attention. From behind the bear box a cub, weighing, I’d guess, around thirty pounds, jumped up on the oak. Mom’s silhouette obscured the entire bear box, she was that big—by far the largest black bear I’ve ever seen. They eventually slipped away into the woods, like ghosts. 

Our bear box.

Two nights later they returned to clean my grill, dragging it from under our awning, about three feet from our pillows, on the other side of the Airstream’s aluminum skin. When I went out to confront them, momma had the grill dismantled and was licking clean the grates. Thank you very much. I tried to shoo them off, but she was intent on finishing the job. No point in starting a job you’re not going to complete. Eventually she and baby bear ambled off, licking BBQ sauce from their cheeks. 

Last night they came back. The grill was secured, the feeders put away, consequently they just expressed their disappointment by beating and pounding on the bear box like spoiled children. I tried to reason with them. “It’s 2:30 in the morning, com’on guys, go to bed.” Eventually they gave up and headed off. I returned to bed grateful I was not a tent camper.

 * * *

A couple hours after writing the above Cooper went nuts on the deck under the awning. Cooper doesn’t go nuts. He’s chill. I stared into the woods down the hill but saw nothing. He paced back and forth, crying and whining. A moment later a call to the rangers came over the radio. “Bear at the dumpster by the entrance gate.” 

It’s going to be an interesting summer.

That’s the report from the woods. Thanks for reading.  

Things Loved

In Memoir, The Examined Life, Wisdom on May 14, 2013 at 6:00 am

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My Maryland Woods

I spent some time over the weekend thinking about my best self as in, when have I realized my best self? I was in Maryland where I am selling some property, much of which consists of several acres of raw old woods, with trees bigger than I can get my arms around. I love these woods.

I do not use the word love lightly.

It was Mother’s Day evening and I was standing in a patch of woods where, four years ago, I scattered my mother’s ashes. The sun was setting. That’s when I started to reflect on those times when I experienced what I call my best self. My mother motivated me in a deep and profound way to seek such things of myself.

Also in these woods I roamed and meditated and worked with my beloved Maggie, a dog that meant more to me than I can talk about. Maggie died three years ago and walking the woods I could see her beautiful sleek athlete’s body fly like an arrow through the undergrowth. And over there, by the brook, is where I buried poor little Oscar, a rust-colored rescue cat that one night had a stroke. When I found him in the morning he did not resist my touch and his eyes no longer held life, though his heart was still beating.

These memories had the capacity to crush me as I walked my woods a last time. I was spared that, fortunately, though my heart was indeed heavy. Rather, I was grateful, a soaring and rare emotion. The animals of my life, my mother, the trees, the capacity for memory, these are things woven together by my aspiration for a better self, a best self. These are things loved and love will, by its very nature, guide a person to such heights.

…they carried on.

In Life, Travel, Writing on August 14, 2012 at 6:00 am

Fulton, Maryland

It was hot today and the work suffered. I suffered. But not as much suffering as the small crew of men I’d hired to cut the fallen trees, strip the limbs, and carry it all into the woods, suffered. The temperature rose to over ninety and they brought no water. For a moment we considered going to get them water. Imagine: Going to get them water! Water was at the ready. Tap. How have we come to a place where one drives to a store to get water? Instead, Carole filled a pitcher and grabbed some cups and took it to them.

By mid-afternoon we were spent and finished. But they carried on.

Evening found me sitting and pondering the sky. The trees were filled with the sound of cicadas and the horizon was alive with tree swallows, darting there and there again. Above them, far above them, the silver fuselage of a jet traversed the sky. Listing rays of evening light reflected off it and I discerned it heading west. It was at altitude already and I could only image that it was from Europe and heading to maybe Chicago or even a direct flight, Paris to San Francisco. It was the middle of the night for the people at thirty-thousand feet. Would they land fully awake and excited and push off on an adventure, as I like to do? Or would they be irritable and tired and sleepless and wonder why do this, go places and spend time away from home and the comforts of home and the dog and the toothbrush at attention and waiting? Who’s to say? Regardless, this was my thought after a long day of labor and an evening contemplating the sky with a tall glass of Maker’s and a dog hungry for bed.

What we own.

In Memoir, Nature, The Examined Life, Wisdom on August 9, 2012 at 6:00 am

My Maryland Woods

I am traveling to Maryland next week to work on the house and property I (still) own there. Suffice it to say I anticipate the real estate market will have returned enough by next spring to put it on the market. It is a nice house and sits on several acres of wooded land. It butts up against a state-owned watershed of several thousand acres and sits astride a thirty-acre preserve. It is remote, as property in the mid-atlantic goes, and afforded me a great deal of pleasure over many years.

The property is home to white-tailed deer, fox, box turtles, birds of prey, song birds, snakes and various other critters. During hunting season, the deer congregate in our woods. It is a place of refuge. It is a place I appreciate, an environment akin to my sensibilities. But eventually the congestion, the crowds, the traffic, and the weather, became too much to bear and we escaped north in pursuit of a simpler life.

Simple remains out of reach, however, while tethered to the property. Indeed, it became glaringly apparent after living there that the things we own eventually come to own us. This is a bit of wisdom I came late to realize. I am still owned by too many things and, like a snake, have been attempting to shed the skin of my slavery for some time.

I cannot explain properly how I came to this place. The metaphor of a slippery slope comes to mind, but I attempt to avoid cliché when possible. In sum, I lost the vision of my aesthetic for life. Regardless, it is an awkward position for a man who grew up chanting Thoreau’s admonition to “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” It is not too late (yet) to rectify. I have time, but not forever.

________________

Thanks for reading.

My Books

In Books, Philosophy, Reading on June 1, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I moved to Maine from Maryland last year and my library is following me slowly, volume by volume, with every trip back and forth. I didn’t have to move all at once–tying to sell my Maryland house (wish me luck)– so I am taking pains to cull through my library. My plan has been to bring along with me only those books I wish to keep. Charles Sanders Peirce, the 19th Century American Philosopher, had two houses, one to live in, and one to store his books. That is not an option.

My library consists largely of books I’ve read. But there is a surprising number of books I purchased and shelved for a future reading. This reviewing and moving of my library has afforded me this knowledge: There is nothing so profound as an unread library. I don’t think many people understand that. Susan Sontag said that literature is the “creator of inwardness.” Imagine the potential for inward creation inherent in the unread library. It is, as I said, profound, and speaks to the suggestion that we might think better of ourselves than we’ve yet to realize.