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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Spring Awakening

Air Date: Week of

Author Rick Bass and his dog, Auna.

Melting snow and playful grizzly bears are some of the simple joys Montana writer Rick Bass enjoys as winter turns to spring.


CURWOOD: Where writer Rick Bass lives in the Yaak Valley of Northwest Montana there is a point in the spring when sleep gives way to rambunctious wakefulness, where winter has truly left and won’t be coming back for many months.

BASS: The snow is melting. The grizzly bears that have been sleeping beneath the snow, suspended like seeds, will prowl the warm fields just beneath the snow, grazing on the delicious emerging lilies. Sometimes the yellow pollen gets caught on the fur and snouts of the great golden bears as they grub and push through the lily fields, pollinating other lilies in this manner. In this crude fashion, they are farmers of a kind, nurturing and expanding one of the crops that first meets them each year. The lilies follow the snow, and the snow pulls back to reveal the bears, and the bears follow the lilies. The script of life begins moving with enthusiasm once again, a script and a story more exuberant than any that has been seen so far this year.

And on winter’s remnant glistening ice shields, which grow smaller every day, the grizzly mothers with their cubs slide down the slopes on their backs. They ride the ice to the bottom, cartwheeling into fields of lilies, resting at the bottom of the vanishing glacier, and then climb right back up to the top. They slide and play for hours at a time, safely distanced from the new and changing world that lies along the river bottoms and in the lower elevations where people live. There is nothing but joy and new wakefulness running through their blood.

Author Rick Bass and his dog, Auna.

And though there are none of us who can tell by a certain murmuring of our own blood, when it is exactly that the bears climb back up out of the earth, I like to think that the other creatures of the forest can sense it. As easily as we might hear and feel the warming south winds moving through the tops of the pines. I like to think, too, that that joy is as transferable as felt and connected among all the inhabitants of the forest, as are the south thawing winds upon the land and upon and among all of us.

CURWOOD: Rick Bass lives and writes in the Yaak valley, in Montana. This snapshot of bears and lilies at the end of winter comes from his forthcoming book, The Wild Marsh.

[MUSIC: Jenny Scheinman “Awful Sad from Crossing The Field (Koch records 2008)]
CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced by the World Media Foundation. Our crew includes Ashley Ahearn, Bobby Bascomb, Eileen Bolinsky, Bruce Gellerman, Ingrid Lobet, Helen Palmer, Ike Sriskandarajah, Mitra Taj and Jeff Young, with help from Sarah Calkins and Marilyn Govoni. Special thanks this week to the Alaska Humanities Forum for its support of our story from Shismaref. Also this week, we bid a very fond farewell to our awesome producer Ashley Ahearn, and wish her happy trails. Our interns are Lindsay Breslau, Liz Gross, Phil DiMartino and Christine Parrish. Jeff Turton is our technical director. Alison Lirish Dean composed our themes. You can find us anytime at LOE dot org. I’m Steve Curwood. Thanks for listening.

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For more on Rick Bass, click here

Rick Bass’ Collection


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