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.
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)]
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