Going to the Maul
I did a search on “Bear spray” today because I wanted a picture to go with this post. I don’t recommend searching for bear spray because those images are linked to mauling victim photos. Don’t do it. I almost lost my lunch.
I’ve been very troubled by the news lately. A lot of us are, for various reasons. One of the themes I’m hearing is “unfairness.” On all sides. People are roaring, clawing at each other. This morning, I shut off the Kavanaugh coverage, stopped posting my position on Facebook and closed my laptop, put my bike on the car, and headed to the trailhead to attempt my second solo ride, post-mountain lion/bobcat sighting. I also wanted to clear my head of all the news and social media noise and get my heart on the right path.
After the “cougar” encounter a couple of weeks ago, I took a one-day break from the trail. I was more than a little freaked out. The second day after, I reluctantly got back in the saddle and did the same ride with John, what I now refer to as “going to the maul.”
After that, I spent eleven days in Portland cuddling my grandbaby, Brooks, and now I’m home. I “went to the maul” for the first time alone yesterday, and honestly, I was afraid. I did it again today, and I was a little less afraid.
(TANGENT YOU CAN SKIP: When I was in Portland, more than a couple of animal-related things happened. I feel like I’m being stalked by them. Or hunted. They’re suddenly way more present and way more threatening. Even Silas (my daughter’s scruffy Jack Russell whom I adore) scared me once. Two events are worth mentioning: One was the day I was alone in a park taking a photo of a tree and out of nowhere, a wolf-like looking dog ran up and jumped on me. I did the opposite of what you are supposed to do—I screamed like a toddler and ran.
Another day, I was sitting at a picnic bench outside Otto’s Sausage Kitchen & Meat Market. Across from me was my daughter Cassie who was “wearing” my 6-month old grandson Brooks on her chest. Brooks’ back was to me, while Cassie faced me. Cassie is vegan, so she was not eating at Otto’s, but she was watching me eat an Otto’s Old Fashion Weiner.
It was delicious.
Our picnic bench was situated on the edge of the sidewalk within inches of the curb. A full-sized Dodge Ram pickup truck pulled up and parked right next to us. A man in head-to-toe hunting camo got out from the driver’s seat, as a man in a red-speckled white apron exited Otto’s back door and met him at the rear of the truck. Maybe two feet from me.
From my easy vantage, I could see the unattached antlers in the bed of the truck. Camo man lifted the bloodied, semi-wrapped deer in one hand and took a saw in his other hand, and proceeded to cut the head off Rudolph. He was literally decapitating him right there in front of us. I heard the saw—as I was chewing my delicious Famous Old Fashion dog.
I looked at Cassie and thought Oh deer. I may have even said it aloud, I can’t remember.
I do recall what she said. She glared at me, and smugly said, “That’s what you’re eating, mom.”
Okay, so I wasn’t eating venison but I got her point.
Camo man and apron man carried the dripping, headless corpse out of the truck and into Otto’s back door.
So animals have been on the horizon lately in a big way. Some might say the universe is sending me a message. If so, I don’t know what it is. If you want to take a shot at it, go for it. TANGENT OVER.)
Today, when I was “at the maul”/on the trail, I came up behind a man jogging. I had already gotten through the dreaded danger-zone section (where I had previously encountered the mountain lion/bobcat) and so I was breathing a little easier now, but still quite hypervigilant as I peddled and listened to a Jesus podcast over the speakers on my iPhone perched in a case on my bike. Don’t roll your eyes.
This jogger was familiar because I have seen him many times before on this path. He generally runs about the same time of day and has a distinctive look and steady, slow pace, always with his head tucked down. He’s in incredible shape, tanned, lean, and strong—with a long silver ponytail spilling out the opening in the back of his baseball cap. Because of the silver hair, I’ve assumed he was much older. Every time I see him I’m impressed at what incredible shape he’s in “for his age.” I think I’ve even said as much to John as we rode together before.
When I came up behind him today, I saw what I thought was a can of a bear repellent in his right hand as he jogged. I’d never seen him carry it before, and I wondered if he had some current scary wildlife information that I also ought to have. And do I also need to pick up a can of bear repellant? I thought I should ask.
I stopped my bike on the path a few feet ahead and waited for him to catch up. I decided to ask the incredibly-fit-old guy, hey what up with the bear spray?
I paused my Jesus podcast.
When he raised his head and looked up at me, I was stunned by his face. I wonder if my jaw dropped. His face matched his body. He was not an old man at all. His eyes were kind and shiny. He had a chiseled, handsome face and reminded me of a character from Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments, with his hair all silver and flowing—a cross between Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner and mostly Bo Derek’s hunky husband Joshua the Stone Cutter. Only with a silver ponytail pouring out the back of his baseball cap. Dude was straight up Biblical looking. And then to top it all off, he had the voice that could be narrating what I was just listening to on my podcast, the “red letter” parts.
He spoke with what sounded like a Middle Eastern accent, and his name matched my hunch. The man showed me that his “bear spray” was not bear spray at all, but a thermos. Most likely a thermos with cool water.
I told him about my recent cougar sighting and that I was nervous now about the trail, but I didn’t want to avoid it out of fear, because I love this path so. He gave a comforting, kind smile and confidently said, “You don’t need to fear animals, you need to fear people.”
After talking to him for a bit, we concluded that what I saw was probably the same bobcat (not a mountain lion) he saw around the same time I had. His description and location matched mine. He said that he heard the bobcat’s den is in that spot and it has recently been disturbed by maintenance workers clearing some of the paths for work on power lines.
He told me that bobcats are generally not aggressive and that I shouldn’t worry. We talked about this lovely path he calls “paradise.” He seemed to know what he was talking about.
Not everything and everyone is as they appear.
Politically, we are deeply angry and starkly divided. People can be so scary. There’s a lot of talk today about the wedge between parties–the “polarization.” How we need to be more united, yet we are further and further apart, tearing at each other. I don’t want to be accused of being deliberately divisive. I’m checking my motives, but to live honestly means I need to call out wrong where I see it, even if that causes someone to dislike me. I want to be brave enough for that. When I listen to my Jesus podcast on my bike, I am reminded that the Jesus I have learned about could also be called polarizing. Jesus wasn’t all tie-dye and Kumbaya.
I’m not saying I’m Jesus and pulling a holier than thou. But do I want to emulate Jesus’ teaching? Have Jesus reflected in and through me? You can bet your bobcat. I am willing to risk being unpopular as I attempt to speak the truth in love. I don’t always get it right. I sometimes make assumptions. I’m often wrong.
I just think it would be good if we could share our varied, sometimes errant, opinions without mauling each other.