Bear Signs

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As if to encourage thoughts of our well-loved dead, clouds have jammed themselves tight against the channel-side mountains to diminish our view-shed. The same mass of grey now drops heavy rain onto picnic tables and popular beaches. The clouds haven’t spared Salmon Creek Trail where Aki, my now-soaked poodle-mix trots up a steep slope. Her enthusiasm wanes after she sniffs the severed trunk of a cow parsnip plant. She reacts as if the trunk were a half eaten salmon lying next to a spawning stream in August.

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A bear chewed off the root structure and upper portion of the parsnip remnant before tossing it on the path. Other bear discards form a wavy line on the trail ahead, like shoes and bits of clothes dropped from front door to bed by a drunk. The last segment of torn leaf lies next to a thick patch of cow parsnip plants with swollen flower pods. I imagine the bear, 100 pounds, black fur shinny with rain, waddling down the trail, a three-foot-long chunk of cow parsnip crushed in its teeth, stopping every few seconds for another bite. He drops the last bit on the trail and heads down to Salmon Creek to see if the chum salmon have come home from the sea.

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