Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Coming home

Caribou calved everywhere those weeks in June on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge in northeast Alaska. Bears hunted through the herd, wandered into camp, slept in willows, blended into invisibility among the rich brown tundra vegetation. Shotgun was always in hand or within reach, awake or asleep. Encounters with griz were numerous. They were fearless and arrogant. This was their land. I was the interloper. A helicopter lifted me out, dropped me next to an idling plane at Kaktovik, and 24 hours later, never having really slept, I was in my house. That night the fan was the arctic wind; my bed was the floor of the tent; the sheet was the sleeping bag. Tilla the black lab was a bear as she clambered onto the bed in the middle of the night. I lunged for my shotgun, which wasn't there; Tilla licked my face, and I was home from bear country.
There has been no similar homecoming from these wars.

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