A Farewell to Arms

Where giants have walked, apparently

Well, my field season is finally over. This was the last year of this incarnation of the Bear DNA project round these parts, and we had a good run, but the end was bittersweet. Taking down all of the barbed wire and nails and such from trees in which they’ve been embedded in for four years necessitated semi-Herculean efforts.

And also sound effects. A whole lot of sound effects. And talking to those trees. And yourself. And cursing all things metal. And cursing the very tall people who put the tags in too high. And cursing the trees themselves, but then feeling really guilty and taking back those particular curses, and putting a bare palm against the sticky, hairy truck and apologizing.

A person walking down the trail blindfolded may have thought one of many things:

(1) that an Olympic dead-weight lifter had moved to the area to train;

(2) that James Brown was back from the dead and enjoying more rustic huh-hahs;

(3) that George Carlin was back from the dead and testing new cussing combinations;

(4) that a sadistic dentist was administering a root canal (just relax, help me, help you…):

or (5), that a deeply conflicted Smeagol was waging a schizophrenic war of morality…
(f*#k you!…I’m sorry…dammit!…it’s okay…arrghgh!…sorry, sorry, sorry)…

In short, the whole process turned each of us into a bit of a weirdo.

Cleaning up the forest

Meanwhile, such efforts worked their physical magic on our bodies… making us that much more tired at the end of the day. Our arms, so accustomed to hanging uselessly at our sides all summer, were finally called to… um, arms… as it were. They got all strong. They developed lines and bulges we’d never seen before. They lead us to delusions of grandeur–mainly day dreams of careers in arm-wrestling or can-crushing or ripping¬†off¬†doorknobs for fun. But we asked too much of the poor lazy things. They got tired, weak. They began to rebel… went numb while we slept, hands curling into clawed shapes. They started to seriously complain when lifted above chest-level. They did not want to help remove so much sap from our hair. They started talking to our knees, who got all cranky again, and began to imitate crumpled cellophane and creaky stairs and Rice Krispies freshly doused in milk.

Then the weather got in on the torment. Snow then rain then slush then rain then snow. 60 mile and hour wind gusts pushing us backward, tearing maps from our hands, and slamming car doors with authority. Cold air freezing our shoes and toes and fingers and noses. All of it briskly escorting us out of the woods. Call it a night, folks. And then we were done.

And while a week later I am still enjoying the fact that the decision to venture out into the wintry mix is now optional, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it already. I guess I’ll be seeing you around, bears. Enjoy your long nap. I think I’ll have one too.

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