On August 9, 2023

Mountain Meditation: Wildlife sightings and signs, part one: Bears and another little hibernator


Dad first saw the land we now live on under 6 feet of snow. He and Orin Bates climbed up the hill wearing snowshoes to get through the snow drifts. Dad gazed at Pico through the trees when Killington had barely begun. As he considered the commitment and cost, a ruffled grouse rose up a few feet away. That was the sign Dad needed to receive. He purchased the land right away. We’re grateful he recognized the grouse’s significance, having learned nature signs from Indigenous peoples when his father was American Consul General in Mexico.

Grouse represents life’s sacred spiral, enlightenment and living as One. Grouse Medicine is movement and dance. Before Dad passed, he said he’d communicate through animals and the natural world. I never know what I’ll spot next from the Killington Dream Lodge he built.

I didn’t spot a bear here for nearly five decades, but after Dad passed, they began to appear—mostly adolescent bears tackling an empty garbage can, or crossing our stream on a fallen tree. They’ve strolled nonchalantly down our bear Hhighway (driveway) until they spotted me then hid in the brush or climbed a tree.

Our grandson Silas’ favorite tale is “The Bear on the Deck ,”which I described in a story in The Mountain Times back on Sept. 9, 1999, titled: “Valuable life lessons with a bear on your deck.” We also cherish memories of the baby bear in our maple tree. We watched it breathlessly as it climbed then settled down, nestled on a branch, pawing sap and licking it off. We dined with friend Kay, all in a row, until its mom beckoned from below. I feared it couldn’t climb back down but the little bear claws dug right in. Each time a bear has appeared in our yard, it’s brought a message I’ve needed to hear.

Last summer I asked Dad for a sign of encouragement while healing from a Florida bike crash (with a tibia plateau fracture and concussion that affected my cognitive skills, including writing and problem solving). As I lay in bed, I heard scratching below the window beside our bed. I thought it might be the groundhog I’d seen, but the noise was too loud so I got up. I looked down and saw nothing at all, so I looked to the left, and then to the right where a bear was slowly walking away. I hobbled to the great room to fetch 7-year-old Silas who’d hoped to see a bear for himself. At the nearest window, Silas watched wide-eyed as the bear crossed the driveway and entered the woods. Silas was thrilled and not afraid at all.

“Papa” Duane was peeved he’d missed seeing the bear, but two weeks later as we rested in bed, we heard the strange sound so I urged him to peek. Nothing was visible, straight ahead or sideways.

“Look down,” I suggested, and as soon as he did, his face turned pale and he fell on the bed. “Two feet from my head,” was all he could utter, for when he looked down, they locked eyes with each other!

My husband recovered and I realized Dad had sent me a gift to help me heal. Bear Spirit brings comfort, balance and healthy boundaries through solitude, introspection, rest and hibernation. Bear empowers us with strength, courage, and confidence by helping us to realize our dreams.

Another critter that hibernates (six months) is the little groundhog in our backyard. Silas spotted him and we quite enjoy his arrival afternoons at teatime. But the last two weeks, he’s stayed out of sight. We hope he’s safe and okay but creatures seem to come and go, depending on predators and activity at our house. 

Ground Hog (a relative of the prairie dog) retreats to its den and takes time to rest. Strength and inspiration are gained from mind’s stillness—a healthy reminder for us all.

To be continued…

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

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