A Most Unusual Visitor


From a distance, she looks sweet and cuddly, but I don’t want to get too close.

So there was a bear in the yard. For those who know that I live in the woods, it seems obvious that a bear in the yard is more likely than not, but after four years without any bears this one came as quite a shock.

I was gazing out the kitchen window the other morning and out crawled a bear from the breezeway that separates the back door from the garage. I may go in and out of that door several times a day, and after an uneventful first year in the woods, I stopped peeking out to see what manner of wildlife is on the porch waiting to greet me. At first I thought it was – well, I don’t know that I thought it was anything. I saw movement, and then a mass of black. A pair of St. Bernards  had been by recently, and there is a pair of black dogs that shows up from time to time. I guess I thought it was a big dog, but I figured out rather quickly that this was a bear!

A friend asked me what I would have done if I’d been outside working when it came along. I have no idea, but inside the house I can tell you that I stood as still as I could lest the creature take notice of me beside an open window and decide to find out what kind of food I was making that day. Recent news stories about the couple who surprised a bear in their kitchen, and another of a cub stretched across the sinks in a Montana ladies room were running through my head as I watched the curious creature sniff around and meander about as if he or she owned the place. I had the violated feeling that I was being burgled.

The bear took its time and stopped along the way to admire some chairs and a couple of yard ornaments as though it were checking out the merchandise at the garden center. It was thoughtful enough to walk around borders and beds rather than through them on its way to the back deck. I remained still. The last thing I needed was for the curious bear to crawl up the deck and hoist itself over the railing. A few minutes later, I caught sight of it down the slope. It admired the apple tree nearest the house, and decided to swing on some lower branches of the largest conifer on the place. Seeing that I cannot reach those same branches from the ground, this wild beast stretched to an impressive height once it decided to unfold.

I finally had the presence of mind to snap a photo, but he was on all fours again and about to head down a distant trail. He looks like a cute cub in the shot, but he was not anything I want to encounter without a barrier between us.

I have a book that explains the lore and lessons of wildlife visits. Each time I encounter something new, such as the wolves that I thought were coyotes, and the owl that perched outside the bedroom window for a few hours one morning, I read about my visitor to see if I should be listening to a hidden meaning. The bear’s message was pretty accurate, and since I was the only one that day to see it, I want it to know that I’ve taken the symbolism to heart. I understand completely, and there’s no reason to return.

© 2019 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, especially the two featuring Maggie Lyon, visit my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1


The Ghost Lake

At dusk, the fields are still visible as the gray fog in the background begins to rise.

At dusk, the fields are still visible as the gray fog in the background begins to rise.

At dusk, when the sun sets behind the western ridge, and the moon rises to a significant height in the southern sky, the mists rise from the fields and enshroud the creatures that dwell therein. The ghost lake has returned.

That first paragraph is a great start to a ghost story, but let’s take a closer look. After we saw the house and the dense woods surrounding it, we started researching the area. We were still in California pulling up Google Earth and Maps, trying to zoom in on local landmarks to get a perspective. We kept seeing the name of Farghuar (the original name, which I’ll use in place of the modernized spelling to preserve some privacy). There was Farghuar Lake, Farghuar Pond and Farghuar Store, and months within our arrival, a rather good restaurant bearing the name opened nearby.

Google research proved rather inaccurate because the lake was not a lake. We figured out Farghuar Pond, which looks large enough to be a lake, was not the lake. It’s a pond. One local told us that Farghuar Lake was now private and surrounded by lovely large homes. We went to one of those lovely large homes during a moving sale, and the lady of the house told us that the body of water outside her door was another “lake” altogether, and that the hundred or so acres of blueberries between her house and ours had once been the lake we were seeking.

That explained the mysterious whereabouts of the missing lake and the t-shirts and coffee mugs sold inside the Farghuar Store inscribed with “Not seen since 1928.” Local lore indicated that a lake had been drained, and mint, daffodils and other bulbs had been grown on the resulting land at different times. Although I accepted this, I wondered why anyone would plant mint in such quantities, knowing that it would overtake the earth if left unchecked.

One of our friends told us of driving down the road that cuts through the former lake when she was a teenager. After rainstorms, frogs would hop onto the roadway in such vast quantities that one would think a plague had been sent.

I’ve been fascinated with this missing lake since its former location was pointed out to us. We have to drive up and down that road several times a week, and there appears to be an optical illusion. On a summer’s day, when reaching the road from our driveway, there appears to be a body of water beyond a clump of trees. I’ve almost driven off the road trying to see if what I’m seeing is real. When you get past that certain point, reach the stop sign and look back, you can clearly see that what you thought was a lake is actually an unused field.

At dusk, when the autumnal evenings cool the air, the fog rises from that same area as if The Mists of Avalon have gathered to separate the mythical island from an encroaching world. I’ve watched “the lake” on those occasions, as I have driven through the mists when they cross the main road before sunrise. The enclosure feels protective, which is what those creatures living behind the veil must sense. I know there is wildlife, as the deer have seemingly come from nowhere, and one occasionally hears a chorus of coyotes.

Skeptical of mystery, the modern mind seeks to find a logical explanation. Why does this lake, turned into commercial farmland, refuse to behave like farmed land and revert to the moist existence of a lake? Why does this area seemingly turn back to its former reality under certain conditions when some sources indicate that there hasn’t been a lake for almost 90 years?

Research is the best place to begin when seeking comprehension. One website provided just a few basic sentences, but it offered clues worth exploring. Further reading uncovered that the lake was never really a lake, but over 100 acres of wetlands that had been converted into farmland almost a century ago. Terra cotta drain tiles were installed to prevent flooding, but a few years ago ecological projects, solid funding and wetland reclamation efforts have restored native grasses.

For those of us who don’t want any construction coming nearer to our houses, it’s nice to know that the land is too boggy for development. Swampy areas of quicksand prevent the bulldozers, but it’s perfect for wildlife preservation. The drainage tiles in that area behind the farmed land were removed a few years ago, so there is a buildup of moisture to cause the evening fog. The mists are still mysterious in spite of explanation, but what of the optical illusion of a lake’s surface on summer days? There’s a logical explanation, but I want to hold onto the mystery of the Ghost Lake for a while longer.

© 2016 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1