Since this is my first attempt at “blogging”, I thought it would be appropriate to feature a lesson from the subject that began my photography career. Nearly thirty years ago, I wrote a little book titled, “A Walk with the Smoky Mountain Bears”. It featured about fifty bear photos and several pages of personal observations from days watching black bears do what they do naturally. The little book sold 7500 copies in less than a year and the encouragement prompted me to continue to publish books, posters, note cards, and a variety of things on outdoor subjects. As the saying goes, “The rest is history.”
After all those years and tens of thousands of folks that have walked in the gallery with their personal bear photos and stories, I still can say that I am most fascinated with the black bear and spend periods of time watching bears every year. There are many amazing characteristics about the bear but since this blog is called, “Lessons from the Wild”, I would like to begin by emphasizing a trait that I find incredible and worth drawing a parallel to where we should be as humans. So “bear” with me.
Mike Pelton studied the black bear for 32 years in the Great Smoky Mountains and that study remains the longest continuous study of any bear species in the world. Mike is a friend and in my early years encouraged me greatly by allowing me to go along on den site studies. I was like a sponge in those days as I watched, listened, and gained new respect for bears on every occasion.
On more than one occasion when an orphaned cub was found, Dr. Pelton and his graduate students took that cub to a den where they had located a mother bear with her own cubs and, after listening to her activities as she nursed her newborn cubs, they would place the orphaned fellow in the den with the sleepy mother and her young. On returning days later, and on every occasion that I observed, she had adopted that new cub as her own while we listened to the contented hum of a welcomed, nursing, new addition to the family.
When you think about it…that seems unusual for a large mammal that is very protective of her young and very resentful of any disturbance when those cubs are most fragile and in a vulnerable position to accept such a huge “inconvenience” in her life..
The Oxford dictionary defines “orphan” in a particular description as “one deprived of previous protection, support, and advantages”.
If the largest, most powerful creature in the forest can exhibit such seemingly compassionate, inclusive nurturing for its own kind, can we learn from this animal to embrace those that seem a little different or may not fit what we think of as normal?
We “roam our own woodlands” among a multitude of “orphans” crying out for someone to help them find the way. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” JN 13:34. He also said, “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in.” Then he said, “Even as you do unto the least of these, you did it to Me.” MT 25:35 & 40.
Everything that was made has a plan and a purpose. I hope this isn’t just another “bear story” but a lesson from the wild that we can build our lives around…beginning with me.
Ronald Reagan once said, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
Ask God to show you an “orphan” today. He or she may be only a few steps away. See you down the trail!