Living Things: Gila Wilderness & Bear

Returning from the Gila wilderness, over 100 miles of winding roads through aspen and ponderosa pine; in the valley, massive cottonwood trees drink along the banks of the shallow clear-running Gila River. New friends were made in the collared lizards, golden eagles, mule deer, hummingbirds, and a black bear in the middle of the road who took us in, wanted to know why we were there.

Every sighting is a plea.

I felt this in the Gila, in the cliff dwellings of ancestors, standing in the water, taking in the energy of the ancient forest.

Every sighting is a plea that says, “We are still here.”

The more time I spend in spaces like the Gila, the more hesitant I am to return to the city.

Every sighting is a plea that says, “What are you going to do when you return? How can you help?”

The black bear ran into the forest and I craned my neck to take them in one more time before we pulled away, down the mountain into Silver City where the astounding and awe-inspiring terror of humankind’s impression upon this earth is witnessed in the gutted-out Santa Rita copper mines. There is nothing other than awe, that and a collapse from within, to know that this is heralded as Achievement. You can pull over at the copper mines, read a rusted placard declaring itself a Marvel, and stare deep into the wound.

We drove on, but unable to turn away from the earth unnaturally dispersed. Unable to shake that image away. And other mines populate, as I drive past them in my memory — the Decker Mines outside Sheridan, Wyoming; the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mines outside Hibbing, MN.

And the black bear galloped into the forest. I lost them somewhere in the greens and browns and reds of the late August Gila wilderness.

Every sighting is a plea.

When you make contact, when your eyes drink in another who is not you, a question is posed, and you have to answer: Who and what are you willing to protect? And is it really you who needs protection?

Gila Wilderness, New Mexico, August 2017



Adam R. Burnett writes. More at

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