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August 2021
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Bear Watching vs People Viewing

By Xiao

The whole summer, we have read and heard bear stories almost every day. We have stopped to let grizzly sow and cub cross the road to graze. We have watched a black bear on a hill slope munching on grass while down below we were stuck in traffic. We have “stalked” a big grizzly on its way to the biggest blue berry patch in BC. A relaxing black bear rolling under the sun, nuzzling the flowers. Within couple of miles, another little black bear enjoyed its snack while kept a keen eye on the traffic. A Harley passed by, the black bear dashed into the bush. Seeing bears roaming in their own element, showing their personalities. This was a privilege. To be in the close distance to the bears, to look into their eyes, to see curiosity, annoyance, satisfaction. Pity those days are over.

As winter was closing in fast on us, we headed south. When I found myself on the subway in Vancouver, for the first time in several months, I realized I was back in the scene of big city life. As the train rushes on, I had to try hard not to stare at anyone in the crowded space. But people are all you could see. Three people sitting across me had the classic facial “non-expression” that I had forgotten. The guy sat directly facing me was in his twenties. He had a pair of glasses with square black frame, and a messenger bag by his side. He was holding an iPod in his hand to complete the city-chic ensemble. His eyes were focused beyond the train at a random point. There was no body movement, no facial expression. It was impossible to tell what he was listening to and whether he enjoyed it. Next to him, another man in his forties, with a similar pair of glasses, had a thick book in his hands. The lady next to him had a book too, both of them appeared to be into their books. I wondered what the books were about, but there was no telling since you could not see any emotions, no frown, nor smile. It was a long train ride, yet they hardly turned a page. Yeah, I forgot, sometimes the books and mp3 players are just tools for the virtual boundaries in this cramped space. At a stop, a late teen came on board, he had a dozen long blond braids, a pair of baggy pants. The whole time, he was not standing still. As the train moves, he stretched his legs, his arm, and he rotated his neck like he was preparing for a big game. Yet, he had no emotion in his eyes either. As c held my hand, I turned my head and smiled. I felt a bit uncomfortable, a bit out of place.

Summer is over, bears and stories were left behind. I am back among people, yet I wish I was somewhere else.

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