the bear in the forest

I’ve come from the mountains. Or at least passing through on my way up north and back. My normal wanderings this time of year usually take me to sand and blue waters, but this year it was an unseasonably warm Quebec, which I hadn’t visited since I was a child, and which I loved, then and now.

I am by adoption a city kid, and still rather uneasy in the wilderness, in awe of its magic and beauty, thick layers of green and bark and underbrush harboring all sort of life. The endless open sea has its counterpart in the thick forest which seems to go on forever and ever, each daunting in their depth and breadth, each making me feel so very small. My thoughts, in retrospect, were of the paintings of Neil Welliver, and Gordon Smith, whose large canvases distil in paint and line, light and shadow, the kaleidoscope of color and texture of the forest.

Yet tonight all that was gathered like dry brush and burned in a fury of brilliant filmmaking as I watched diCaprio in The Revenant. This was not a gentle forest, a benevolent and manageable landscape, but one of cliffs and rapids, wolves and snow dyed the angry red of blood, so much blood.

And then there was the bear–100% computer-generated, because not only would it be impossible to recreate the violence of the scene with a real human-animal interaction, but also because apparently the stunt bears were all “too fat,” and not like the sinewy raggedy grizzlies of the 1800’s.

This was not the first simulated bear attack in my life. For years my son believed his grandfather had fought off a grizzly with his bare hands, because that was what my father told him one day with utmost seriousness, a way of romanticizing what had actually put him in a wheelchair, a series of strokes. This was an epic image, a source of pride for my son, who’d tell his friends the tale. I often regret ever fessing up to the far more mundane truth and blurring the image in his head, knowing now full well how we all need myth and fantasy. Somewhere deep inside, I think we both still dream of that battle, see him standing tall and wide, arms outstretched, all confidence and bravado, fearless, victorious.

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