Slice of Life: Bear in the Wild

Slice of Life (1)

I spent all of last week in Tennessee with my lovely wife celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary. Every minute of every day was amazing. It was without a doubt the best trip that I have ever been on. Each day we took a hike through the mountains. Each hike was breathtaking.

After one of our hikes, we climbed in the car and started heading back to our cabin. About two tenths of a mile down the road we saw a gigantic American Black Bear. My wife stopped the car and we watched the bear cross the street in front of us, not 20 yards away. The bear took its time and we sat there in shock (I am completely obsessed with bears, but we will need to leave that for another post.). After crossing the road, the bear headed back into the woods and quietly disappeared.

Seeing the bear it its natural habitat was the most amazing moment that I have ever experienced in nature. As I reflected on our bear sighting, I couldn’t help but think about how it was a million times better than anything I could ever see in a zoo. The more I thought about the bear, the more Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan kept popping into my head. I’d hate to giveaway the ending to Ivan, but the following line in the book is a powerful one. It is a line that I cannot get out of my head.

โ€œA good zoo,” Stella said, “is a large domain. A wild cage. A safe place to be. It has room to roam and humans who don’t hurt.” She pauses, considering her words. “A good zoo is how humans make amends.โ€

Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan

I have spent a ton of time the last few days thinking about zoos, but this post isn’t about zoos. This post is about how book can change the life of a reader. Seeing a black bear in nature caused me to think long and hard about how I feel about zoos. It allowed me to appreciate an animal in nature more than I ever would have if I hadn’t read the book.

We Nerdy Book Clubbers talk often how reading fiction develops empathy. Being able to experience this first hand has me so pumped up about the upcoming school year. I cannot wait to give students an opportunity to have their lives changes by a book.


13 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Bear in the Wild

  1. Being changed by a book is a great gift! And it can happen again and again and again!

    I once hiked alongside a bear, who was catching salmon, in Alaska. It was incredible to watch him work in the water. Never would’ve seen that in a zoo!

    Happy anniversary to you and your wife.


  2. Wonderful observations and connections! I was thinking of that same passage when I heard Radiolab this weekend. They were talking about zoos and gorillas, so there isn’t much of a stretch. But since I’m thinking about school starting soon, I couldn’t help but think about that as I was listening. I hope that doesn’t sound too weird… Here’s the link to the podcast:


  3. Good connection & so exciting to see a bear! Living in the Rockies it happens rather frequently, but sometimes they arrive in neighborhoods-sad for the bear & for the people. It’s a topic my students and I talked about through the years. I loved Ivan too & share it as much as possible-sad I haven’t been able to actually read with a group. You’re right, zoos are another topic to explore! Thanks, Colby!


  4. First, happy anniversary. I’ve seen bears hiking while hiking in Yosemite – so majestic. I loved your link to Ivan, and the way in which the books we read become a part of the way we think and respond to the world around us. Especially books like Ivan.


  5. Nothing better than seeing an animal the way it is intended to be. The One and Only Ivan story broke my heart. Books are powerful!


  6. First, Colby, “Happy 10th Anniversary!” to you and your wife. Hearing you say every day was amazing warmed my heart.

    In respect to zoos: my boyfriend and I frequent a local zoo as often as we’re able, and both of us, when we see the caged mountain lions, feel so bad for them. You know they need space to run and move about, but they pace and pace and pace and pace… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    I, too, love “Ivan”—a wonderful book from the first page to the last ๐Ÿ™‚ One thing that was a happy surprise for us was that the Bronx Zoo has gone the more “natural” route than it had years ago when I was a kid (in the 60s). Lots of wide open space ๐Ÿ™‚ And the first time I fell in love with giraffes was when I saw them running at Great Adventure. There is definitely a difference than caged, and we can feel much better for them as far as their existence ๐Ÿ™‚

    And, yes, books can transform lives. It’s the biggest reason I write—well, that, and the fact that I just can’t help myself! lol


  7. Wow! That sounds awesome! When we were in Tennessee I found out that there is an elephant sanctuary there where they take in elephants and have land for them to roam and be free and live out their lives. It seems like such a great place for them. I was sad because it wasn’t a place to visit but at the same time I totally understand that it’s not about us (people), it’s about giving the animals the peace they need to live happily. You could make donations though and support them. I love that it made you think, and I love that books help us build those connections in our thinking.


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