Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Phantom Bears In Our Dreams

I believe we have scared our bear away for the time-being. The bigger fellow in this picture visited us in 2006, the last time we had a big cherry crop. Whenever I see a real bear, for several days thereafter, I see phantom bears--every black shadow in the woods looks like a bear until I settle down again.

This time, I was pursued by phantom bears even in the book I'm reading: Faulkner's Go Down, Moses. I know I read "The Bear" in an anthology many years ago, but I didn't remember much about it. Obviously, that was before I lived in woods where phantoms come real.

....Then, standing beside Sam in the thick great gloom of ancient woods and the winter's dying afternoon, he looked quietly down at the rotted log scored and gutted with claw-marks and, in the wet earth beside it, the print of the enormous warped two-toed foot. Now he knew what he had heard in the hounds' voices in the woods that morning and what he had smelled when he peered under the kitchen where they huddled. It was in him too, a little different because they were brute beasts and he was not, but only a little different--an eagerness, passive; an abjectness, a sense of his own fragility and impotence against the timeless woods, yet without doubt or dread; a flavor like brass in the sudden run of saliva in his mouth, a hard sharp constriction either in his brain or his stomach, he could not tell which and it did not matter; he knew only that for the first time he realized that the bear which had run in his listening and loomed in his dreams since before he could remember and which therefore must have existed in the listening and the dreams of his cousin and Major de Spain and even old General Compson before they began to remember in their turn, was a mortal animal and that they had departed for the camp each November with no actual intention of slaying it, not because it could not be slain but because so far they had no actual hope of being able to.


Sherry said...

Go Down Moses is my favorite Faulkner. From the hunter mysticism of "The Bear" through all of the awful history of the Beauchamp family, this is Faulkner ringing his very best changes and using his full range of literary skill. Contrary to what most people think, Faulkner could write effectively in many different styles.

I love the photo.

Rebecca Clayton said...

I'm just amazed by his writing. Before this one, Absalom, Absalom was my favorite. But then, I think I need to reread Light In August right away, because I think I missed something in my haste to find out what happened next.

In this area of bears, and dogs, and family hunting camps, acknowledged Cherokee ancestors, and unacknowledged African ones, The Bear means a lot more to me than it did when I was an Iowa farm girl.

Larry took the picture. You can tell because the camera isn't shaking.