There’s no question which image to write about for this episode… The Alaska Summer Solstice artwork “Solstice Bear Comes Calling” captures the magical moment several years ago this magnificent creature made his way across our meadow and trundled on into the forest. This visitation came on the Summer Solstice, and what better image to represent the fullness of the season, the abundance of nature, and the supreme energy of the peak of the year.  Such power and grace are a sight to behold!  Some years there are more brown bears around the community with sightings happening regularly, word going out on the community Facebook page to warn residents and hopefully minimize contact and conflict.  Knowing something about brown bears‘ habits and food preferences is smart in a place where they are our neighbors.  Early in the summer, before berries are ripe and salmon are returning to the rivers and streams, the bears will range along the beach to take advantage of beachgrass and clams at the tideline.  As the summer progresses, their habits change and they head upstream to harvest the richer protein source of salmon.

Here’s the story behind the image.  There have been plenty of bear sightings this particular year, especially in the big meadows near the beach.  I’ve seen lots of sign on dog walks at the pond by the airport:  footprints in the mud and several big patties in the middle of the road.  We always examine them to try to get a sense of how recent the deposit was laid down… if it’s been raining, that helps with figuring out the timing for when the bear passed this way, since it will wear the pile down if it’s been rained on for a long period.  It’s a good exercise in paying attention to surroundings and conditions.

This day, Summer Solstice has arrived.  Meadow grasses are tall, lupine and chocolate lilies are in bloom, cow parsnip are sending out their big bulbous buds with their distinctive aroma and slightly toxic leaves.  The evening starts quietly as we putter about the place and then have some dinner.  Someone notices movement in the meadow across the river, and we watch as grasses part to reveal one big brown bear, prominent shoulder hump making it easy to identify as a brownie.  He (or she) wanders towards the river, pausing to snack on sandbar greens exposed by the low tide. Slowly but surely he makes his way to the water, and then starts across.  To our delight, he’s headed straight for our side of the river, just a bit downstream of our place.  There’s a tall spruce that blocks the view for a bit, but soon it’s clear he’s come all the way up the bank and is now making his way along the edge of the meadow, just 50 feet from the house.  The late evening light shines on his thick brown coat.  I grab my camera and step just outside the door to get the shot.  He looks right at me and lumbers slowly past.  So beautiful, so powerful, so mysterious… and a truly inspiring Solstice gift!

This Alaska Summer Solstice artwork by Lillian Ruedrich is available here.  Enjoy it as a 5X7 blank notecard or 11X14 matted giclee print.