Waking Bear


upon waking
do not be fooled
by these four white walls
do not be deceived
by the carpeting and the computer
do not forget
and fail to feel
these wild mountain meadows
that surround you every day

do not let
electrical switches
dim the disk
of alpine fire
as it wheels between
great shoulders of fir

do not be muted
by schedule and agenda
for your heart wakes
wild and free
for your holy heart wakes
so wild and free
and ready to investigate
whatever fancies
the winds of this day may bring

always remember
that wherever you sleep
there lies an animal in your bed
the green-eyed beast of you
smelling like willow and spruce

do not lose
your morning bear grace
even as you brush your teeth
and snatch up the car keys

stay close to your fangs
and let the twin wisdoms
of belly and snout
heed the heart
of your nectar’s calling

for nothing can unmake
what these mountains have made
the squirrel and the jay are part of you now
the wind and the lake and the lightning
you carry in your bones
limestone and cedar and spring water
have fashioned a creature
to whom walls are illusion
and a single whiff of possibility
is more than enough
to begin the day

By Rich Mertes

Great bear roaring on top of grouse mountain


Rich Mertes is me, and I’m particularly fond of writing poems that serve as personal prayers. That is to say, I write things that I recite frequently–with the intention of bringing my consciousness back to what I consider to be the heart of life’s matter. This particular poem–“Waking Bear”–is based on the annual, solo pilgrimage I take to a place where I commune with wild bears. I recite it most mornings before getting out of bed, just to let the walls fade away for a moment and remind me of the underlying spiritual landscape. I’ve been writing poetry for a few decades–also teaching elementary school, and nature awareness at a wilderness school. Most recently I’ve been working as a somatic therapist.

Photo by Lijuan Guo

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