Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Bear under the Porch

I have a guardian bear under my porch. He goes with the land; when I move, he will stay behind. He is a spirit.

Here is the story of how I acquired a guardian bear spirit.

In the spring of 2000, our front "porch" (more like a mudroom; we used it as a closet) became infested with carpenter ants, who destroyed it. We called in a local pest control service, who was excellent, and traced the source of the ants back to an old stump in the yard. They sprayed, but we had to take down the porch (mudroom). We wanted a "real" porch, and my best friend's brother is a carpenter so he agreed to build it for us.

A month or so earlier, my best friend had a tag sale. She was selling a cool pair of black boots, snow/hiking boots. Her feet are bigger than mine, but I can wear lots of socks, and I liked the boots, so she gave them to me. They had an embroidered bear on the tongues; I forget the brand name but it was a bear breed, like Kodiak or something.

It was gem-show season. I wore the boots to the gem show in Orange, which I went to with my best friend (of course). We paid and walked about five-ten feet; they called the raffle and I had won--they must not have mixed up the tickets at all. I "won" a mineral specimen I didn't care much about. The guy who presented it to me must have seen how underwhelmed I was at my "prize." We had gotten a few tables into the show when he found me and offered me a gift certificate instead. The table we were at had a lot of fluorite scupltures. I've always wanted one. And, imagine this, there was one that looked a little like a Zuni bear fetish.

I immediately used my gift certificate to purchase the Zuni bear (which I will photograph later and post here). I was very happy.

So fast forward now. My husband and my friend's brother have taken down the rotten ant-infested walls and floor of the mudroom. My husband is cleaning up all the small pieces. I was inside doing something else, and my husband comes inside with a weird look on his face and says "honey, you have to come look at this."

Flippant me, I say, "What did you find, an Indian burial ground?"

And my honey is not amused. He does not laugh. He gets all flustered. And I realize he did, indeed, find an Indian burial ground in our front yard.

Cool, but not good.

I follow him down the driveway and into the front yard and there's a femur in the dirt.

Just the top part, where it connects into the hip bone.

A million thoughts go through my head. (I won't record them all here. You're welcome.)

Just rebury it.
Call the police.
The police will knock down the house loooking for more parts and clues.
What if someone still waits and hopes for this person to come home?
Call the police.
Who will pay for the excavation of our yard? Who will fix it? Does insurance handle this? Wil they let us live here while all this is going on? Where will we go? What will we do?
Just rebury it. Forget it. Tell no one.

I ask my husband what to do. He's the man, it's his job to know what to do. He says, "you decide."


We take the bone out of the hole. Forensics? What's that?

It's a leg, all right.

I go inside and look for my anatomy book from my reflexology class, but I can't find it. My neighbor, who is a nurse, inspects the bone over the fence and confirms it's a leg.

One leg, unidenified. Maybe it's a dog or something.

But it's awful big. This leg could be mine.

And if your loved one was missing, wouldn't you want to know if someone dug him up in their front yard?

But then again, the bone was SO OLD. I am not a scientist or doctor, but this bone was feather-light, totally dried out, clearly ancient. Probably a native, like my first joke.

I leave the bone on top of the grill's lid and call the police.

Meanwhile my husband finds a few more small pieces of bone in the hole.

I should backtrack again. The year before, a woodchuck (groundhog) had taken up residence under the mudroom. He was very cute and fat, like a giant guinea pig. We would come home from work and he'd be sitting up on the front steps, watching the sun set. I like ground hogs. We called him Chuckie. But Chuckie was getting destructive, and my husband blocked up his holes and he moved away. When they took down the porch, they revealed Chuckie's lair. He had dug deep next to the foundation to make himself a nest.

Chuckie had found the bones, not us.

I go inside and find the cordless phone and call the police.

I don't call 911. It's too late for our guest to get any help.

I wish I had the transcript. Five years later, this is what I remember.

"Hi, um, we were digging up our yard" another thought flashes through my mind: thank the gods we got a building permit! "and we, um, found some bones. A leg. And, um, some other little pieces. Um, my neighbor is a nurse and she says The Leg looks human." Its taken on a life of its own in my mind. It's The Leg, with initial caps.

The dispatcher doesn't seem quite sure what to do. She dispatches the nearest patrol unit.

The officer is about 18 years old, and clueless. He stands beside the gas grill and looks at The Leg. He agrees that it is, um, leg-like. He pokes at it and finally puts it into a bag and then calls it in, "Yeah, it's a leg..." (Like they didn't trust me?!) Since a COP agrees now that The Leg is indeed A Leg, the dispatcher sends over some dectectives.

They aren't in uniform--I guess that's a perk of detecting. They are in business suits, and it's rather warm. They get out of the Crime Scene unit (an ordinary unmarked police car). From the trunk they take the official Crime Scene Rake. It's missing a tine or two, and held together with black electrical tape. They also poke at The Leg and the other fragments, and put them in paper bags.

Now there is a cop car with its lights flashing in front of my house, and an unmarked police car illegally parked across the street. The detectives start detecting...with me. Apparently, I'm rather shady looking. "How long have you lived here?" "Seven years." Because I've never known when to shut up, I helpfully point out that The Leg is clearly MUCH OLDER than seven years, AND if I killed the person why the HELL would I call the cops?

The detectives are not amused with me. They don't find me cute or adorable like many people do. I guess I'm lucky I wasn't facedown over the car with my hands cuffed behind me. Probably afraid my giant boobs would have dented the trunk.

I decide NOT to tell the nice police officers that I debated not calling them at all.

My husband explains about Chuckie and the carpenter ants and the rotten porch. Conspiciously displayed in the birdroom window is our nice little building permit making it all legal to be tearing up the front yard. The detectives do not look happy to be visiting with us.

They take The Leg & its fragmented friends, and put them somewhere far away from me. They take The Crime Scene Rake and desultorily poke around Chuckie's lair, finding nothing. I want to ask if they'd like to borrow our rake, which has tines and does not have tape. Clearly the Wallingford Police Department is underfunded. It's not even a hoe-type rake, it's a leaf rake.

They decide that The Leg belongs to a very large dog, but they tell me they'll send it up to UConn just to be sure. Five minutes after they leave, my husband finds another piece of bone, right on the surface. They weren't looking very hard. We set it aside just in case.

I spend Sunday and Monday in a fog of worry that The Leg will be human. It's Jimmy Hoffa. They will tear up my yard, knock down my house, I'll be homeless. Why am I so STUPID, why did I call the police?

Tuesday I come back from lunch to a voice mail: The Leg belongs to a bear.

A bear? How totally cool is THAT? All the excellence of a Native American burial without the bad juju.

I call the station back and demand that they return The Leg to me, since there was no crime committed. They refuse.

Well, we still have the small piece of bone we found later. We put it back into the ground.

And that's how we got a guardian Bear spirit.

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