On bears, Boston and our interdependence

Your article last week: “Bears out and about; be cautious” was duly noted. Blown away, I was, reading in the Anchorage Daily News a couple of Sundays ago about Dan Bigley’s 2003 bear attack on the Russian River, which left him blind. He’s written about it in a book: “Beyond the Bear,” soon to be published.

An X-ray, included in the article, of his smashed-to-pieces face bespoke all: the absolute nightmare that befell Dan that all’s-right-in the-world summer evening on the trail back to the parking lot from enjoying himself fishing on the Russian. The last thing he ever remembers seeing were two yellow burning comets of raw fury literally bearing down on him.

But what blew me away was the pure resolve of that man to survive his sight-obliterating mauling. What sheer test of will it’s testimony to.

For juxtaposition to the X-ray of his smashed-to-pieces face, on the next page, was Dan, today, with his seeing-eye dog and beautiful family walking, hand in hand, down some residential Anchorage sidewalk. Staring at that picture bespoke, resoundingly, how far beyond the bear Dan Bigley had gone.

But what really blew me away was what he told an ADN reporter when asked what message do you want the reader to take from your book? He replied:

“I’ll answer that in three parts. First, I really can’t take all the credit for what’s happened. There’s no way I’d be here today with the success stories I’ve had if it not for the incredible community that we’re all a part of. Our community’s ability to respond was immense, the rescue, the medical and social service care, vocational rehab, The Center for the Blind. It’s not really our independence that’s so wonderful. Truly our greatness as human beings comes from our interdependence.

“I also want people to realize that there are some beautiful, inspiring things happening in this world. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the goodness of our species. It’s not always as bad as the 10-minute news cycle makes it out to be.

“The third thing is that disability is nothing more than an intellectual, academic concept. There are blind people who are really disabled, not engaged in their pursuit of happiness. There are others who are completely engaged. They are lawyers, teachers, artists. The more I’m engaged, the bigger my life gets and the smaller my disability gets.”

Anyway, given the horror that leaped out on the Boston Marathon last week and Boston’s breath-taking, galvanizing, will-to-life response in the aftermath, I believe Dan Bigley’s personal experience and powerful words are, today, particularly pertinent. They help bring focus to Boston’s rising to the occasion in the face of such senseless brutality.

Like Dan Biggley I stand in awe of our ultimate interdependence. Today, as a nation, we are all Bostonians. Certainly at such times it takes a village, it takes a nation, it takes individual effort and courage.

Anyway, in the great and sacred interdependence of it all, again, thanks for the heads up on the bears. And, by the way, the picture of the swans in the paper was magnificent. Again, thanks for the heads up. I’ll be looking out, with pleasure, for the swans.

Life goes on.

Tim O’Leary is a longtime Homer resident.



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