Meditations on What a Bear Does in the Woods

by klassman

Last night we selected Blueberries for Sal as one of the books before bedtime.  It is a lovely story by Robert McCloskey and it features Little Sal picking blueberries with her mother while Little Bear munches the same with Mama Bear.

As these things go around our house, I tried to explain hyperphagia and its role to help bears prepare for hibernation.  As these things go, it didn’t take long for the difficult question to come.  It always does; I just never know from which quarter it will be lodged.

Q. “How do bears poop.”

A. “Just like all the other animals.  How do you think bears poop?”

Q.  “No, no.  How do they poop when they hibernate?  Where does all the food go.”

A.  Helpfully offered by a sibling.  “Easy.  They poop when they sleep.  They wear pullups.”

It is not poetry, but to paraphrase Mario Cuomo, parenting is done in prose.  I was still thinking about Sal’s tin of berries and a warm, cozy cave for hibernation once everyone went to bed.  I had eaten dinner and knew that after I went downstairs to ride, some sort of post-workout snack would be necessary before I could retire comfortably to my own warm, cozy bed.

I’m in the second week of a 16 week winter training program to improve cycling fitness.  My legs are heavy and even a bit sore.  I ran Sunday and again yesterday morning on top of last week’s riding.  As a result, I couldn’t get out of my mind a phrase that I read earlier this week, Eat That Pain.  There was the soreness, I’ve been hungry all day and, of course, our conversation about Little Bear.

Eat That Pain.  I get the idea.  Chew it up.  Make it your own.  It’s a latter day triathlon version of the old movie trope about warriors who cannibalize their opponents.  But it doesn’t sit quite right.  The race isn’t the opponent and neither are the byproducts of the race — including the pain.  Neither is pain the fuel for the race.  I certainly don’t want something so negative to be fuel for my body.

I don’t want to consume the burn so much as combine it with other elements of the journey — the planning, the endorphins, the joy.  I want to draw out all the sustenance that the pain has to offer and then unceremoniously expel the bits — the negative, waste bits — that remain.

Others can eat the pain, like Little Bear, I’ll stick with the blueberries.