Slow down, look up

Published 4:05 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It’s always a delight to spend time at my friend Janice’s Bed and Breakfast, but it’s been a little quiet this trip. She has rambled off to British Columbia with her sister so I’m taking over for her again. With the kids back in school, business has slowed down so I haven’t been quite as busy as in the past.

Thursday of last week I had the place all to myself, so I took full advantage of the situation by sleeping in. Guests were scheduled to arrive in the afternoon, but I planned a relaxing morning knowing I had everything ready for them.

After a pleasant sleep I awoke to the sound of the ceiling fan’s rhythmic creak, creak, creaking. Soft light peeked through the flowered curtains heralding a new day. “Time to get up. Coffee’s not going to brew itself,” I thought.

After breakfast and a phone call or two I looked around to make sure I was totally ready for guests to arrive. Everything looked good, but I found a little dirty laundry. I put it on to wash and thought it might be a long morning with no one about.

I brought some music from home, in case I had a chance to play the baby grand in the dining room when no one was around. This seemed like the perfect opportunity so I took advantage of the empty inn. I was going through a piece for the third time trying to master it when I glanced up to see a bear charging straight toward me!

I squealed and jumped up from the piano just in time to see the brownish black bear run right past the dining room, across the creek, and up the mountain behind the inn. I could hardly believe what I had witnessed with my own two eyes!

Excited is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings. In a way I also felt honored to see a wild animal so unexpectedly and so close. But I must be honest, I have been extremely careful when walking to my car ever since!

At lunchtime, I peered all around before almost running to my car. I chattered away at my favorite lunch place called “Mamma’s Kitchen” telling my friendly waitress all about the encounter with the bear. She explained that the recent fires across the area had destroyed so much natural habitat that bear sightings have been much more frequent this year.

My friend added, “Jan, the size you descried sounds like a bear cub. Unless someone has killed the mother it is surely close by. That cub won’t hurt you, but the mama might.”

I’ve been watching out, but haven’t seen any sign of a bear since. Many times I have been through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in hopes of seeing a bear up close, but on this particular morning one ran right past me. If I hadn’t looked up from the page at that precise moment, I would have missed it altogether. When we slow down and look up, who knows what will happen!

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at