BEAR With Him

c. 2013 Martin McCune

c. 2013 Martin McCune

Americans dream of retirement. It becomes a Never-Never Land or a Utopia for them, as they fantasize about free time, a dearth of mean bosses, the independence to do whatever they choose.

Truth is, not everyone has a wonderful retirement. However, one person who realized a dream he didn’t even know he possessed is my brother-in-law, Marty. He figured he’d travel, having always had an itchy foot. As a teacher, he used photos from trips to Africa and China to inspire and educate his students. One boy was so impressed that after Marty retired, he enabled Marty to obtain a professional-quality digital camera.

The stage was set. Since that time in 2006, Marty has snapped thousands of images, often while on a trip. He’s found he possesses quite a talent, and since he’s past the point of needing to make a living or a reputation from his skill, he simply takes photos and shares them with family and friends.

And organizations he supports. His images of wildlife have graced publications for the Denver Zoo as well as Rocky Mountain National Park ( . One particularly popular one shows a female bear (a bearette?) at her ease on the edge of the forest. It’s featured on the front of the current membership brochure for the Rocky Mountain Nature Association (, the park’s support group.

Professional photographers would kill for the visibility that Marty’s gotten for this piece, which resulted partly from sheer coincidence. Early one morning in May 2009, he was driving through the Park when the bear ( ran across the road. It was the first he’d since in all his years of visits, so he stopped. She headed into the woods, then came out into a clearing at the side of the road and lay down on a rock. Seizing his opportunity, he stood in the driver’s seat and took his shots through the sun roof.

Later, when he read a request from the group for interesting wildlife photos, he submitted his. And was met with skepticism. Some thought the bear wasn’t wild or had been posed. His story and the sequence of additional shots convinced the staff.

While the shot occurred serendipitously, Marty says, “Sometimes photography is luck, but you still need to know what you’re doing with the camera. And the more you know about the subject, the better off you are, too. . . .One thing I try to do is look at something from a non-standard point of view.”

He continues, “I always enjoyed taking pictures.” Retirement allows him more time at it as well as studying how to take better photos For him retirement has opened a new door into an opportunity to learn and explore life in a new way.

The Days That the Rains Came Down

Floods of near Biblical proportions. Hardly. But that’s been the description of Colorado’s weather this September as deluges, torrents, surges, and crests inundated what normally is semi-arid country. While “100-year flood” is a fairly common description, ours this year has been more like a 500-year level.

Have people been taken by surprise? Certainly those who build on or travel over flood plains shouldn’t be. Yet we don’t normally expect waters to mount so high out of their ordinary channels that they escape bounds and cover nearby acres. It’s easy to think, “Well, we should build more wisely.” But we simply can’t anticipate every contingency.

I kind of like that. I like knowing people aren’t omnipotent, despite our illusions to the contrary, that the natural world exists beyond our control, and we’d better remember that. Still for reasons unknown, the public complains. “The storm sewage system is inadequate.” “The schools should have water-tight basements.” “Why aren’t there broader shoulders on mountain roads to catch the slides?”

It might be that our world has so few real challenges that we need natural disasters. Humanity hits its highs and lows at these times. We always hear stories of heroism and tragedy. The media has something to spotlight other than a film star’s marriages or the stock market’s changes. We all have a chance to think “what if” and chatter about a near-miss we’ve had. Like this one: I was going to drive to a mountain town with several friends on the first day of the rains. The downpour didn’t look that heavy along our route. My wiser companion pointed out that our highway went through mountain areas with steep, rocky, and bare slopes, and mud- and rock-slides could be a problem. We cancelled the trip. Sure enough, whoosh!, slides hit the route we would have traveled.

We should realize we can’t prepare for every single potential disaster. If we go with the flow a little more, and enjoy challenges as they come along, appreciating our participation in and survival of nature’s vagaries, we might approach my two-year-old grandson’s attitude. When he spotted the flood in his basement, he ran for his swim suit, begging his mom to take him down to the “Pool! Pool!”