Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!

My husband Robert is obsessed with the Milky Way! He took pictures of it from different parts of the equator but like a lonely wolf is drawn to the moon. Rob is drawn to a Milky Way on every dark night. His pure love of nature significantly opened my mind to a world I would not be exposed to otherwise. Together we have visited many National Parks in the US and abroad. Our outdoorsy friends have been raving about Big Bend National Park in West Texas as the last frontier for the perfect dark sky. I thought this would make a great trip for both of us to enjoy, especially if we got to stop in Marfa for some serious gallerying and good food on the way. This December, in search of a non-polluted by city lights dark skies we embarked on a West Texas trip to catch that yet perfect picture of a Milky May.

In a last few years Rob has become an avid nature photographer. I am a great admirer of his sense of wonder and constant learning new skills. When we just got married, 11 years ago, and he was still in the Air Force, Rob would come home from work and before changing from military uniform, practice his French horn for an hour. At that time he was good enough to play Brahms horn trio. About 7 years ago he decided to learn to dive, by now he is a Dive Master who can teach others and has dove literally around the world in the most bizarre places; the Solomon Islands among others… I do not even know where they are located on the map. Photography is Rob’s latest passion. It started with underwater and slowly progressed ashore. His favorite places to photograph are the Bosque National Wildlife Refuge and Yellowstone.

Needless to say these photographic trips come in a package with a lot of hiking. We travel separately a lot as I failed my diving certificate in Bonaire and am not crazy about heights. On my own, I am working down my extensive bucket list of international travel. I am ashamed to admit I am not Rob’s favorite partner for nature exploration trips. He walks half of mile ahead of me and constantly doubts my ability to survive through the next few steps. To deepen my “sense of wonder” last summer in Yellowstone, I found myself in-front of a kiosk selling bear spray. What a great way to start a vacation! I only saw bears in two places in my life, in the zoo and the Russian Circus. Bear Spray was just the beginning of a new necessity in life, learning how to behave if, got forbid, a bear would find you attractive.

While visiting a bear refuge in Bozeman, Montana we seriously had to listen to a professional ranger teach us how to behave in the company of different bears. It turned out if a brown bear will want to make your acquaintance you should lie down on your tummy and lock your hands behind your neck. So if you are lucky the brown bear only with bite off a part of your butt, leaving the rest of you intact. As far as black bears go, you should make a lot of noise to scare them away, in the best case scenario…Since the Yellowstone trip I am constantly aware of the remote possibility encountering a bear in every national park we visit. This newly acquired knowledge adds another layer to my already existing basic fear of falling down from the edge of the countless mountains we hike. Just in case I survive the fall, a bear would finish me off.

The greatest dream on a nature photographer is to catch animals in action. We often joke it would be great to see a wolf chasing a bear right in front of our car. On the third day of our trip to Big Bend, on a short hike around the Chisos Mountains Lodge, I asked Rob “if a bear attacks me what will you do first, save me or take a picture?” Knowing his obsession with photography this question was sort of a joke and sort of not. Between you and me, if bear would attack one of us we both would be dead. While he was digesting my question I continued pushing the envelope-“ you have to remember that if I will die first, you will have to take care of my parents” HAHAHA! I found this conversation very funny! When Rob asked if I really want to know what he would do I declined the offer. There should be some mystery in every relationship I think.

A nice lady in my Zumba class lost her husband a few years back. “He was a birdwatcher, we fit like a glove” she told me. Her son makes her come to classes to get her out of the house as she lost the will to live. I like that lady and wish I could somehow help. The main purpose of our West Texas trip was catching the Milky Way. Rob and I spent three nights in the wilderness in the cold and total darkness risking being mugged, run-over by passing cars, or eaten by bears, all that for the sake of a perfect picture of the Milky Way to add to the collection of ones from Bonaire and the Solomon Islands among many others. Rob’s adoration of nature is contagious but when it gets too much for me I remember my Zumba lady and suck it up. I do not know if we fit like a glove but I do not want to find out when it is too late.

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