This is a piece I wrote in an attempt to evoke, in real-time, the moments of unforgettable dread, then tearful relief, that overcame me during an unexpected encounter in the Oregon wilderness. It is entitled “Exhale.”





something big


standing in the switchback
scratching on a cedar

he sees me

drops to all fours

he stares

I tense
stop breathing

he still stares

shakes his mass

shakes his head
chuffs again

bares teeth

lifts front paw

as head rears
in grunted growl

I gulp air

his head lowers
stare deepens

I’m stone
time’s stopped

until he turns
in powerful stride
shakes a snort


and lumbers away


I exhale

drop to my knees
and shake

rob kistner © 2007




~ by Image&VerseToo on November 6, 2007.

44 Responses to “Exhale”

  1. Beautiful – It must be nice seeing actual, out-of-the-zoo-nature. (I have got to escape L.A. – Sonoma is a callin!”

  2. ah nice, for a second I thought it as a wife fearing man talking about the early morning rage ..
    he he just kidding..
    very nice.

  3. scary! i like the way you end it, with you ‘mimicking’ his shake, though obviously with different reason!

  4. That left me with a lump in my throat. At a moment like that, I am sure I would quickly find religion! As always, excellent post.

  5. wow that’s like in a movy. That’s what I call unforgettable and very scary but afterwards a great experience to be eye in eye with a bear.
    Beautifully written

  6. You capture the moment very well! Scary experience though awesome too and certainly unforgettable!

  7. woo – scarey stuff! A few words with huge impact

  8. The short lines and well placed breaks help build the tension…glad that bear went the other way!

  9. Inhale…I was holding my breath throughout the read! Goodness, my heart is thundering. Thank you 😀

  10. Wow – I, too, was holding my breath through the piece, and had to be reminded to exhale at the end, too! Very, very powerful, Rob. Thank you.

  11. Very apt title!

  12. Great post Rob, you had me holding my breath with you.

  13. I was holding my breath reading that. My gosh, thank goodness he walked off.

  14. Mark –

    We are definitely ‘in nature’ here in Oregon — but that one with the bear was a little too far in.

    They tell you around here that you ‘never’ want to startle or stare down a bear. I inadvertently ended up doing both — but I’m still here…

  15. Rambler –

    Thank you… and I can relate… 😉

  16. Greggo –

    I’m pleased it touched you… it was certainly scary to me!

  17. Herb –

    Thank you my friend…

    Amazingly, my focus was so intent on the situation of the moment that it wasn’t until I was kneeling there on the path, teary-eyed and shaking, that a prayer crossed my lips… of thanks!

  18. Marja –

    Thank you very much…

    The entire event lasted maybe 2 minutes, but it moved so slowly in my mind at the time, that it felt like I was watching someone else’s drawn-out drama — sort of like a movie. It was unreal — until it was over… then I was in shock.

  19. Juliet –

    Thank you… the experience stays with me. I can still hear the sound of the wind, feel the momentary impact on the path, when the bear dropped to all fours — I can even remember the smell of cedar.

    What was very strange is the fact that these things all flooded in a rush into my awareness — in the aftermath… but they are indelibly imprinted in my psyche.

  20. Keith –

    I’m pleased this piece was effective for you.

    The event was traumatic for me! I’d seen bears before while hiking but I’d never startled and confronted one — dangerous stuff…

  21. Oh, to see the glory of creation, the black Bear and live to tell the tale. Well done Rob. It really made me glad I was not there.


  22. Pauline –

    Thank you for the kind words… 😉

    My mind was feeding me very short bursts of observation at the time — no cognitive analysis of the situation… just staccato info to aid my survival. I tried to recreate that what ws happeneing in my mind at the time.

    The analysis and evaluation of the occurrence rushed in only after the fact, when the immediate danger had passed.

  23. UL –

    Glad it reached you… and you are welcome. 😉

  24. Oh Rob how I loved this…the poem perfectly relays the experience!

  25. Hedwyg –

    I appreciate your gracious words — and I’m pleased the piece connected with you emotionally… that was my wish in writing it.

  26. Gautami –

    Short and to the point o the moment!

  27. Brian –

    Thank you! Glad the piece reached you… 😉

  28. Sara –

    I’m pleased this work engaged you…

    I was THRILLED he walked off!

  29. Jo –

    Thank you… 😉

    I’m glad I connected.

  30. Beloved –

    Viewed now from this side of the event — it was unforgettable… but once was certainly enough for that level of intimacy! 😉

  31. Ohmigosh! Good thing you could still breathe! What an incredible scare and, for sure, unforgettable.

  32. Well done! You are lucky he didn’t chuff on over and eat you up, and take the left-overs home to his babies!

  33. Tumblewords –

    One time is enough for this kind of experience.

  34. Pepek –

    Thank you!

    The thought that I could have been ‘rob-ka-bobs’ for some bear did enter my mind later.

  35. that is all it would have taken for me!!!!!!!

  36. Oh my goodness! did this really happen to you! I’d be scared to death. What happened next?

  37. Paisley –

    I now hike the mountains a bit more alert — but I still enjoy getting out in the wild here.

  38. Just Jen –

    Yes, it happened while I was walking a trail near my home, in the Mt. Hood foothills. The trail runs parallel to the Clackamas River about 20 minutes from where my wife and I live.

    What happened after was — I stayed on my knees, perfectly still in the middle of the trail until I regained my composure. I then patiently listened until I heard no more noises made by the bear rustling in the undergrowth.

    I then stood and walked very quietly back along the trail from whence I’d come — got into my car — and drove home… still mildly in shock.

    You can check out the Clackamas River here.

  39. Relaly enjoyed this piece. That feeling of dread mixed with pumping adrenaline certainly can leave one fallen to their knees and shaking when it is over. I freak out over racoons when I am walking the dog. It is a good thing I live in a more city suburb.

  40. dropping to your knees and shaking?? I would be Pooping Rob! OH MY! How Unforgettable!

  41. Michelle –

    Thank you so much for the kind words!

    Well, we got raccoons too… 😉

  42. Lucy –

    No, I remained continent — bear-ly… bad pun. 😉

    Pooping will ward off bears, so they say… ?

  43. I love it. My reaction would probably be less poetic. Something like “Oh, shit!).
    I’ve only seen a bear in the wild once (when I wasn’t in a car) and it was far enough away that I just took off. That was in Yosemite.

  44. Sarala –

    Reasonable response… 😉

    …confronting bears is a short lived hobby…

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