photo credit: Mother Black Bear and her Cubs via photopin (license)
photo credit: Mother Black Bear and her Cubs via photopin (license)

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iew image | gettyimages.coHow the Blue Bear Series came about:In 2000, troubled by a number of potentially unwise ecological decisions within my community, I wrote a chapter book, BLUE BEAR, that I hoped would reach local young children. My dream has been that Blue Bear stories will increase awareness of some of the same issues that local adults have overlooked. In these stories, Blue Bear and Blue Bear’s Mother encounter a variety of environmental challenges with often unsettling outcomes, in parallel to environmental outcomes in my own community. 

How the BLUE BEAR series came to be:

In 2000, troubled by a number of potentially unwise ecological decisions that I witnessed within my community, I wrote a chapter book, BLUE BEAR, that I hoped would reach young children. My dream has been that BLUE BEAR stories will increase awareness on some of the same issues that their parents have overlooked. In these stories, Blue Bear and Blue Bear’s Mother encounter a variety of environmental challenges and the outcomes are often unsettling, in parallel to outcomes in my own community. 

From time to time, another issue with ecological impact has arisen, and I’ve dashed off additional chapters. Unfortunately, I never found an effective way to get BLUE BEAR into the community. After writing the last chapter in 2006, I put BLUE BEAR to bed. 

Now my community faces what is possibly our biggest environmental issue so far: the planned installation of a 42″ diameter high-pressure pipeline to transport fracked gas from West Virginia across hundreds of miles. To address this infraction, BLUE BEAR needs to come out of hibernation. And so, in bringing BLUE BEAR to this blog, I hope that children up and down the proposed route and across the country can listen and consider ways to save this earth that we all share.

Blue Bear Journeys Home and Discovers the Sad Truth about Pipelines

Blue Bear waits on the edge of a misty meadow. The last rays of sun have hidden behind a distant mountain. Blue taps a paw against the ground. Where is Wise Owl? What is taking the old white owl so long to reach their meeting spot?

Just then Blue hears the whoosh of great wings in the tree above and looks up in time to watch Wise Owl land on a sturdy branch. Wise Owl grasps onto it with mighty talons and calls into the night: “Who-o-o-o-o is there?”  Wise Owl usually starts with this same question.

“Silly Owl, it’s Blue Bear, of course. What’s taken you so long? Are you ready to leave?”

“Oh Blue, y-o-o-o-u do not want to undertake this journey. I say, stay. Stay. Y-o-o-o-u will not like what y-o-o-o-u see along your travels.”

“I know that the world has changed since we last made this trip eight or nine years ago. But I’ve promised the cubs. The cubs want to see where I grew up.”

Suddenly Blue is knocked to the ground as two frolicking bear cubs climb the blue-black fur, planting bear kisses and laughing as they scramble up Blue’s body.

“Is it time for our trip?” Azure Bear squeals.

“Can we go now?” asks Cobalt Bear.

“Patience, patience,” Blue replies. “Wise Owl is not convinced that you want to make this trip.”

“We do! We do!” squeal the two cubs.

“Who-o-o-o will cry when sad things are seen?” Wise Owl hoots. “Who-o-o-o will beg to come back home?”

“Not me!” proclaims Azure.

“Not me!” announces Cobalt. “I want to see the Great World.”

Wise Owl’s head turns from one side around to the other side and back again. The bears know this means that Wise Owl does not agree with them, but will likely go along with their plan.

And so the four start on their journey. They stay to the meadows and woods along the winding roadway that curves through the National Park where they live.

Before long, Cobalt Bear asks, “Are we there yet?”

“Who-o-o-o does not know how to be quiet?” Wise Owl calls down to them. “Y-o-o-o-u must stay alert on this next part. We go from one national park to the next. We must cross a bridge. We must watch for cars.”

“If there are cars on the bridge, we will have to hide in the bushes until they pass,” Blue explains.

They follow a curve in the road and see the bridge. They watch the lights of a truck make a path across the bridge, then disappear around another curve. As soon as the truck’s lights are out of sight, the three bears run across the bridge, as Wise Owl flies overhead.

“Are we there yet?” Cobalt Bear asks again.

“Who-o-o-o said that?” calls Wise Owl. “Who-o-o-o needs to be quiet and not say a word?”

Azure swats at Cobalt and giggles. Blue turns around to see if the cubs are coming.

The bears trudge through the night. The little cubs grow tired. They never have walked this far in one night. They think of Wise Owl flying overhead, along with the owl’s warnings that they must be quiet, and they do not say a word. But their heads hang closer to the ground.

Blue calls to Wise Owl. “I think we have to stop. The cubs are slowing down. I think they need to rest.”

“Y-o-o-o-u need to keep walking,” Wise Owl warns. “This is not a good place to rest.”  But Cobalt Bear already has collapsed on the ground and is snoring softly. Azure drops beside Cobalt and cuddles up close.

“Too late,” Blue calls. “Besides, this place doesn’t look so  bad. We’re hidden from the road. What danger can there be?”

“Y-o-o-o-u will see. Y-o-o-o-u will see at first light. Y-o-o-o-u will not like what you see.”

Blue yawns, too tired to think about Owl’s warning. “We’ll see in the morning…” Blue mumbles, then drifts to sleep.

“Roar—rumble—screech—grind—grate—roar—tremble—tremble.” It all comes at once: this great grinding noise and trembling of the earth.

“What is it? What is it?” cries Azure, jumping up, paws over ears.

“Save us! Save us!” screams Cobalt, crawling behind Blue.

“Not again!” exclaims Blue. “Shhh, my sweet cubs. That is the sound that earth-moving tractors make. I remember from my youth.” Blue looks up into the trees, searching for Wise Owl.

“Who-o-o-o‘s looking for me? D-o-o-o y-o-o-o-u understand now why I didn’t want to stop here?”

“Why are they here?” Blue asks. “These tractors?”

“A project. A pipeline project,” Wise Owl replies. “The humans are planting an enormous pipeline in the ground.”

“Are pipelines like seeds?” asks Azure. “Are the humans trying to grow other pipelines from the one they’re planting?”

“Y-o-o-o-u might think that, because suddenly the humans have gotten greedy about planting pipelines wherever they can. If these things multiply, the earth will be nothing but pipelines.”

“How can they plant a pipeline here?” asks Blue. “Isn’t this national park land? Isn’t it protected?”

“Who-o-o-o knows how they can? These pipelines companies can build pipelines wherever they please. There’s no stopping them.”

“Let’s get the cubs out of sight, before any of those humans in the huge tractors see us.” Blue warns the cubs: “Azure! Cobalt! Run as fast as you can. All the way across that ugly stretch of bare dirt, into the woods on the other side.”

The cubs run as fast as they can. When Blue catches up with them, they are both panting.

“That was such a long way to run and so much mud!” Azure pants and holds up one muddy paw.

“Where did the trees go? Why did they cut down so many trees?” Cobalt asks.

Blue, too, is short of breath but manages to huff: “Do…do you know…know the answer, Wise Owl?”

“Do-o-o I know? I know that the humans make a wide swath through the forest. They cut down hundreds of trees, cause rocks to slide and fill the streams and rivers with mud and debris. And from what I have seen so far, they do very little to clean up after themselves.”

“Let’s get away from this place!” Azure cries.

“Too much ugliness!” Cobalt yells. The cubs take off at a gallop. Blue and Wise Owl follow after them.

The bears and the owl have traveled through much of a second night.

“I don’t remember the way as well as I hoped,” Blue tells Wise Owl. “I know that we don’t follow this protected parkway for the entire journey. But I don’t remember where we turn off. Nothing looks familiar.”

“Y-o-o-o-u will see that it’s not much farther. There is no chance that we will miss the turn.”

“Why is that?” asks a curious Azure Bear.

“Y-o-o-o-u will see,” hoots the Owl. “Y-o-o-o-u will see.”

The sun comes up over their shoulders, casting its rays across another wide expanse of barren earth. Once-tall trees lie on the ground, scattered every which way. Far away they can hear the rumble of large tractors.

“It’s happening here too,” Blue groans. “How far does this pipeline travel?”

“This is a different one,” Owl explains. “This one is called ‘Mountain Valley’. The other one is called ‘Atlantic Coast’. They each run for hundreds of miles.”

“I just want to get back to that valley where Mother Bear and I once lived,” Blue sighs. “How do we get there from here?”

“More bad news, I’m afraid,” says Owl. “This pipeline runs along the path you once walked to get here. We will have to follow this ugly thing all the way back to your valley.”

“Does this pipeline run right through that valley?” Azure asks Owl.

But Blue does not want to hear Owl’s answer. Blue places paws over ears and trudges along, aghast at the ugly sights. For the rest of the day, they scramble over rock slides and tree trunks.

“I am so thirsty,” Cobalt pants.

Wise Owl flies hither and yon looking for a stream that hasn’t been filled with mud or covered over with tree trunks, but no fresh water can be found. Hungry, thirsty, covered with dust, finally the bears can go no farther.

“Y-o-o-o-u may as well rest here,” Wise Owl says. “You are back in your valley.”

“None of it looks familiar,” Blues sighs with great sadness.

“Where are the places you told us about?” Azure asks.

“Y-o-o-o-u know that all your life, I have dozed in the branches overhead while Blue has lounged with you in the shade and told you stories about this valley. And y-o-o-o-u will remember that a lot of sad things happened here…”

“Stupid humans did stupid things here,” Cobalt interrupts. “They chopped down fruit trees and poisoned water.”

Azure chimes in: “They got rid of the last salamander of its kind.”

The cubs continue taking turns with parts of the story that Blue has told them: “They smashed a perfectly good cave.”

“They destroyed forests that were hundreds of years old.”

“They chased away whole families of bears, including our cousins.”

“They dug up a stream.”

“They made a family of beavers go away.”

“Y-o-o-o-u are correct,” says Owl, “they did all that. But eventually they got wiser, some of them did. Yet as wise as they’ve grown, they haven’t been able to stop this pipeline.”

While Wise Owl has been talking to the cubs, Blue has been looking around. “Those houses over there….they look familiar. I believe this is the subdivision where Mother Bear and I lived the winter we couldn’t find food. The houses were new then. The humans had destroyed so much of the forest to make way for their new houses, that we couldn’t find food and we had to eat from their garbage cans and bird feeders. That was the worst of times.”

“Is this where the stupidest of the humans live, then?” asks Azure.

“Y-o-o-o-u may think that,” Owl replies. “But actually, these humans have made it their mission to get wiser. They are working hard to stop this pipeline in its tracks.”

“Can they do that?” Cobalt wonders. “Can the humans stop the pipeline?”

“Here we go again,” sighs Blue. “We all live here, on this earth. Why can’t we all work together to save it?”

“But what can we do?” asks Azure.

“Do-o-o-o? What can y-o-o-o-u do? Everyone of us can d-o-o-o-o something…”