July 25, 2012 by Nancy Noonan


After leaving home bright and early on June 22, 2012, my husband, Richard, was thrilled to set off for a solo camping trip (I was headed to a mountain cabin overnight with nine women friends) in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive up and across the Continental Divide was beautiful and he was delighted to be one of the first arrivals, getting the “pick-of-the-litter” campsite, nestled right up next to the dense pine forest with more prime-real-estate privacy than the other sites. As he’d hoped, the day was decidedly restorative and after cooking a lovely dinner of lamb shanks and some good red wine, he retired to our new two-day-old tent for a good night’s sleep.

Which he got. Until 2:00 a.m.


Suddenly and quite rudely, he was awakened by a thunderous noise and a ponderous weight crashing down on the tent, crushing the poles and entrance, and creating an undeniable fight-or-flight adrenaline rush in him. Scrambling in the dark, he grabbed the bear spray canister (which he’d also just purchased two days before, for the first time ever in 40+ years of tent camping); crouching inside the crumpled and tattered tent, he was nervously poised to spray the bear in the face if it smashed through. Without warning, the bear came clawing and crashing down on the tent from the other side, swiping Richard on the shoulder, knocking him down and inadvertently causing some of the bear spray to release. Yep. You got it: INSIDE the tent. Eyes burning, he started violently coughing, disoriented and unable to defend himself for those moments. Possibly because the bear was startled by the sudden loud noise and because some of the offensive bear spray wafted through the tent, it decided to cause havoc elsewhere and lumbered off, only to attack the back of a pickup (with open soft drinks in the exposed bed) farther down the campground.

When the rangers arrived, they gave Richard an A+ for doing all the right things re. food, scents, etc. (and NOT having them in the tent or out in the campsite). From the information they gleaned, they were convinced that it was a VERY aggressive bear, quite possibly displaced by the epic fires burning on the other side of the divide. Bottom line: Richard was a VERY lucky guy to have survived this attack and needless to say, we are still feeling profoundly grateful (and, yes, we are still celebrating!).

Interestingly, my husband, a rather spiritual person, said that even while the attack was going on, in the back of his mind a script was playing along the lines of “What are the messages here for me?” As you can imagine, we’ve been talking a lot about this incident and we feel that some of the messages (and questions) that the BEAR, a major totem/messenger animal of the First Nations people (aka Native Americans), brought to Richard might be helpful to you (your staff, employees, team) to ponder, too.


1. To what do I need to be abruptly awakened?

2. What do I need to get moving or start taking action toward developing?

3. How can I best be prepared for things that can take me by surprise (what could be my “bear spray” in other instances)?

4. How can I be excellent and masterful about what I do (equal to getting that Rangers’ grade of A+) instead of “bearly” getting by?

5. What do I fear? Do I let it shut me down or do I find ways to work around or through it? (Our whole family, BTW, just went on an extended tent-camping trip to Aspen over the 4th of July [with full canisters of bear spray for each tent, you can rest assured!].)

6. Do I remember to continuously celebrate and be grateful for the amazing gift of life (and hug my loved ones in the process)?

All in all, BEAR IN MIND (yes, pun totally intended again):

You don’t have to be attacked by a bear to fully live and appreciate
your one wild and wonderful life!

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