Da Bears

To say that 2020 has been a stressful year is as extreme of an understatement as can be made. Between the nation’s myriad crises and no adults appearing to be in charge—all mixed with the regular MS-related mishaps—it was spot on that even my watch recognized that I was, am living my stressed life ever.

Social media notwithstanding, the internet offers a wonderful source of solace, thanks to YouTube.

Of the countless accounts or channels or whatever they’ve been branded as of late, is a series from Explore, an entity existing to offer a glimpse into animals from eagles to dogs to kitties to whales to bears.

Before quarantine was a consideration, I spent much of my youth in social isolation given the small size of my town and the even more restrictive location of the “subdivision” (before subdivisions were a thing in this particular suburb). The lack of a driver’s license, coupled with a lack of income—and to say nothing of my own social awkwardness—it was all but guaranteed that every night, including Saturdays, would be spent at home, comforted by the soft glow of the television screen and whatever happened to be broadcast on the paltry few dozen local & cable TV channels. Fortunately, one of those things was Saturday Night Live.

Though I was familiar with earlier sketches and cast members, my own indoctrination in following SNL would come in the heyday of the likes of Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks, Mike Myers, and Dennis Miller; later, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, David Spade. It was this latter group that brought up the “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” skit. Consequently, like so many other people my age, I cannot make any reference to bears without saying in a heavy, Chicago-ish accent, “da bears.”

A ledge appearing to be a little more than one meter in height creates Brooks Falls on the Brooks River on the peninsula in southern Alaska. The river serves as a connector between Lake Brooks and Nanek Lake, making up a gloriously scenic portion of Katmai National Park & Preserve. Fortunately for those unable to travel to Alaska (such as myself, despite childhood dreams of one day living in the largest state), Explore and the National Parks Service teamed up to offer what I’d consider (in my own inexpert opinion) as the best nature webcam on the internet.

N—stumbled onto this webcam at some point in mid-to-late July of 2019, and the family was instantly hooked.

An often endless array of brown bears fish, frolics, and occasionally fight in the river and falls, accented with a gull here or there, given the park’s location to the coasts of the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. With all that is going on in the world, watching the bears go about their business as they likely have for millennia, oblivious to the concerns of covid19, racial injustice, or the other plagues of modern society is, for lack of a better word—for there really is no better word—relaxing. Pair that up with the endless euphony of the river flowing and cascading over rock, and it is sensory bliss. I have been lulled to sleep by the sounds of nature pumped through 7.1 channels of glorious surround sound on more than one occasion. Catching glimpses of bears being bears in 55″ hi-def through sleepy eyes makes for some remarkably calming dreams, too.

About the only down…er…fall of the cam is that—for reasons obvious to anyone with a remote understanding of geography or stories by Jack London—it doesn’t operate year round. It appears to go live sometime in mid-to-late-June each year and stays up until the river’s copious salmon run out and/or the bears get bored and leave. I think that was around early-Septemberish. Of course, neither bears nor salmon read calendars, so results may vary.

Rest assured, though, if you’re in need of a break from the insanity of the world—or just want some nice, occasionally entertaining or amusing background A/V—then it’s tough to do any better than the Brooks Falls webcam.

Thanks for reading.

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