On Saturday a very tall man walked up behind our car and asked if he should be worried that I was taking photographs of the area. I heard Steve laugh and say loudly,
“Don’t worry she’s Canadian!”
I chuckled to myself and wondered why Canadians are always considered a trusted lot, no matter what the scenario. I looked at this tall man with a weathered face and long hair gathered into a ponytail under his hat. He seemed like he would be more comfortable riding the range with Sam Sheppard than patrolling the roads for rogue female photographers in the Oakland Hills.
Without skipping a beat I told him I was indeed Canadian, had just passed my 60th birthday and I meant no trouble to anyone. I showed him the landscape pictures while he looked at me squarely in the eyes. He said he knew I was a storyteller because he was one himself.
The man told me he had come here by the way of Wyoming, and had lost another two of his friends from the Vietnam war two days ago. With tears welling up in my eyes I told him how I had lost a good friend in the same war and he looked at me with blank eyes and said he no longer wished to talk about the subject.
Instead he began to tell me about the legendary Hudson’s Bay, like he assumed every Canadian should know that the waters run cold and the polar bears are hungry. Not wanting to break his verbal beat I nodded my head in agreement and felt like I could listen to this man for hours.
As the story goes; within minutes upon his arrival on the shores of the Hudson’s Bay in Canada, he immediately came face to face with an enormous white polar bear. Apparently they stalked each other for a few hundred yards and he eventually made it safely to his cabin. He continues the story with moving hand gestures, and increasing verbal volume how this particular bear had spent days throwing himself at the door of his cabin. I had a hard time digesting this part as I had to wonder why the bear would continually stick around for days on end when he probably had better places to feed than to wait upon a tall thin man with no meat on him at all.
By this time the story begins to flow into a strange literary tributary from years of it being told over and over to anyone who would listen. Through a small hole in the roof of his cabin our storyteller spies a plane flying overhead and decides he will face his fate to be rescued.
Apparently, the bear had moved on, and our storyteller finds himself wading into the cold depths of the Hudson’s Bay waving at the plane that still is flying overhead. The pontoon plane lands on the cold chilly waters of the Bay and our raconteur pulls himself up to safety inside the plane.
Of course the pilot of the plane belonged to the Royal Mounted Police and as he throws our man of tales a blanket he laughs and simply says,
“I figured you might need a ride eh?”
The man’s story stops dead in his tracks at that point, and he tells me his publisher is waiting for him to finish his book but, he is having problems with his editor who is also his wife. He explains that she was an English major once upon a time and they are both arguing over the grammar he uses in his stories. We both agree sometimes proper grammar gets in the way of telling a story the way it is meant to be told and both of us will continue to tell stories from our heart and to hell with punctuation.
With that he utters a few more words to conclude the story, but I can’t tell you what he said as the story belongs solely to him. So if one day you see someone looking much like Sam Sheppard wandering around the Oakland Hills stop him and you will hear one hell of a yarn about a man, a bear and the cold waters of Hudson’s Bay. I am sure by that point the story might be a tad longer because as we know the storytellers of the world are individuals with really good memories–or bad ones. They just hope the people listening or reading their tales don’t remember or care about bad grammar and punctuation.
Text and images by Linda Seccaspina 2011
Images taken on the Hayward Fault,Oakland Hills