BT Tuesdays: Bears Wear Red Collars

Last weekend, my sister and I went to Asheville. We chose it because the town met our two requirements for a visit: 1. neither of us had been there; and 2. no one we knew lived there.

We did exactly zero research about Asheville before the trip. We had heard from people that it was “cool,” which apparently was enough validation to warrant a weekend there.

We quickly got accustomed to the culture of Asheville, which is artsy, warm, and embedded in nature. And by nature I mean bears. The people of Asheville seem unfazed by these rather large, rather big-claws-and-teeth creatures. John, our Airbnb host, told us not to worry, the bears were totally safe—one had only clawed John’s dog’s face because he was hungry. When John saw our horrified looks, he reassured us: “Oh don’t worry, that’s just because they’re trying to eat everything in sight, on account of the upcoming winter.”

Just as precaution, I asked John what to do, should we encounter a bear. He shrugged and chuckled a little at my unease, saying they wouldn’t harm me. He then added not to run because they’d chase me down like a dog and probably claw me, too. “So I just stand still?” I asked. “Sure,” he said, shrugging again.

Apparently all the bears have red collars on them because the college students track them for some kind of bear research. So they put the collars these bears while they’re hibernating. When I asked John if that was dangerous, he said—in the native friendly tone of seemingly all Ashvillenines—“Aw, no, they’re sleeping, so it’s fine.” Phrases like, don’t poke the bear, don’t wake a sleeping bear, and don’t put collars on bears while they’re hibernating all ran through my head, but I stayed quiet.

When people—our family, friends, Airbnb host—asked us what we had planned, we told them the truth: We had no idea. So we got there and let Asheville lead the way.

My sister and I realize that not everyone is comfortable traveling this way. We tried to attribute it to sharing DNA, but just take a look at our older brother’s itineraries for “vacations” and we concluded it’s gotta be more of a personality type thing.

We travel really well together. Almost too well. We decided that we should have our own show, because our conversations totally warrant 22-minutes of televised airtime. Below are some titles for episodes, based off of or taken from actual dialogue:

We’re Not Allowed Back in That Coffee Shop

Right-Left Confusion Needs a Better Name

I need socks. I do too! (Part 1)

These socks are soft. Yes they are! (Part 2)

Where’s Our Fucking Cheesecake?

Comfortable Silence

I Love Soaking My Feet (Part 1)

Epsom Salt Smells So Good (Part 2)

What Are Bath Salts?

Sighing Means Your Not Breathing Enough

The Car Behind Us Is Such a Weasel (Part 1)

Now I’m Being a Weasel (Part 2)

I Meant to Download That Bieber Song….But Then I Forgot

Interesting: Now We’re in Central Time

It’s Terrifying That We Could Walk in That Place and Walk Out With Guns

Whenever I travel, I monitor how I connect with a new place. Just like people, some places make a fleeting impression, while others stick in your bones and make a home there. When I’m in LA, I can see myself living there, taking my coffee at the ocean, trying to stay calm in traffic. I awed my way through Barcelona, already yearning for a time to come back and continue exploring. Zurich’s pristine streets and quiet street cars freaked me out, and I left pretty certain I wouldn’t be back.

It’s strange to reach that point in life when I can acknowledge the things that probably won’t happen. I remember very vividly when my older brother broke the news that he would not, in fact, be playing in the NBA as we’d imagined our whole lives. I was devastated. Not so much because my brother wasn’t going to get me floor seats at the Bulls for life, but because I finally understood unrealistic possibilities. I believe this is called leaving childhood. 

Then there’s Asheville. A place has never had such an effect on me, an effect I’m still trying to detangle. Something was awakened in my soul. Dreams feel like possibilities.

Maybe it’s because there are so many artists in Asheville. And seeing their dreams on the canvas, on clay, in print, in hand stitched notebooks—maybe seeing those things reminded me that people do, in fact, live out their dreams. They do take pieces of their soul and make the world a better place with their art.