Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Work: "Mountain Matriarch"

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”  (Mark Twain)

'Mountain Matriarch'
black bear mother and cubs
 (c) John Ashley
"Montana Matriarch" (c) John Ashley
My recent photograph of a black bear family foraging for fall berries is a tribute to motherhood. On this day mom was teaching her three cubs about kinnikinnick berries, whose Latin name actually translates as "Bear grapes."

Motherhood is always harder than it looks. For animals living in the wild, motherhood is a non-stop series of teaching one life lesson after another. A female bear is doing well to raise one cub through its first summer. Raising a pair of bear cubs demands even more skill. But raising three curious cubs requires all the patience and persistence of a "Mountain Matriarch."

Bear cubs are born in the depths of winter, deep within the female's den. Weighing in at one pound, newborn cubs nurse and grow through their first winter without hibernating. For the next two summers they will follow mom's every move, watching and learning. They will also hibernate with mom during their second and third winters. If they survive to a third summer, they will be old enough to leave their family and make a life of their own.

Mother bear protects, teaches and feeds her cubs every single day for more than two years. After two years she'll be ready to breed again, and the circle begins anew.

Motherhood is forever - and even longer for my mother.

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