Sloth Bear vs. Polar Bear

Sloth bears are said to drive tigers away and to maul people when they feel crowded. Recently I came across a reference to an encounter that could only happen in captivity, and once again the mid-sized sloth bear proved surprisingly dangerous.

During the winter of 1897-98 an encounter took place between a polar bear and an Indian sloth bear at Sanger’s Circus, in which the latter came off an easy victor. It seems at first sight remarkable that such a powerful animal as a polar bear should have been so easily vanquished, but it was the cruelly long claws of the Indian that doubtless did the business, while the length and shagginess of his coat would protect him from the teeth and shorter talons of his northern antagonist.

--Richard Lydekker

The Game Animals of India, Burma, Malaya and Tibet (1907) 

Latest Publications: Some Lethal Essays

This Land’s newest anthology, the Faith Reader, is full of surprises, from Woody Guthrie’s religion to a lethal injection. My own contribution is a memoir called “A Stiller Ground,” which appeared in the magazine a few years back and was listed as a Notable Essay of the Year in Best American Essays 2014. What I love about This Land, aside from its devastating stories, is its commitment to keeping them alive. Through its multimedia website and anthologies like this one, the press stands behind its authors and their work. I should make clear that Faith Reader doesn’t advocate for any particular religious view. It explores, with open mind and a respect for diversity, many aspects of its topic.

Another fascinating foray into religion is the new Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom by Natan Slifkin, a rabbi of extraordinary learning in both religion and the science of wildlife. His website, Biblical Natural History, always teaches me something about animals and the ways people try to understand them. Rabbi Slifkin isn’t merely a dusty scholar, however. His museum offers a hands-on wildlife experience.

Illustration from The Torah Encyclopedia of Natural History, Vol. 1

My Latest Story in Unfading Daydream

Excited to announce the latest issue of Unfading Daydream, which features my lycanthropic short story “A Bowl of Beer.” The plot hearkens back to a Chinese folktale of the 3rd century, but I thought it would be cooler in modern-day Emporia, Kansas. I lived in Emporia years ago; my most vivid impression of it was how many people there were missing fingers. It had something to do with the meat-packing plant. Probably not what the chamber of commerce would prefer me to remember, so let me also mention that this is the home of Peter Pan Park, which the journalist William Allen White dedicated to his daughter after she died in a horse-riding accident. In my memory, that park is lit by fireflies. 

Anyway, this third issue of Unfading Daydream contains 11 speculative tales of fresh starts and renewals. Authors include Donovan Bertch, Alice Godwin, Gordon Grice, Tim Jeffreys, Cate Millican, A.L. Nachtman, Charlotte Platt, Stephen Paul Sayers, Fanni Suto, Michael Thomas, and Olin Wish.

Rural Scenes

Paintings by John Constable

A Scene

By John Clare

The landscape’s stretching view, that opens wide,
With dribbling brooks, and river's wider floods,
And hills, and vales, and darksome lowering woods,
With grains of varied hues and grasses pied;
The low brown cottage in the shelter'd nook;
The steeple, perking just above the trees
Whose dangling leaves keep rustling in the breeze;
And thoughtful shepherd bending o'er his hook;
And maidens stript, haymaking too, appear;
And Hodge a-whistling at his fallow plough;
And herdsman hallooing to intruding cow:
All these, with hundreds more, far off and near,
Approach my sight; and please to such excess,
That language fails the pleasure to express.

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