Writing the Distance: Jeanne Swartz

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today, Jeanne Swartz gives us a photograph and bear story.


There was a bear in the yard last night. Overturned planters and fresh claw marks on the porch railing support posts. My dog pushed past me through the doorway into the gray morning, alternately scandalized and titillated, following an invisible scent trail in tight circles across the lawn.

For a while, the stress and worry built up in weeks past receded as I considered whether the dawn visitor was my old adversary, an enormous tar-black boar, destroyer of bird feeders and raider of gardens and garbage cans. A bear is a fearsome and beautiful being in the natural world. A bear’s visit reminds me that perspective changes perception.

In another season, untainted by novel virus terrors, a bear’s presence may have caused me concern or possibly even fear. Today, I find myself nostalgic, wistful for a life so unruffled. My hope is that while I move forward through this dark time, I will be able to hold on to the viewpoint that transformed the presence of a worrisome nuisance into a visit from an old friend.


Jeanne Swartz has lived, worked and written in Anchorage for more than 40 years. She is currently employed by the State of Alaska and serves on the Board of Directors of Alaska Women Speak.

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