The bear’s name is Mink, and she lives in Hanover, New Hampshire. For years, a grey-haired resident fed the sow her favorite breakfast from the local diner: maple-glazed donuts. Mink has good tastes.
After her benefactor died, Mink began to mosey up to the front porch of other neighbors, ambling through town like she was the mayor on a Sunday stroll. Eventually, state wildlife authorities decided Mink was trouble waiting to happen. After deliberations, they decided for complicated reasons that the most humane thing to do was actually to put Mink down. However, the Valley News ran the story. Then the governor weighed in. There was an uproar, with thousands signing a petition to protect the local luminary. Disney’s dying for the rights to this movie.
Bowing to pressure and good sense, they loaded Mink into a trailer and hauled her deep into the north, as far as you can go without crossing into Canada. They strapped a tracking collar on her and let her loose. And you know what she did? She pointed her nose south and started walking. And walking. And walking. NPR reported that Mink “has logged thousands of looping miles, crossing Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River multiple times.” Biologist Ben Kilham, vigilantly monitoring Mink’s progress, said, “She was going 30 miles a day. If anything, we should get her into a triathlon.” She hasn’t quite made it back to Hanover, but they say she’s close. Mink could saunter down Main Street any afternoon now. Obviously, she’ll be on the hunt for a maple-glazed.
I’m rooting for Mink, and I’m sure you are too. But I think that when we’re pulling for her, it’s not only because she’s an underdog doing the impossible but also because we see in her something we all feel, even if we don’t speak of it or give it much room to breathe. We’re all yearning for home, for that place where we belong, where we’re known, for the people who welcome us at our worst and are not at all surprised when we’re at our best. “The ache for home,” writes Maya Angelou, “lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
The trick, I think, is to pay attention to this ache, to let it turn us the right direction and pull us home. There’s a million ways to tune out this yearning, to push the longing away. But if we listen, if we follow the ache, I’m betting my last dollar that we’ll eventually find our way.