WILLIAMSTOWN >> All seemed right with the world. I was enjoying breakfast on my patio and admiring my hanging basket of pink and lavender impatiens. The sun was shining and birds were singing.

Then my neighbor called and my light-heartedness plummeted to fear.

"I want to warn you that bears are around. They rummaged the Dumpster," the neighbor said, referring to the Dumpster on the grounds of the condominium where we live.

A second warning was waiting for me when I collected my mail in the condo lobby, where a message from the property managers was posted: "Bears have been visiting the condo. Be careful when exiting or entering the buildings. Do not approach the animals."

Really, was it necessary to tell us that. Would anyone be brave enough, or should I say foolish enough, to pat a bear on the head?

The last bear I set eyes on was in a cage in Central Park Zoo. A 5-foot spiked fence encircled the cage. Inside the cage, rods extended 12 feet above the ground and turned inward. I felt safe.

But I cannot say the same now that bears are wandering where they please near my home.

Nonetheless, I need to dispose of the garbage, lest it become odiferous and hatch bugs. It is a very short walk to the Dumpster, but now that bears have discovered it offers 24-hour buffet, I will drive and only in daytime. If I spot a bear, I can jump into my car, push the pedal to the floor and speed away.


Trying to out-run a bear is not an option. Bears can run faster than a race horse — up to 50 yards in 3 seconds.

Despite my precautions, if I actually saw a bear, I would faint, I am sure. Then car or not, I would be easy prey for the bear.

Wanting to chase away terrifying thoughts, I sat on the chaise lounge on my patio, reading "Dubliners," by James Joyce. But when my eyes began to grow heavy, I asked myself: "What if I doze off ?''

Imagining what it would be like to wake up and find a bear eyeing me as if I were an appetizing meal, affected me as would over-dosing on a stimulant medication. I could not sit still. Well, at least I got the laundry and ironing done that afternoon.

My fear of the bears has turned me into a clean freak as far as the patio. I even think twice before eating a cookie there. Well, admittedly one cookie always leads to five or six, which leave more crumbs.

And reports of bear sightings in the last couple of days have not helped me overcome my fears.

My neighbor called with another bear alert: "I was just heading where you like to walk (for exercise), and I saw a big black bear," he said.

Yesterday, the condo's board of trustees chimed in, informing residents, by email, that a bear invaded a condo patio an hour ago.

Also, they cautioned residents to secure the lock on the pool gate when they leave the pool because "bears enjoy a swim, too." (Will our unwelcome visitors be wanting to borrow a towel to dry off? Oh what am I thinking, I won't have time to go to the pool, I'll be busy scrubbing every inch of my patio.)

The bears are encroaching more and more on territory I used to consider safe. There is a leash law for dogs in Williamstown, but what can be done about the bears that are roaming free and putting a crimp in my lifestyle?

I don't know anyone who would be willing to take the bears in tow, as people do with homeless dogs they adopt.

The only bear I like being near is the teddy bear I keep on my bed.

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown.