Thursday, April 29, 2010
Happy Birthday Timothy
Today is the birthday of Timothy Treadwell, grizzly bear expert, wildlife preservationist and documentary filmmaker. He would have been 53 years old. Treadwell lived unarmed among the bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Reserve for 13 summers and filmed his adventures in the wild during his final five seasons. Tragically, he and his girlfriend were killed by a rogue bear in October 2003.
Treadwell was obsessed with the natural world, and especially with grizzly bears and red foxes. But it was a magnificent obsession and he left a legacy that will stand the test of time. He was a true environmentalist and champion for wildlife and wrestled with what he knew to be an uneasy future for our planet.
He devoted years of his life to the study of grizzlies, knowing full well that he was engaged in a life and death occupation. His intention was to live a freer, fuller and more purposeful life even if that meant living a shorter life. Unfortunately, he paid the ultimate price but his death was not in vain. His many important findings will help environmentalists preserve wild habitat and protect wildlife, just as Treadwell wanted.
Though I have watched The Grizzly Man Diaries (actually, I study them) many times over, I have yet to grow tired of them. Each viewing brings new insight into Treadwell, his fantastic sense of humor and eloquent writing. He had many idiosyncrasies and one that I am particularly fond of was his habit of repeating a sentence three times if he was very excited or upset. I feel a kinship with this man and wish I had been fortunate enough to meet him. The fact that he cherished his freedom resonates deeply with me.
To learn more about Treadwell and the incredible work he did, I recommend The Grizzly Man Diaries, which often airs on Animal Planet and Planet Green as well as Grizzly Man, a documentary by Werner Herzog. Though Herzog's portrayal of Treadwell is too dark, it's still a compelling film and well worth watching. And, while it's impossible to watch The Diaries (8 episodes in all) or the documentary film without a growing sense of impending doom, this somehow underscores the significance of Treadwell's great work.
If Treadwell were still alive, the world would be a better place and not just for grizzly bears and red foxes. His poignant, tender and protective feelings for Timmy the Fox and his other wild brethren, his celebratory songs and boyish laughter will live on. He continues to be one of my heroes in a world where heroes are harder to find.
May he rest in peace.