10 Comments

GRUSHA


While sitting in our tiny garden folly the other day, being scrutinized by the watchcat and other fey creatures I painted on its walls many years ago, my eyes fell on Grusha, and I was reminded again

why I had  painted him and his bicycle.

I read a story about the Russian trained circus bears, who could do all sorts of tricks , and about one in particular whom they named “Grusha”.  I began humanizing hm, and thought of the troubled life he led, caged in the city where hundreds of children came to see him and his companion bears entertain the crowds.

Far from his home in Siberia, he was taught to ride a bicycle.  He rode round and round the circus ring several times a day, and then repeated the feat six days a week.  A pretty boring life compared to roaming in the woods.  Lonely away from family and friends I thought.

One day he escaped on his bicycle.  Simply rode past the guard when no one was looking, out the front gate, and began his long journey back to his home.

I would like to say he made good his escape, but like so many other prisoners, he was recaptured and returned to the Russian circus.  Too bad for Grusha.

But here he is with his sad little yellow eyes, living in my little garden house, and riding through an apple orchard somewhere in Northern California.   He gives me joy whenever I see him.

His clever cycling is intently surveyed by a roomful of other fey animals and birds who wish him well.

 

 

 

WATCHCAT

Guarding Mouse Hole

 

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10 comments on “GRUSHA

  1. I loved this! So happy to see you back on the computer! We all missed you! Hugs, Judy

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  2. That one is for My Saskatoon friend Rob-Bear. Very refreshing.

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  3. She’s baaccckkk :0) Thank you for the post.
    Our hearts break for animals who fight the elements of the cold hard Colorado winter. Wet and standing in the -15 windchill. Baby calves born onto ice/snow of the Jan-March temps.
    Aaahhh…The wonder of God’s marvelous creations.

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  4. hi there, if this thread is still looked at by anyone who knows about Grusha the circus bear, I wrote a song about him yesterday, Thursday June 29th, 2015. I’m pasting the lyrics below. Does anyone know if the story of Grusha is actually true? or is it a fictional story for kids? – thanks in advance, for any help, hope you like the lyrics :).
    ~ Michael McNevin
    info@michaelmcnevin.com

    Grusha Leaves The Circus.

    My name is Grusha, I was a Russian circus bear
    I’m on my way back to Siberia, yes I am, gonna pedal there
    They taught me how to dance and skip a rope, three shows every night
    They turned their back and off I rode, on my trusty circus bike

    I sat up straight, went round and round, traded treats in for commands,
    I held on tight to the handlebars, used my feet like they were hands
    I raced the pigs and the chipanzees, but I know I’m not a man
    And now for 30 miles I’ve pedaled straight, and they don’t know where I am

    Refrain:
    My name is Grusha, I was a Russian circus bear
    I’m on my way back to Siberia, yes I am, gonna pedal there

    Might be wrong, to run away, is this how a bear behaves,
    Ride through lanes of quiet neighborhoods, in a silly gown and a silly hood
    They made the clothes, and dressed me up, I can’t help how I look
    Now if they don’t recognize me, good, gonna pedal right into the woods

    Life Beneath the big top canvas, is all I’ve ever known,
    Trailers, cages, town to town, sometimes we passed my forest home
    And I’m not sure what I’ll do now, it’s a game of hide and seek
    Maybe they’ll just quit and all go home, and I’ll spend the winter off my feet.

    (Refrain)

    Now I’m on a country path, full of apple trees & farms,
    Two horses see me, kick their heels, how I could use a barn
    But I can’t stop to rest or drink, I gotta pedal till I’m gone
    I do not know how close I am, but I smell the trees, it won’t be long

    The sky above is so much bluer, than I remember, as a cub,
    I catch the scent of fine and tasty things, not a hint of circus grub,
    Forest air runs through my fur like grass, my brown face warm against the sun,
    No finish line, just the forest pines, the coolest circus race I’ve ever run.

    (Refrain)

    © 2017 Michael McNevin
    http://www.michaelmcnevin.com
    P.O. Box 2235 Fremont CA 94536

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    • Hi Michael. What a delightful surprise to hear from you. Love the new song! I’m sure Grusha’s progeny will love that they are being memorialized by a genuine Hall of Famer. I know I’m impressed.

      Grusha lives on the wall of the little house in my backyard. You may have seen him there years ago. I first did him as a large painting and then put him in the garden. Where the original painting is is lost in time. Grusha is a mystery which I also researched without really finding out if he was truth or fiction. Either way, he is symbolic of so many people being held captive and wishing for a bicycle to get to that place we all call home. For me, Grusha’s eyes tell the story “Get me the hell out of here! ” And he did it all by himself. It delivers the hope that nothing is impossible. Thanks for reminding me of Grusha.

      We don’t get out much any more, but the memories of the Nile Cafe are strong ties. We sure had fun and the friendships we made during those years are precious for both of us. We’re still kicking it up, but at 90+ we don’t kick as high!

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      • Great to from Yu too Katie!! Another comment under this one, just so you know to read that too :-). I will get home at some point flush out the music and come by your place and sing you the song if you like? Love to you and Sam, as long as you can kick it all doesn’t matter how high 🙂 ps – I barely know how to get in and out of WordPress and all this but I will try to keep up with this thread as well as the ones now on Facebook about the song an you, miss seeing you at the café !

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      • Sounds great. I’m published on FB, Twitter and Linked in as well as WordPress, but I really don’t know how to use any of them except WP. It’s a great life!

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  5. Katie!
    I just realized I wrote to YOU on your blog, about Grusha the bear, not even knowing it was the Katie I know from Niles and Fremont!!! Talk about synchronicity.

    So, I am up in beautiful Stanley Idaho at a weeklong songwriters retreat, been here for 5 days. I wrote a song here yesterday, after digging through old notes and song ideas that I brought with me. Yesterday, as I perused 50+ song ideas and lyric scraps, I decided I’d go ahead and flesh out this story about Grusha the Russian circus bear.

    But I had not visited that story in many years, nor did I remember how I even heard about the story. And I did not know you were the artist turning up in web searches as I tried to research Grusha the bear. And, I didn’t remember or associate you with Grusha, else I’d of just called you!!! Haha!!

    So yesterday, I googled, and googled, and googled, trying various search words to find out about more on Grusha. Is it true, or not, that Grusha existed? And what person, who’s knowledge, would help me learn more about him. And then, why did this one painting of Grusha, on some artist’s blog somewhere, keep popping up as one of the main search hits, a more comprehensive and direct link to this story of the Russian bear escaping a circus on his circus bike? And then, I decide I should just write to the artist, but I have to leave a comment and dig into the blog to find out who this artist is, who did this painting, and do they know about Grusha’s back story… and so I subscribe to the blog, see a PachoFa handle, which all day yesterday never clicked in my head as your old email handle, and then…. holy crap its YOU!!! It’s Katie, the same of Katie and Sam, my artist painter writer friend from Fremont and so many Nile Cafe cups of coffee!!

    Are you the one who actually told me about Grusha? Were we sitting in the Nile Cafe years back, and maybe you mentioned the story? Or did I see the painting in person somewhere and ask you about him? Because once I heard that story, well it broke my heart, and I thought maybe I’d write a song someday about him.

    Anyway, I’m blown away. I can’t wait to share this info with the other 6 writers here at this retreat. Especially Arturo Tello, who is a painter and in addition to the songwriting he’s been doing, he’s also been painting the landscape here of the beautiful Salmon River and Sawtooth mountains (at my songwriter friend Nancy Cassidy’s place).

    As to the song, well, I didn’t mean for it to be a kid’s song per se, but since I could only seem to find your painting, and an old shorter (one verse) kids song lyric on the same subject, I thought well maybe this is just a fictional bear, with a painter’s rendition of it as well… until I could read a true account and history of the bear, I had to make a story up, and, I decided to go ahead and leave Grusha in the woods where he belongs, a happy ending for Grusha :). (and, if it’s true he ran away, I can use artistic license to leave out whatever happened at the end of his escape).

    Tomorrow I head back south again, gigs this Saturday night in Reno at Michael Santos’ place, and Sunday in Colfax at Dash n Dine with Sandi & Skip Snyder, and likely others popping in, and Monday I think I’ll host a casual Mudpuddle Shop jam in Niles, early eve probably, Phil Bennett will be sitting in on that one, and likely others who you’d know from Niles.

    How I would love to see you at that and we can recount the story of Grusha together, sing this song, and show your painting of him and have you tell your version of him too, if you’re feeling poetic or just want to talk a bit of back story for the song and your painting? If not this Monday, I’d like to somehow connect these dots and share them with our neighbors in art and song.

    Let me know if you get this, and please do check your blog (I think the Grusha entry was back in 2012? Here’s the link to it I think:
    https://pachofaunfinished.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/grusha/

    Love Mike.

    PS – your blogs and art are a TREASURE, I’m gonna visit them regularly, feeling very inspired by you 🙂

    here are the lyrics to the song (again). I think I’m titling it Grusha Leaves The Circus. (or… maybe it’s just Grusha The Circus Bear… dunno yet. Lyrics are still probably gonna change a bit here and there, it’s brand new… still adding and omitting stuff…). I did keep it pretty kid-friendly, almost like it would accompany a children’s book of Grusha’s Story, not my typical songwriting style, but seemed appropriate, with what I could find and how this bear’s story wants to be depicted.

    “Grusha The Circus Bear”, or, “Grusha Leaves The Circus”.

    My name is Grusha, I was a Russian circus bear.
    I’m on my way back to Siberia, yes I am, I’m gonna pedal there.
    They taught me how to dance and skip a rope, three shows every night.
    They turned their back and off I rode, on my trusty circus bike.

    I sat up straight, went round and round, trading treats for their commands.
    I held on tight to the handlebars, used my feet like they were hands.
    I raced the pigs and the chipanzees, but I know I’m not a man.
    And now for 30 miles I’ve pedaled straight, and they don’t know where I am.

    Refrain:
    My name is Grusha, I was a Russian circus bear.
    I’m on my way back to Siberia, yes I am,
    I’m gonna pedal there.

    Might be wrong, to run away, is this how a bear behaves?
    Ride through lanes of quiet neighborhoods, in a silly gown and a silly hood.
    They made the clothes, and dressed me up, I can’t help how I look.
    Now if they don’t recognize me, good, gonna pedal right into the woods.

    Life beneath the big top canvas, is all I’ve ever known.
    Trailers, cages, town to town, sometimes we passed my forest home.
    And I’m not sure what I’ll do now, it’s a game of hide and seek.
    Maybe they’ll just quit and all go home, and I’ll spend the winter off my feet.

    (Refrain)

    Now I’m on a country path, full of apple trees & farms.
    Two horses see me, kick their heels, how I could use a barn.
    But I can’t stop to rest or drink, I gotta pedal till I’m gone.
    I do not know how close I am, but I smell the trees, it won’t be long.

    The sky above is so much bluer, than I remember, as a cub.
    I catch the scent of a berry bush, and not a hint of circus grub.
    Forest air runs through my fur like grass, my brown face warm, against the sun.
    No finish line, just the forest pines, the last bike race that I’ll ever run.

    (Refrain)

    © 2017 Michael McNevin
    http://www.michaelmcnevin.com
    P.O. Box 2235 Fremont CA 94536

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  6. Hi Michael,
    I’m a friend of Tim Fleming in Pasadena, and attended a performance in Altadena at which you performed your lovely Grusha song. I was so charmed, and had my own ideas about imagining it into another format. It appears that the story was written by Barbara Bustetter-Falk

    https://www.amazon.com/Grusha-Barbara-Bustetter-Falk/dp/0060212993

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    • Hi Gwen, I think Grusha has traveled a long way on that bicycle. Michael is a friend of mine who stumbled on my blog post GRUSHA with a picture of the bear. I don’t remember where or when I heard the story of Grusha, but I painted the picture and wrote the blog in 2012. I’m happy he has had success with his song, he is a great and talented guy. I will have to check out Barbara’s book.

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