The Bigley Family

The Bigley Family

Family Story

Three years after my bear attack, three years after I insisted that Amber forget about me and move on with her life, she and I were married at my family’s vacation home in the hills above San Juan Bautista, Calif. We committed our lives to each other in what I call, “The Secret Garden,” an area of the grounds where I’d spent many hours alone with my thoughts while healing.

Dan and Amber's Wedding

I think of Amber as the real hero of this story. We had barely spend one day as a new couple when the bear tore me apart. She could have gracefully backed away, yet she stuck with me. She’s a strong, stoic woman with her own sense of adventure. While pursuing a major in anthropology and a minor in economic geography at the University of Minnesota, she went to Kenya to live with the Maasai, a semi-nomadic herding tribe that practices polygamy, female circumcision, and traditionally offered its dead to the hyenas. While spending my middle school years in Malaysia, I had felt brave eating shark-fin soup. While living in Kenya in a cow-dung hut, Amber ate what the Maasai ate, and drank what the Maasai drank, which included an occasional sip of blood from the throat of a slaughtered goat.

Dan and Amber

Our first child was born the spring of 2007, and named Alden, an English name meaning “old friend.” Our second, Acacia, was born the summer of 2010, and named for the trees Amber lived among in Africa. During family time, if we’re not taking the kids skiing or romping about in the woods, we’re probably fishing. And if we’re not fishing, we’re probably thinking about fishing. Alden caught his first when he was 3.
We share our Anchorage home with my guide dog, Anderson, and Amber’s husky, Hobbit. My soul-mate dog, Maya, who was with me the night of the bear, lived to be 14. We recently planted an apple tree in our backyard in her honor, mixing her ashes with the soil so that she’ll always be near.