A word about this poem: The image of the polar bear clinging to the ice floe has served to awaken many of us to the irreversibility of the climate crisis. But single images, even this one, have a shelf-life. I wanted to magnify the real tragedy of the bear’s disappearing habitat (habitat sounds too scientific — how about “world”, “realm”, or “kingdom”) and explore the scale of what we have done.
Can we live with the shame of making “whole places disappear”? If we’re not careful, our crowning trick will be to make huge tracts of the world as we know it disappear, and then, for the finale, we ourselves will vanish. But if this should happen, think about it. Our run-away-magic will not end with our disappearance because we are also making a vast continent appear to our south. . .the continent of No Bear, the Antarctic.
I keep finding that the truth of our reality straddles myth, as it must if we are to evolve.
The Big Dipper is part of Ursa Major,
The Great Bear constellation
That presides over the Arctic.
Ursa shows the way to the North Star
Which has been helping people navigate
For thousands of years.
It’s hard to conceive of what that meant,
For people on the North American continent
To have that star, Polaris, up there
To depend on for orientation.
The Arctic is named for Arktos – Bear.
Is it really so strange
That Bear and her land share the same great spirit?
We aren’t used to making whole places disappear,
Only the souls and vitality of places.
Ursus, however, will not go away,
Being made of stars.
But Arktos has nowhere to go and
She can’t go to live in the sky,
Or can she?
I wonder how our distant descendants
Will explain these times.
Will they tell of a race of small-headed, one-eyed giants
Who chased Arktos into the sky
Where she found protection behind Ursus?
The Antarctic, on the other hand, is appearing
As the ice melts,
But no bears live there.
Antarctic means the opposite of Arctic;
It is the Land of No Bear.
If only we could find our way
To learning from our mistakes
Instead of making a religion of disproving our worth
Before all the eyes of the heavens.