To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth.
– Auguste Rodin
I walk past giraffes and elephants, lions, tigers and kangaroos, until I come to the pen marked ‘Polar bear’. The pen is a relatively small area backed by a large wall of natural rock. It is decorated with a log and a specially designed polar bear swimming pool. I stand quietly, watching the keepers spray the area clean with a power hose, watching the water as it spreads across the floor and flows out into a carefully constructed drainage moat. I watch as the keepers spread polar bear dinner around the enclosure: little bits of meat under the log, up on the walls, scattered around the pen. Then the keepers leave the enclosure. I hear the rattling of doors opening, and Snow Lilly, Milwaukee’s one and only polar bear emerges!
Snow Lilly is white, with stains of green and brown. She is excited about her food: sniffing intently back and forth, up and down, all around her. I stand quietly, listening, watching. I stand there for a long time, listening, watching, humming softly to the polar bear. She doesn’t pay much notice, except for the occasional glance.
The signs around the polar bear pen tell me that the polar bear is in trouble. The ice is melting. Soon their will be no place for these magnificent animals to live. The sign gives me a check list of things I might do to help. It suggests I might recycle more, or donate money to a fund. Other people pass by quickly. They take a moment to snap a picture, point something out, and then they move on. They don’t read the signs. After some time, I notice a feeling of sadness, disconnection. I am frustrated at the people who don’t seem to care. I am frustrated at myself for not feeling able to do anything about the disconnect. I am frustrated about disaster beyond my own comprehension.
The Arctic holds a unique place in the world’s mind. The movie Polar Express, shows the North Pole as the mystical home of Santa Claus and his elves, which can only be reached by means of a magical and dangerous train which appears to small children at night.
Of course for some, the pole is a blank and empty layer of ice on the ocean, a desolate no man’s land, the top of the globe in a school classroom. For others, it is a symbol of our deepest yearning for wild wilderness. It captures our imagination, tempting the avid adventurer with the promise of ultimate challenge, the ultimate test against which to measure our humanity. It is an extreme which defines who we are.
For some, the North pole, and the freezing Arctic lands surrounding it are a visited reality, an ancestral homeland, a place to call home. For many others, it is either an exploitable resource to be counted in dollars and tallies, or a fascinating scientific laboratory, or a symbol of national prestige and domination. The purpose of this blog is to tell the stories of the people and animals who inhabit the Arctic, whose stories intertwine to create its reality, about places, about questions, and about artists who feel inspired to bring the Arctic into their work. ArtArctica is about raising awareness, about creating meaningful connections, about sharing inspiration.
Phil Burns February 9, 2015
Inspiring writing! Really like your comments that sum up the arctic as the extreme that defines who we are.