Thursday, January 20, 2011

Polar Bear Dreams

Iced in, snowed in, are such lovely excuses for staying home. I bundled up just after sunrise to play outside with our Lucy dog and feed the birds. In her race to the yard Lucy took a side slide off the patio into the frozen flower bed. Rather than laugh out loud and humiliate her, I carefully shuffled on the ice to the grass.

Immediately, I did a double step on the frozen tundra which crackled and snapped sharply. The world beneath my feet continued to snap, crackle, and crunch all the way to the bird feeders. Tiny little juncos, UBBs, finches, and cardinals fluttered in the trees waiting on fresh seeds. Lucy patrolled the yard sniffing for a good chase while I scattered food for the critters around the bushes. The sun sparkling on the frozen fountain grass created a glimpse of regal beauty. I could just imagine each frozen flowered top marching as a guard at Buckingham Palace.

With our first task of the morning completed we returned to the warmth of the house and my pink playroom. Being relaxed and refreshed gave my mind time to wonder and imagine. There I saw my polar bears always keeping a watchful eye on my play. (On the wall by my desk is a calendar picture of three polar bears entitled "Bad Boys of the Arctic.") But it was one of those bears that altered the course of my professional career through a dream.

I had come to a juncture in my teaching career where I sought an administrative job, thinking I could be the leader of a school. We'd moved to Kansas, and I'd lost the solid footing and direction of my library years. In time I began applying for principal positions but found all too often that without a network of friends and professionals I did not go far. The time came to get serious, go back to school, earn more administrative hours, make contacts, and be ready to take a job within a 40-50 mile radius.

My stomach churned with these decisions. My shoulders road high, nearly to my ears, and my sleep was forever fitful until the night my polar bear arrived. In my dream I was clawing with fingertips up the side of a snow packed mountain covered with a layer of thin ice. Every jab of my cold fingers took me forward and upward ever so slightly followed occasionally by a backward slide. The granite faced mountain seem to stay just out of reach. I knew I could climb the wall if I could just get there.

Suddenly, I heard the sounds of crunching ice coming up from behind. In moments a looming polar bear appeared at my side. There was not a moment of fear, only awe, as I gazed up at him. He spoke to me kindly, "Here let me help you. Take hold of my fur with one hand and we'll climb together." So we climbed until he stopped and asked, "Where are you going?"

"To the top of the wall," I replied politely for fear of a growl.

In a deep musical voice he spoke, "To the top? Don't you realize that wall and it's base is granite. One slip, one fall could crush you. Even if you reached the top, what do you gain?"

Rather meekly I replied, "Well, I would have completed the challenge, the climb. I'd be on top." After a long pause I continued, "but it just looks so harsh, so cold."

"Then let me show you what I like to do on this mountain." He rolled in the snow, howling and growling, until at last he laid on his back and spoke, "Here climb on my belly and hold on." With full trust and faith, I climbed on. In a swish we were sailing down the mountain slope till we skipped right through a mountain stream and stopped.

"How was that?" he asked nearly grinning.

"Exhilarating!" was the only word that came to my mind.

"Let's go again. Here climb on my back and I'll take you up." Without question I clambered up. The view from his back was spectacular. I saw trees, boulders, clouds, and vistas that I hadn't noticed when my head focused only on cracking the ice and climbing. Higher than before we climbed taking time to gaze and breath in the freshness of the mountain air. Once again we slid down the mountain splashing into the stream. I couldn't pass up an opportunity to play with my friend. Trip after trip we made that day; my polar bear was tireless.

At last he said, "Now what will you do? Climb the cold granite face of the mountain or play with life and share the beauty of what you've seen with others?"

The answer glistened in my eyes as I glanced around the mountain slopes. With a deep breath of mountain air, bear and I ambled down the mountain together. In the years that passed I looked back at the granite mountain more than once, only to feel my bear's warm breath on my shoulder.

1 comment:

  1. I like the way this story transitions to the dialogue.
    Too often we can get in line for something we don't even want because we "should" or because we don't want to be left out.
    Nice to have a polar bear as a friend and adviser.