Saturday, November 20, 2010

You Snooze....You Lose

Last night I was exhausted.

I don't think I've ever thanked God for a Friday with more heartfelt gratitude. Juggling girl's conditioning sessions, GED instruction, and managing the student store alongside regular teacherly responsibilities has my brain and body reeling. When my head finally hit the pillow I was, as they say, dead to the world.

Most nights, that would be just fine, but just a few minutes ago I trekked over to the post office and discovered that my much-needed snooze session came with a price. Apparently, there was a polar bear in town and it was actually right outside my window!

Being dead to the world, I had no clue.

This is my ninth school year in this village. In that time, this is maybe the fourth polar bear that has ventured down from the coast. However, it is the first time that one has wandered among the houses. I heard from neighbors that the outside dogs didn't even bark (smart dogs...they know when to keep a low profile). No one knew the bear was there until one poor teenage girl, walking all alone, rounded a building and found herself face-to-face with what could have been her worst nightmare....only yards away.

Don't worry. The quick-thinking girl jumped into a nearby house immediately. She's fine, though understandably shaken. I heard that the bear was walking toward her as she scrambled into the building. I shudder to think what would have happened if one of our little ones had been in the same position. Would they have had the presence of mind to get away or would they have just stood there gaping or crying, frozen in terror?

Hopefully, we'll never have to learn the answer to that question, but there are murmurings that this bear was not alone (two more sets of tracks have been found), so it's a concern.

Polar bears are not easy for me to write about. On one hand, they are magnificent animals that fill me with curiosity and admiration. I would have been thrilled to see a polar bear sniffing around my window! I think most people feel the same way. I was completely mesmerized by the video about Klondike and Snow (the polar bear cubs that were raised at the Denver Zoo years ago) and I am envious of those who live in the coastal villages where bear watching is commonplace.

Unfortunately, when you live in the Arctic, there is always the other hand to think about. In spite of all the movies and commercials and photographs-in-emails that depict bears as cute, cuddly, fun-loving creatures...or even aloof, independent ones...the bottom line is that they are wild animals with no sense of right or wrong or sentimentality beyond survival. A hungry, wandering bear might prefer to eat fish or a seal, but if there doesn't happen to be any fish or seals around at the moment...a defenseless dog or even a person would certainly be fair game.

That leaves me with very mixed feelings...especially now that one has crossed the line.