An Ah-ha Moment

10/26/2011 1:46:17 AM

An Ah-ha Moment

 Bear against snow

This is my first trip ever to Churchill and my second day on a Tundra Buggy®. Nothing I've ever done in the past quite prepared me for the emotional impact of seeing my first bear in the wild, just a few feet away from where I was standing on the back porch of the buggy.

It was one of those ah-ha moments when the enormity of the polar bears' precarious situation comes down upon you in a flood, and you realize that they aren't even aware of it. Here is this magnificent animal graciously giving me this beautiful gift of his presence—allowing me to share his space for a brief time, giving me a glimpse of his world. For a brief period of time he is my polar bear. The fact he chooses to remain close for awhile humbles me to the tips of my toes and bonds me forever to him.

It is a powerful and unforgettable experience. An arctic fox trots by our buggy, zigzagging across the tundra, completely at ease with our presence. A little later, we spot a snowy owl on a rock eyeing a covey of ptarmigan amongst the kelp. The arctic story is playing out right in front of my eyes, imparting centuries old knowledge and wisdom that only comes from observation and a strong connection to the land.

Bear walking on rocks

As I watch it all unfold before me, I am reminded of a quote I think about often: "In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We only love what we understand. We only understand what we are taught." -- Babia Dioum (Senegalese ecologist)

So many of our children today are growing up knowing little of the natural world that surrounds them. It is not something that can be learned from a book or a lecture in just a few minutes. It is something that has to grow on you. It takes time to make this connection through observation and reflection.

The greatest gift we can give our children and the polar bears is this connection to the natural world. Only then will we embrace a culture of sustainability to protect the wild world that is so necessary for our own survival. I invite and challenge all of us to make an investment in our future. Spend time outdoors with your children and give them the opportunity to discover the ultimate gift of life from Mother Earth.

Follow Kathy's daily adventures in her blog, Journey to the Arctic. Photos © Kevin Middel.

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