Polar Bear Perils

Melodie Corrigall

July 25th, a Tuesday, Tessa greeted the day with a certain confidence that a polar bear would not attack her. On reflection, she wondered if she was being overly optimistic. In life, nothing was certain.

With global warming, the polar bear’s traditional food supply was rapidly diminishing. Like her, bears got hungry. She couldn’t live on hope and they couldn’t live on snow. If hungry enough, a polar bear would eat a human should one be on offer. (A few months earlier, a polar bear had chewed up members of a camping group in Norway or some such place.)

As she prepared for the day, Tessa rolled the word “certain” around in her mouth. The word felt as round and cool as an ice pellet. She had always found shelter from the unpredictable storms of life within the cozy igloo created by words. Correctly applied, their sharp edges, and reliable colors appealed.

Although not colorful, white was her favourite for its uncompromising stance. To gaze at the horizon and see a smooth flat surface—white from the night’s snowfall—gave one a settled feeling. Unless, of course, a polar bear was heading in your direction.

Certainty, except in words, was illusive. So much of what Tessa had been told as a child, drilled into as a student, smeared with as a TV viewer, turned out to be false. Raised on a diet of white bread and roses, her adult life was bullied by thorns and multigrain buns. Still she tried to face each day with a realistic appraisal of perils, ready to face whatever the tempest blew her way.

Living just off Young Street in downtown Toronto, the largest city in Canada, she trusted her confidence in relation to a polar bear attack was not just wishful thinking.