Saint Sava (saint_sava) wrote,
Saint Sava

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Polar bears and moral haiku.

The old man with the misshapen skull, noticing my interest, met my gaze. His hoary head was visibly deformed, with an especially large, irregular concavity in the left side above the temple. My guess was that the old man was in his nineties, but there was an ageless gleam in his rheumy eyes I rarely saw in the younger indigenous. If it wasn't already abundantly clear that I was a qallunaaq, that I did not know the story unequivocally established me as a tourist. I began to address him in the most respectful broken Inuktitut I could manage, but he cut me off in the middle of my stammering honorific: "Nanuq."

Polar bear.

He told me that as a young man in the dying days of whaling, he was trapping north of Iqaluit, then called Frobisher Bay, when he was ambushed by a polar bear. He knew that a polar bear killed by beating its prey down to a crouch and then biting off the top of its head, so he backed himself into an ice structure that he could use to support himself. For hours he resisted the bear's crushing blows to his head and shoulders, straining to remain vertical, until finally the bear tired of the exertion and wandered away. He didn't remember traveling the several miles back to the settlement.

wisdom of old sage:
when dancing with polar bears,
do not bow your head.

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