Edward Hirsch referenced poetry as “a message in a bottle” to be found and opened at some future date by an anonymous reader.
When I paint a piece or write a poem, what or who do I have in mind? What am I tuned into? It varies. Sometimes, as with this painting of the polar bear, I followed an intuitive flow that started with marks on a canvas. From these marks, three disco dancers emerged and quickly shape-shifted into three polar bears at the North Pole; then to a single polar bear with the Aurora Borealis as a backdrop. Finally there was this solitary polar bear in a meadow. The journey of this piece wasn’t decided by me ahead of time; what it wanted to become was disclosed as I stayed with the process.
What is the message of this painting?
One cold and snowy winter’s night, I felt that existential loneliness. I looked at my polar bear painting on the wall & I wondered what it felt like to wander, a solitude, across the melting ice floes of the North Pole. What would it feel like to have your habitat disappearing beneath your feet? What would it be like to be made for this icy world and to witness your world dissolving? As the ice floes are melting, does this then predicate that the polar bear becomes extinct or does he metamorphose in some way to accommodate this once familiar, now changing world?
And so I wrote this sonnet to the polar bear, for myself in my loneliness and for the unknown finder of the message in the bottle.
© by Christine O’Brien
It’s cold and I’m alone again at night.
The stars so far away, no comfort there.
Is the polar bear aware of its plight?
Ice floes are melting, does anyone care?
Across the tundra the northern lights dance:
radiant colors blast the starry sky.
If we change our ways, would he have a chance?
“Global warming; couldn’t be helped,” we sigh.
We’re safe in our cozy habitats, home.
The borders of our lives within these walls.
The far arctic circle, his place to roam
outside of our range, his frozen cry falls.
What’s it to us, a whole species demise?
Could it have gone better if we’d been wise?
For Your Contemplation:
I’ve talked about following your passion when writing poetry, prose or creating art. Sometimes, a fleeting feeling seems to govern your life. How do you respond to this? When feeling lonely or sad or some other uncomfortable feeling, I desire to be done with it as soon as possible. I don’t want to dwell there. Yet, I’ve learned to allow it the time it takes. The truth is that we all feel lonely, sad or in grief at times. To allow it is the courageous response…to create from it is to engage the common human thread of loneliness that each one of us experiences. Your deep transitory feelings can be expressed through poetry, prose, painting & other creative venues. You cannot decide who is going to pick up your bottled message on some lonely beach. You can only hope that when they do, they find what is inside personally useful, portent, potent and perhaps powerful enough to induce change for the good of all.