I'm gearing up to play a CD release tonight. Seemed a good time to tell the story behind one of my songs- 'Arctos'. I'll do more of this in the future.
Picture an small rock island in the maw of a braided river channel. The tea-colored water rolls down a ledge and into the endless expanse of Hudson Bay. The expanse is flecked with dots of white. From a distance, you and your friends had cursed and whinged, anticipating days spent wind-bound. (Hudson Bay is shallow and notoriously subject to winds... a strong westerly can whip the waters into a froth).
C.S. Lewis once spoke of 'drippings of Grace', moments that hint of the eternal, that leave you ever-hungry for something deeper and more tangible than the facade of reality. This is one of those moments. Except, of course, for the prickling at the nape of your neck. You turn. A Polar Bear is swimming down-current, riding the Seal River like a chunk of motile ice, turning inexorably in your direction.
A squawking cry of "Polar Bear". I'll never forget the look on my friend Jeff's face as he fumbles with the straps on a Duluth pack, a forgotten bannock cake with peanut butter flopping from his mouth like a cigar. Friend Matt all but knocks a camera out of my hand. The bear is 10 meters from the rock outcrop by the time we glide out to visit the whales.
We’re all aware of the fragility of the stark, lovely expanses where the snow bears wander. Images of drowning bears and fracturing tundra have been haunting me for years, while our wayward politicians and media pundits argue the talking point.
The song was written before I really understood how deadly the end-game that we play may become… but there’s still an undertone of alarm. It’s taken on new resonance for me in the years since.