We were eye to eye. His fixed gaze made me forget the chill in the air. It was a clear, sunny day; the reflection of light bouncing off the snow was nearly blinding. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was absolutely magnificent. A living paradox. A creature of incredible strength, begging for help.
And that was my first encounter with the polar bear.
It was one of those moments when the world seemed to come to a halt. We were all alone – the bear and I. It felt like we were on the last remaining piece of ice. This huge, yellowish-white being was only a dozen feet away from me. He could easily crush me.
But somehow I didn’t feel fear. Maybe it’s because I’ve always rejected fear in an act of rebellion against over-protective parents. Or maybe it’s because I knew the reason for this encounter is that I had actually already hurt the magnificent bear. The look in his eyes was pleading. He was happy to see me, but looked at me as if to say, “What are you going to do??”
And then I woke up.
The dream was vivid. I felt everything happening as if I were experiencing it consciously, awake. I’ve had other dreams that felt this way and they’ve all come true, so I didn’t take it lightly. They say how you feel after the dream is as important as how you feel during the dream. I didn’t feel afraid. I felt urgency. The polar bear was asking me what I was going to do to. His situation was dire and I felt a great responsibility to help him.
The dream took place in the early-morning hours of Sunday, June 29, 2008. I couldn’t shake the reality of it or the look in the bear’s eyes as he pleaded for my help. I rushed to the coffee table downstairs and picked up a magazine I found at the gym earlier that month. The cover story was: 10 Life Changing Adventures. I remembered reading about a polar bear expedition among the other 9 adventures now on my “list.” I re-read the article and then jumped online to learn more about the trip. There wasn’t too much information so I sent a simple email:
Please send me registration information on the November 2008 trip.
When I awoke Monday morning I was thankful to receive the quick reply:
I have attached info and a registration form on the course. Just so you know, right now the course is full, so we are putting people on a waiting list. We have had people back out in the past, so let me know if you want me to put you on the list. ~Monica
I could have been disappointed by the message. But I knew I’d be going on this trip. It didn’t occur to me that it would be full. And if it was, it just didn’t seem to matter – I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. I quickly completed the registration form, but before I could get it to the fax machine I received this message:
It turns out we may have one more spot available, so let me know if you are interested.
And thus begins my second encounter with the polar bear. I leave for the Arctic on Friday and will be blogging, posting photos (and video when available) daily. More on this later, but I’m traveling with 2 scientists who have studied bears and Arctic ecology for more than 40 years. So if you have any questions you’d like me to ask them, please send them to me (click “Stay In Touch” tab above) and I’ll post replies here.