Da Bears

Mother/daughter polar bears Barle (pronounced barely) and Talini were out sunbathing and frolicking about today at the Detroit Zoo. When we first arrived, they were laying on their backs, motionless and legs in the air. In this position they remained for several minutes- like puppy dogs in warm grass on a sunny August afternoon. Compared to their native habitat above the artic circle, perhaps a 23 degree January day in Michigan is comfortable and balmy. Just as we began to worry they were frozen in place, a zookeeper threw carrots and sweet potatoes into the pen. Without dithering, up they jumped and scrambled over for a delicious morning snack.

Barle came to the Detroit Zoo in 2002, after she was rescued from a Mexican circus in Puerto Rico. She was one of a dozen polar bears being kept conditions so miserable they re-define the word hellish; aside from mounds of filth that make the sewage piles in the ghetto of Calcutta look sanitary, the bears suffered endlessly in the sub-tropical heat. Public outcry led to their transfer to accredited zoos after pictures of the bears, slumping and lethargic with mucas draining out their eyesockets, received national attention.

Two years after Barle was moved to Detroit, her health improved and she was introduced to Triton, a stallion visiting from the Indianapolis Zoo. They hit it off and did what bears do in the woods and in late 2004, baby Talini was born. Defying the depressingly low odds of captive-birth survival rates, Talini lived and is now bigger than her mother. Since Barle was able to successfully begat Talini, another stud is in the waiting to make more romance and hopefully more polar bears.



With temperatures hovering in the twenties, it looks like we're hunkering down for real winter- for a spell.

The frozen landscape makes for a world most surreal, where the sunlight illuminates every object with oblique light. It makes real a world our parents read to us thirty years ago in fantasy books, like the Chronicles of Narnia.

Back to reality: last spring, a local high school lad was killed in a tragic car accident on a sharp curve on a nearby road. For the last several months, everyone who drives past the memorial is reminded daily of a life cut short. We've never understood this macabre custom of making a shrine at the place of death. Note to friends and family: if we ever die on a roadway, please don't memorialize the tradgedy in perpetuity. Leave the flowers at the grave and move on with your lives.

An icy grove of trees shimmer and sway at Peach Mountain.

A leaf hangs suspended in a stiff layer of ice under the University of Michigan public radio tower.

A long spike of ice juts into the dark from a clump of maple leaves.

Drops of water hang suspended in nature's icy beauty, exemplifying the magnificence of the day.

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