Gather round close and lend me your ear, shoulder to shoulder near the fire’s warm light. Watch sparks from the flames dance into the air – bright stars below meeting bright stars above.
You might not believe the tales that I tell. You may have forgotten the magic of this world. Close your eyes, rest your head, and try to remember.
Long, long ago the world was frozen in a bitter endless winter. Snow and ice stretched as far as the eye could see and fearsome creatures roamed the land. There were giant mammoths, saber-toothed cats, steppe bison, and camels. Yes, camels. On the island of Ellesmere, Qikiqtaaluk Region of the territory of Nunavut, these golden humped creatures strolled through an artic landscape of tundra, rock, and sea.
Winter carried on without relent, year after year until sheets of ice rose two miles high into the sky. As the ice grew, the sea fell. Year after year, the water receded and the land emerged until one day, there was a bridge connecting one side of the world to the other.
Many beings crossed that magical bridge in the time of ice, people in one direction, camels in the other. None knew what lay ahead. The journey was slow, and yet, they walked. And then, one day, 10,000 years had passed and there were camels in the Sahara desert and people in the jungles of Columbia. The ice melted, the oceans rose, and the whole of the world was once again two halves.
We forget sometimes that our world really does hold magic. Out of a crack in a rock, water spills forth, ice-cold and crystal clear. It cascades down over boulders below, filling a deep pool fringed with jewelweed and yellow coneflower. At times, water bursts forth from the side of a hill, giving life to a coldwater stream and a valley in the woods.
We forget too how brave we can be. Today, we wear seat-belts and place railings along cliffs. And yet, we’re also the people who once climbed aboard dugout canoes and aimed for the horizon, having absolutely no idea what the future held in store. We’ve walked across the ocean, scaled mountains, and flown a rocket to the moon.
Sometimes we are terrible, but often, we’re amazing. We’ve developed vaccinations and treatments for polio, AIDS, typhoid, and hepatitis. We compose operas and novels, sculpt, paint, draw and write poetry. We work together to fix problems and right wrongs – sometimes for one another, and sometimes for the fellow creatures who inhabit our world.
We have saved from extinction the gray wolf, bald eagle, gray whale, Steller sea lion, white rhinoceros, brown pelican, peregrine falcon, and Siberian tiger. We fish from rivers that once caught on fire and wander through woods where once there were none. Yes, we have more to accomplish. Yes, the journey can be slow, and yes, we must keep walking.
Ten thousand years from now, someone just like me may gather someone just like you around the fire and tell our tale. In a world that will be so different than today, our modern life will probably sound like a fantasy. They’ll close their eyes and tilt their heads, trying to imagine it all. By then, no one will remember that we planted trees by the river’s edge, patting the soil gently beside each seedling and whispering words of encouragement, “Grow big little buddy.” They won’t know how we argued and debated, “Is this the right way or is that?” They’ll gather round the fire, shoulder to shoulder in the cool night air and they’ll listen to our story, wondering “Could it really be true?”