Part wildlife thriller, part nature narrative, The Last Polar Bear is the riveting story of the Arctic's last polar bear and the Inuit woman who tries to save it.
CLICK ON LINK TO PURCHASE ON AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Polar-Bear-Wildlife-Thriller/dp/B0BMTFSM7P/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1669650566&sr=1-1
Dana Rodney’s “The Last Polar Bear” is a stirring, heartbreaking cry for change in the rapidly warming north. What “The Overstory” by Richard Powers does to put a human face on the tragedy of unchecked forest destruction, Rodney’s novel does for the calamitous loss of polar bear habitat. “The Last Polar Bear” is also a gripping thriller, a must-read for anyone who cares about what we have done to a north that is changing before our very eyes.
-Larry O’Connor, author
of “Tip of the Iceberg”
In this chapter excerpt from The Last Polar Bear, we are introduced to Anuk, a female polar bear who has swum continuously for three days in the Beaufort Sea without spotting ice.
Beaufort Sea, Northern Alaska
She was desperate to stop swimming but there was nowhere to stop, nothing to grab onto. Through three sunrises and sunsets she had paddled without rest, and now her final reserves of energy were drained. A cramp shuddered through her massive shoulder muscles. She’d last eaten three months ago; she was frantic to spot the humped, grey form of a spotted seal against the endless backdrop of ice. But the ice had not formed this year. Her muscles were no longer obeying her; they would sieze up soon, she could tell.
She chuffed―a steamy pant of breath which immediately froze into ice crystals around her snout. At the horizon she spotted a greyish line darker than the monotonous glare that had confronted her for days. She lifted her head an inch higher. The grey form stabilized, coalesced. Land. Finally. At last she could lift her body from the water to scan the horizon.
Her eyes angled behind her for any sign of her cub, the one she thought of as Chutka, because of the funny sneezing sound he made when something pleased him. Like when they first emerged from the birthing den and he’d slid down the hill and came to a stop in a soft hill of powder. “Chutka!” he’d sneezed, bouncing his front paws in the snow. Or when she first showed him a seal’s breathing hole, and after an hour of insisting he wait patiently, a delicious seal snout had emerged from the ice-chopped water. She’d hooked her claw into its tender nose, swiping it into the air to fall at her cub’s feet. “Chutka!” he’d huffed, before he tore a hunk of fat off the still squirming pup.
But glancing over one pumping shoulder, then the other, she saw no brave, white snout reaching above the choppy waves. She’d heard him whining and mewling behind her for hours as they swam into the sharp, yellow sunrise earlier that day. She could do nothing but swim on. She’d hoped he had dutifully quieted down, but the merciless waters must have pulled him under and silenced him. She tried not to get too attached to her cubs. One or both often died before they reached maturity. But Chutka. She could tell that Chutka would become a king among bears.
She dipped her snout into the freezing water to snap her thoughts back to the present, then blew off the droplets with a harsh blast. Survival was paramount. But she let out a crooning wail into the frigid air before she realized what she was doing. Maybe. Maybe the tide had swept him ashore and he could hear her voice calling faintly in the frozen air. Or find her by scampering along the shoreline following her scent for miles. But it was unlikely. She wailed again, not just for him, but for herself, and angled toward the spit of land.
Her exhausted limbs dangled in the waves as the tide pushed her ashore. Clawing onto the stones, she snorted in frustration. The pull of gravity on her five-hundred pound body pressed down on her like a boulder after her days of buoyancy. A feeble attempt to shake out her drenched hide knocked her askew on the wet stones. She pulled her paws beside her head and let her eyelids collapse in relief. Rest. Finally rest. Her tense shoulder muscles slackened. But only ten slowing exhalations passed before a distant scent tickled her nose and her eyes snapped open again. The hollow hairs at the back of her neck lifted in unison. A rancid, oily, slightly metallic scent. The Tall Ones were near.
In this sneak peek from One Extraordinary Thing (not yet published) we go back in time to San Francisco during the Gold Rush. The character is a brothel madam named Lizzie.
Every night Lizzie waited until the last rumblings of noise settled down in the house, until the last of the girls’ pretty heads were laid upon their pillows. Even waited until those two Chinese maids stopped chattering their senseless patter in the kitchen. Only then would she lock her bedroom door and begin to unlace her corset in the darkness. She wanted no chance of being caught uncorseted, unlaced, uncovered. Her body repulsed her. No one had ever called her figure pretty, but at fifty, it had grown into a shapeless sack of blubber. What a relief to release her morbid flesh from its confinement. As the last corset lace was unloosed, the strained garment gave way and Lizzie laid back in her brass bed, releasing a long breath, like a whale breaching the surface. She unbuttoned her shoes from her swollen feet, unrolled her stockings from her veined legs, removed the sharp pins from her greying hair, and slid a loose, cotton nightgown over her head. Finally, she slipped under the satin quilt in utter relief. She could be happy lying there for a few hours.
Light fluttered across the ceiling from the gas lamps on the street below. She heard an accordion tune drift in the window from the Irish bar a block away. That same damn tune every night about the hills of Connemara. Tu-ra-lu-ra-lu, my arse. Damned Irish. If they missed their pathetic country so much, why’d they ever leave?
Decades had passed since she’d imagined anyone might choose to share this bed with her. Thinking on it, the memory arose of her daddy setting her on his lap when she was a wee, bitty thing. Seven, eight? That was back in old Virginny where she was raised up. He’d patted her belly and rump and pinched her fat cheeks that day. How happy she’d been to have his affection. Later, she realized it was a kind of physical inspection. She wished she could forget what he’d said afterward, but she never would.
‘You’re not a pretty girl, Elizabeth, ya never will be. Downright ugly, if I say the truth. And too fat, the kinda fat that sticks to the bones. You’ll be lucky to find an ugly man to bed ya, or any man for that matter. Don’t know how I spawned such a one.’ Then he’d set her down, and spat a stream of chew on the ground.
Lizzie was bull-headed enough to try and dismiss the memory, to make her own way and disprove Daddy’s malignant gospel. But as she grew into adolescence her face didn’t come together right. Her chin was too recessed, her eyes too close together, her nose slightly crooked. Her figure resembled the shape of a lumpish squash instead of an hourglass. Turned out her daddy was some kind of evil-seeing prophet. Then Ma and Daddy died from the smallpox that year, and her brother Jebediah ran off to join a whaling ship soon as he came of age. Lizzie and her sister, Amelia, did what they could to survive on their own. Lizzie’d been sixteen, Amelia twelve. It was Amelia they wanted.
Lizzie became Amelia’s panderer and protector. Every coin Lizzie could save she used to buy pretty clothes for her sister. She gave Amelia meat while she ate bread. Amelia got the milk and Lizzie the water. Amelia was popular with the sailors; she looked just like a baby doll. But she’d died at seventeen from an unknown decrepitude of her private parts. The smell had been unbearable. Amelia’s death numbed her. Her heart flattened. She no longer had the will for any kind of attachment to any living thing.
By then, Lizzie knew the ropes. At the port in Norfolk, she’d climbed the ladder of a wretched kind of success. Then, six years ago, she sailed to California with a dream of making her fortune from men seeking theirs. From every corner of the world men came seeking gold: Mexicans, Hawaiians, Chinese, Germans, Australians. Like a pack of hungry beasts they came, the strongest, most tenacious men in the world— a seething crowd of muscle, grit, and fortitude. A quarter-million of them, she was to read later, all sailing into the port of San Francisco or riding overland on horseback, hoping to strike it rich mining for gold in the Sierras. A slim chance at fortune in a world full of famine and poverty. When they succeeded, they celebrated in the beds of whores, when they failed, they found consolation in the beds of whores. When the Chinese girls started arriving on the boats, business boomed. She figured she was doing those girls a favor. They had food, a bed, and all the attention from men they could want. They were lucky.
When Jebediah left the little girl on her doorstep she could have strangled him, would have strangled him, but he was nowhere to be found. He knew better than to show himself. Just left the wee girl with a note pinned to her pinafore. Such a pretty little thing, like Amelia. Lizzie tried to be motherly for a week or two, but the child kept wanting more. Wanted to be tucked into bed, her hair brushed. It was too much. Lizzie didn’t know how to touch anybody. She didn’t know how to love anybody. She would give the girl a comfortable life here, with lots of pretty clothes and all the men vying to lie with her. It was more than she’d had and better than the orphanage.
As the accordion droned on, Lizzie recalled when she was younger, when she thought someday she might earn enough money to fly away from this house and…and do what? What extraordinary thing had she imagined for herself? She couldn’t remember now. As she lay there, her jellied body spreading into the mattress, her disdain for herself surfaced in a small snort. I’m a fifty-year-old virgin. The comfort of this sagging mattress is the only embrace I will ever know
Two poems follow, selected from Collect My Dust (not yet published)
I float face up in the pool
arms splayed like a crucifix
a hummingbird flies over me
a plane thirty thousand feet above
is that not a miracle?
and me, floating?
what awful joy is life
what inconsolable beauty
a billion crashing souls
spilling hailstorms of words
we pace free of ourselves,
irreverent, strident beings
imagining ourselves deserving
the depth of forgiveness we owe
each other is withheld.
(there is always a you)
who didn’t love enough
who didnt give enough
but floating here I realize
it was I who held too tightly
to my heart.
how can I contain it all?
the pleading animal eyes,
the disappointed lovers
the barely-cloaked resentment of children
the barking foxes
the wild finches
and night-blooming jasmine
such a maelstrom of life.
how to get it down?
how to make it mean something
to make myself
the universe screams inside me
our hearts clash like sparks of God
flinting off each other
we are victims of eternity.
Collect My Dust
when I die
collect my dust
but do not remake me a woman
make of me a stone
a rock reposing on the lap of the earth
resplendent in the cold moonlight
empty of utterance
of no particular use
except perhaps to toss into the sea
one ecstatic splash
the only word I speak
Left to Our Own Devices
Sometimes when men are left on their own for too long, they start to regress. I call them Men Left to Their Own Devices, or MLODs (pronounced M-lods.) Without the softening influence of a woman around to provide small touches of civilization, like towels, placemats and cleaning products, they choose to go Caveman, as if they never knew where those things came from. They wear the same kind of clothes they wore in high school. Or the actual clothes they wore in high school. Fifty-year-old men in baseball caps and T-shirts with football team logos, and floppy sneakers. They have huge wall TVs and fake leather reclining furniture with built-in cup holders. They barbecue a lot. Their nose hair grows wild. They have a humungous pick-up truck or an old muscle car they’ve rebuilt. They have 26 sports channels programmed into their TV. They like 80’s Rock, and they haven’t shaved their mustache since then. They have a dog that is a pit bull/hound mix that has an unknown skin condition. They don’t own a vacuum.
What really blows my mind is when MLODs try to meet women, they don’t attempt to hide any of that. Don’t they know that’s not what we’re looking for? Don’t they know they’ve gone Caveman?
And what happens to women left to their own devices, like me? I have a male friend who calls us Women in Comfortable Shoes, or WICS. (He pronounces it "witches.") We stop dressing like flowers seeking pollination. We let our pubic hair grow wild. We throw out our underwire bras. We have HGTV and Antiques Roadshow programmed into our TV. We have 26 throw pillows arranged in formation on our bed. We have a rescue dog with an overbite that is a Maltese/poodle/terrier mix. We vacuum a lot. We drive a Prius. We love Michael Buble.
Here’s the sad thing. When the WICS meets the MLODs they have nothing in common. We’ve gone in different directions and sealed our own fate. The WICS wish men were more like their gay male friends, and the MLODs wish women were more like the girls they knew in High School.
The irony is, we're perfectly happy just the way we are.