"Resembling a doorway, the tupqujak
was where the shaman could pass from the earthly to the spiritual landscape."*

The snow on both sides of this door
is the same, and the rocks, clearly,
like the lintel of a ruined home, merely stone.
The same air moves around it
and the same light--
a bone worn away
through the Arctic night
by the sun in its passage.

New snow falls
on the snow beneath, older,
and on the oldest frost below,
as the person
moving through the doorway changes,
carrying the box
where the soul lives, briefly,
on its portage.


©1997 Carol Snyder Halberstadt)


At Kanisuweetuq, Baffin Island, Nunavut

 Photograph © 1996 Norman Hallendy. All rights reserved.



"The Earth is a smidgen of collected stardust. We take our own atoms from the Earth as we grow. Every carbon atom in our bodies was once blasted from a star. Even during our lives, our atoms are temporary; they come and go, in and out of our bodies like a slow breath, in constant replacement. Our abiding selves are not atoms, but information, contained in the DNA, and in the intricately woven neural networks of our brains. Carbon atoms blow in and out of us like a wind, orchestrated by that exquisite score called life.

When we die our atoms will recirculate, becoming part of earth, or air, or another living thing."

(-- From "Science Musings," by Chet Raymo, The Boston Globe, Monday, December 1, 1997.)

We recognize ourselves in the Earth and all things on it because we are all made of the same stuff. This knowledge is within us--in every cell. The knowledge of the continual transformation of matter and energy, and their inseparability, is what we sense with every breath.

And this is what we tell--ceaselessly and everywhere--in our origin stories, and our stories about how to live: that we come from clay, from dust, from wind. And as we breathe our lives out briefly to make new life, we express this knowledge: drawn with the earliest ochre and charred wood, the first carved stone, incised bone, the crude beads left with the dead, and our voices singing them on their way.

We dig deeper and deeper, wanting to know. Our sciences are this quest--to know how we function, what we are, how the universe works, how life fits within it. We see and express the patterns of which we are comprised. And we seek also to test, to verify, and to manipulate them, like the shaman seeks to control the transformation between perceived planes of being. We want to know what is real. (--CSH).

Man and Bear Wrestling (Inuit sculpture by Putulik Pilurtuut, born 1934, Kangiqsujuaq)

"The heavy bear who goes with me"
(--Delmore Schwartz)

The bear is young and small.
The man presses
on its thigh and near its ear,
and in his hands
are a stick and a stone.
The man wrestling will prevail
and take the bear as a coat,
its meat for bread.
He will wear its claws.

The body does not rest.
It goes to its place
as the sea moves, shuddering,
or the moon that pulls it
like November's trees
shorn by wind.
The man and bear strive together
and are one body
of stone.

(©4/13/01 Carol Snyder Halberstadt)

The Snow Man
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

(--Wallace Stevens, The Palm at the End of the Mind, edited by Holly Stevens, New York:Vintage Books, 1990.)


Our Death
Our death
sits in us like surprise--

the vole
caught in the hawk's claws,

and the hawk.
taken from the air.

The wind stirs with their cries--
we must give ourselves back.


(© Carol Snyder Halberstadt)

Lunar Year

These are the months of the moon
whose cord has been severed
like a still birth
though it pulls the tides
and glides as a lamp in the sky,
cold and burning.

This is the stone made
at the birthday of the world
that turns with us always,
pushed by the wind before life,
the breath that we enter,

(© Carol Snyder Halberstadt)

Trees by the Delaware River, Pennsylvania, December 7, 2001.

To Be A Tree
I will be a tree
at the end of its season--
bare, leaf-stripped, brown,
rich with sap drawn down to the roots
for December's feeding,
my feet in boots and my hands
warmed by pockets of light.
I will stand this winter too
laden like the bear
with time and sleep,
waking togetger again
as berries ripen
blue and sweet.


(©12/14/01/ Carol Snyder Halberstadt)


Trees by the Delaware River, Pennsylvania, December 7, 2001.

*Photograph of tupqujak shown here by permission of the Arctic researcher and photographer, Norman Hallendy, and the Canadian Museum of Civilization exhibition of his work, "Places of Power." Mr. Hallendy's research on the Inuksuit will be published as a book titled The Silent Messengers.

Poems Tupqujak, Our Death, Lunar Year from "Listening to the Stone" © 1997 Carol Snyder Halberstadt. Man and Bear Wrestling is ©4/2001; To Be A Tree is ©12/14/01. All rights reserved.

Go to Sea Mammals pages.

Go to Weaving the Light pages.

Go to Storytelling pages.

Return to Migrations home page.

Write to: Migrations, P.O. Box 543, Newton, MA 02456
or email to: carol@migrations.com to place an order, request photos, or for more information.

Copyright © 1996 , 1997 , 2001 Carol Snyder Halberstadt, Migrations. All rights reserved.