Why bear-shaped? And why not? I remember that as a child, we were discussing the solar system, and naturally the planet we live on. My first grade teacher, an impossibly pale woman with fuchsia lipstick and an exaggerated limp, was there in the WPA-era built red brick and marble school building, inspiring us with the fantastical possibility that Brooklyn, our entire universe, was a mere pinprick of importance on a vast sphere. A sphere, she explained, was the shape of a ball. A basketball, a baseball, the spongeballs we played handball with. Those were all spheres. Except that although it is said that we live on a sphere, actually, she confided, earth is not exactly a sphere. It was more bear-shaped. We could, she conspiratorially whispered, say it was a bear-shaped sphere.
My six year-old mind was already hurtling through the universe with the idea that I was standing perpendicular to the surface I was on, but that I might be hanging off the edge of a globe. That we were all right-side-up, no matter which side we were on. Australians, Europeans, all right side up. Even the people in South Africa! How could it be?
And now this. Bear-shaped. I imagined first my cartoon Yogi the bear, then a honey squeezebear we had in the cabinet at home. Bear-shaped? I asked? And she said, yes, it has a slight bulge out at the bottom. It made sense to me, the squeezebear had a big honey belly. And so it was. I imagined traversing the length of his arm, the countour of his bear legs, around the bear back and up to his bear head. I assumed the cone-shaped dispenser was absent on this earth-bear, but I was fascinated.
I don’t know how long I spent (a year at least), before realizing that my teacher had had a cold that day, and that, in fact, she had said PEAR-shaped. Not bear-shaped, but PEAR-shaped. A budding linguist, I could see the similarity between P and B, both being bilabial plosives (these terms I would learn later). But I’ve always kept the image of us living on a bear-shaped sphere. It was my first impression of my planet. The armpit, a valley. The shoulders, rolling hills. Soft undulation and sharp teeth. My earth is bear-shaped.
This blog is about exploring the bear muzzle, the soles of the bear’s feet and everything in between. And exploring the occasional cultural or linguistic misunderstanding, which I figure is part of the bear territory.