Bacon Bear

Bacon Bear stands, and stares (Credit: Mark Seth Lender)


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When it’s Bearded Iris time, those blooms wide as the spread of your hand. I breath. And close my eyes… That fragrance impossible to describe and then… The longing.  For my grandparents. Their yard where bearded irises grew all along the side. For being small and safe, and free from complication.

And there I am. Right there.

Scent; Memory; Illusion; each one leads to the other.

And not just for us.

81’ 35” North Latitude, dead on 600 miles from the Pole and the cook on our research vessel is making bacon for breakfast. All the bacon. Why, I don’t know. But the cabins reek of it. Midships. Companionways. The bridge. Even the foredeck out to the bows. And apparently beyond because —

The polar bears are coming.

All of them.

One in particular captures my attention. He’s way out there on the polar ice, wending his way toward the ship, the ice rolling under him in the swell. Closer and closer. And every few steps out comes that big, beautiful, black raspberry tongue, way down past his chin  – and he inhales.


And when he does just like me on the perfume of bearded irises, he closes his eyes.

Except for Bacon Bear the memories are being made right here.

I don’t eat bacon. Some of it is cultural. Not eating pork is the one food prohibition we are most likely to obey. Mostly, it’s because of what factory farming does to pigs. And I won’t be giving a dime to that. Nonetheless… Bacon Bear deserved to have a slab tossed out on the ice for him. And I would have. But I was not in charge, and we didn’t.

Mark Seth Lender is the author together will his wife Valerie Elaine Pettis, of Smeagull the Seagull, A True Story which can be found here

The Decisive Sequence, the work-in-progress of his first book of photography, can be found here

© 2023 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved