Friday, October 5, 2007

Why a bear-shaped sphere?

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.

12 comments:

Lillian said...

Cute story. I look forward to reading more.

dengikani said...

I just read this. That is SO funny!!!

Nightcruzer said...

Mrs. Ergot?

Eileen said...

I think it had an H in it, but yes. And now, you are officially freaking me out. Reveal yourself!

lydia said...

Haha. adorable.

I'm glad I clicked on this because I just realized I've had it wrong all along myself! I've always read the title as beard shaped, and wondered exactly how that worked but never realized there wasnt a D in that word until just now. oops

Emilia said...

I really like the way you see your world... It's a shame( I am not sure this is the best word) we couldn't work together at Chipsites.

Muchos Saludos!!!

Emilia Rojas (a.k.a Nicole)

Marissa said...

So happy I stumbled across your blog (via Blogger in Chile Unite). I'm moving to Santiago in a week to study Spanish and hopefully do some travel writing and am doing all kinds of crazy research trying to get a real feel for what I can expect. Your blog is awesome and I love your writing style! Can't wait to read more!

Best,

Marissa
http://marissapayne.wordpress.com

Katie, Tripbase said...

Hi Eileen,

You've been nominated in Tripbase's Best Kept Travel Secrets Project.

Please send me your email so I can contact you.

Best,

Katie.

katie@tripbase.com
www.tripbase.com
Twitter @Tripbase

Natasha said...

Eileen,

Natasha (Matador) here. You and your people all OK?

Carlo said...

Hehe. I've always wondered...

sorkod said...

The name always did intrigue. Now, I finally know! With all due respect to your 1st grade teacher, the geology geek in me must point out that Mother Earth is actually an oblate spheroid, probably with a slight body dysmorphia issue. She's slightly bulged at the equator and flattened at the poles. I'll leave the analogous anatomical images alone. A fuzzy pot-bellied bear with a honey nozzle on the head is so much cuter!!

CailinTravels said...

Very cool story and analogy :)