think piece by david strong

The Long Dance


It was the slowest dance of all.

Slower than the clouds that drift on by on the soft breeze over a blue sky.

Slower by far than the raging, swirling cyclones and tornados that tango and wander in a freestyle dance over land and sea, causing such destruction and chaos to be.

Slower than the gentle gulf stream that waltzes and slides onto Atlantic shores bringing warm waters North.

Slower than the tides, slower than the seasons, even slower than the dancing elliptical orbits of planets and moons.

The glacier began the dance a long, long time ago when the icy grip of an age of cold, so cold was eased.  She had grown strong, deep and heavy. Just a little, as the temperature thawed she moved. A gentle, seductive caressing slide against mountains of granite; moving, gliding along the path of least resistance. 

Many, many hundreds of thousands of years ago she danced a rise and fall. And no one saw her moves.

The ice age had passed and the glacier moved a regular amount each year, creaking, cracking and gauging, rasping, grinding valleys from the rock as she moved in the Summer as the meltwater trickled and greased the slide. Each winter came cold and severe and the dance slowed to a stop and froze, in caress and mid-touch, two partners, rock and ice, locked in pose.

Man had learned to make use of stone as a weapon, as a tool. Migrating North from Africa and changing the virgin territory, colonising and polluting as he went.

Thousands more years passed without change. Neither polar bear, nor mammoth, nor seal or Inuit man gave the glacier a second look. Few were the footprints in the pristine snow.

But soon man had put away his stones, his bronze and iron tools and he advanced, and advanced. 

He had grown in number manyfold. He gave the land a name and called it Green, he gave the glacier a name; after one of his own in vain. 

His industrial age changed everything. Burning his coal, oil, gas and wood for warmth and for progress. Glacier’s Smooth dance moved apace; the tip tongue fragmenting and breaking, calving away into the Arctic ocean.

Man realised eventually that a catastrophe loomed; with global warming and a greenhouse world and did a little about it, but it was too late. 

The summer sun was too warm and the dance moved too fast, 

Yet still so shapely and gracefully slow

With the meandering and ever melting snow.

In seven or eight maybe more 

Hundred years from now for sure... 

green leaves will grow in the valleys that glacier had spent many, many slow millennia creating with her last, long, long promenade. Pretty little alpine flowers will bloom in the sun. But who will witness  that final stride, that final glide and meltwater slide and ocean splash as glacier dies? No one. There would be no applause.