A heart around your neck

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`God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus! –
Why look’st thou so?’ -“With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross.”

I wasn’t familiar with the albatross metaphor. A mariner shots an albatross with an arrow from his bow and, since an albatross was considered a bird of good luck, the ship is now cursed and the mariner is forced to bear the dead albatross around his neck as a reminder of his mistake.

Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,
The glorious sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
‘Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

Thinking about the world today, I see this metaphor as a depiction of humankind in general. We are the mariners shooting the albatross. To me they represent nature as a whole, they are rulers of the skies and the oceans, and they grace the lands when it’s time to breed. But we are killing them with our recklessness and our greed. We pollute the oceans and they end up killing their offspring not knowing they feed their chicks with our trash.

An orphan’s curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die

They are devoted and loving parents, and they fly thousands of miles to forage for their chicks. How terrible it must be for them to find one day that their chick is dead when they have done all it takes for it to survive and thrive. How horrible it must be for an albatross to come back to land to find their chick is dead of starvation because the other parent was killed in a fishing line made by humans that don’t care about other living beings needing to feed on what the ocean gives.

Both parents are needed for a chick to survive and fledge. An albatross now mourns a chick and a partner at the same time. They mate for life, so they now have to start all over to find a new partner, and that doesn’t happen immediately. So many albatross species are now threatened or endangered.

But I think we can’t carry the dead albatross around our necks for too long before we die too. I’m sorry if this sounds too fatalistic- it saddens me to find that many people aren’t even aware of the environmental problem that threatens us all – every living creature. And I don’t mean that people are intentionally doing harm. It’s that we are not even aware of the consequences of our actions (or lack of)

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

But I like to think Nature is so noble and forgiving that if we woke up and started healing what we’ve done, our world could improve soon. It has been said so many times yet it doesn’t seem to come true: We need to stop fighting between us and come together to take care of our home. Why do we want to flee to another planet that wouldn’t be as beautiful as our own? If there isn’t an ocean, the flowers, plants and animals that live here, then I’m not interested, thank you…

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all

Extracts from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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