Shifting Balance

Ecology Exhibit: Natural History Museum, London

In the museum a giant balance scale, pans large enough to seat a man, only in this case it is not a man but stuffed hares in the brass workings. A motor tilts the two pans alternately up and down, up and down, seesaw, and as the two standing hares on the left pan dip, a panel on the wall behind them lights upWATER, FOOD, HEALTH, SHELTERand as this left pan rises, the right pan with its one dead, prone hare (and why ONE?) dipsDROUGHT, FAMINE, DISEASEHABITAT LOSS; oh, we all want to crowd onto the winning side, but the mechanism, keeping its steady pendulum movement, is equally true to luck and disaster. Recall how as a child you had to choose carefully the seesaw partner of just the right weight who would not suddenly bail at the lowest point and leave you to crash? Eventually, you learn to read body language, discern eye contact, scan the horizon, figure out the best gambles to save your hide. The lone hare dips again. ONE is vulnerable. ONE is alone. ONE is not a herd or a gaggle or an ecosystem. ONE is an anomaly.

Lynn Pedersen’s poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in New England Review, Ecotone, Poet Lore, The Southern Poetry Review, The Palo Alto Review, and Heron Tree. She is the author of The Nomenclature of Small Things (Carnegie Mellon University Press) and two chapbooks, Tiktaalik, Adieu (Finishing Line Press, 2014) and Theories of Rain (Main Street Rag, 2009). A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her website is