Life is visible to those that look for it. I found a glimmer this past weekend. It was sad and beautiful. I hope to know something oneday.
A while back a friend asked me how life was going in Burwash; you know, whether I had been accepted to the community and all. At first my response was ‘mainly, I keep to myself’, but recently something miraculous happened - the hibernation ended. Burwash isn’t know as a particularly welcoming community. It’s not like anyone has invited me over for dinner, nor has anyone from the community (other than Kym and Adam) come to mine. But what did happen was very much way more interesting than eating refried beans while listening to Chet Baker under candlelight.
At first it was Allah, our Chief’s Tongan husband that asked me. Allah is a huge man that exudes laughter from his very centre. His quick bird like movements prompt one to step back and watch the show, which will inevitably be worth the amusing side glances and generous comradery. So when Allah asked me to join them in pulling the fish nets, I agreed. Even though I don’t particularly eat fish on account of the necessity of killing said scaled people. I knew it would be worth while just to bond with the other community members.
After that joyful escapade, our Chief and the Director of my work department asked if I would be interested in joining a Bison Hunt with our neighbouring First Nation. This is where my first real hunting experience began, as detailed in the following letter to my dear friend. (note: the KFN Chief (aka. Math’ieya) did not end up joining us on the hunt after all. Allah was going on a Man’s Retreat, so she stayed home with the chillins)
Anyways, this experience (like every experience inevitably does) changed my life:
Dear Steve Zissou,
Is it green down there?
It’s still very white up here, but the sun is returning bit by bit. Sunrise hits at 8:30. These mornings one can watch the mountains change from navy to baby, grey, white, yellow, orange…golden. Sometimes it seems as if they exist just to reflect the colours of the world. They shine and outwardly express the tallest aspirations in brilliant colour.
Last night, while I was on a walk with the stray dogs of the community, I saw the mountains reflect the tangerine light of the setting sun. After the sun went down - dusty pink. Dusk hangs in the atmoshpere for long times. We’re at 8:30 sunset, and it doesn’t get totally dark until after 10. Polaris shines first and Venus is high in the sky by the time her red glow is visible.
Golden eagles are returning to the north at this time. I saw one flying along the edge of the ice covered lake. Huge glider searching. O Aquila chryseatos, how you enchant me so.
You asked if I had been accepted by the community. Sometimes it feels that way. People are coming out of their hibernation now. It is nice. I was asked to join a bison hunt a couple of weeks ago. We went this past weekend. I accepted the invitation for a number of reasons; two of the main ones being that I didn’t want to deny the offer, but harder to reconcile were my notions of ethics. Is it right for me to participate in a hunt? I had to find out. I accepted with the invitation under the condition that I wouldn’t have to kill anything. I would help skin, gut, haul and pack, but don’t ask me to shoot. That was my only request.
After four hours travelling in a truck pulling two snow machines in one of the most remote and scenic areas in the Yukon, we arrived at the Champagen Aishihik First Nation harvest camp late Thursday evening. I chopped wood and got the skidoos ready for the hunt on Friday. There were about 7 others at the camp with us also participating in the hunt. All members of the Champagne Aishihik First Nation. Their Chief was there. A big man with a stern face; voted into office because of family politics. The last Chief, Brenda Jackson had done wonderful things for the First Nation. The current Chief James Allen has little respect from the people under him; you can see it in his face. Michael Jim acted as our guide. A kind and funny man with a lisp. Harry, the stern wildlife monitor lives at the north end of Aishihik lake all year round. He and a few others joined us. My main companion was Grace Southwick .She comes from a long line of stunningly beautiful, elegantly composed, and strongly noble matriarchs. Grace is a regal woman of about 55 and the director of my work department. I’ll try to give you my favourite image of Grace:
After searching for the illusive herd of bison that we had been tracking for 11 hours, we stopped for a break. I was third last in the group. Grace was in front of me. I skidooed up alongside the crew and there she was - radiant in the fading sunlight. Snow covered alpine meadows and Grace relaxing, legs stretched out, bunny boots resting on the seat, back supported by the steering column, smoking a cigarette with the skill and experience of bygone trappers and long lost dog mushers. The only woman with us. Our matriarch.
The next day we spotted the tracks in the afternoon. Some time later we were in the right position under the cover of a knobby hillside. I stayed back to ferry the snow machines in after the shots were fired. It had happened, and I made my move to join the permit holders. Four animals had gone down atop that solemn hillside. Bloody tracks led into the forest above.
At some point a buffalo had been injured, so two of us went into the forested mountainside to find her. Before we started following the tracks, a big native man handed me his 9.65 Chechoslovakian rifle and I said ‘whoa - wait a minute…I’m not here to do that’ he laughed and told me that I would want it if the thing started to charge. I took it, and with snowshoes beneath my feet, went into the forest with Grace. There was a lot of blood. We followed the path and found it diverged in two directions. I went one way, Grace the other.
I saw the cow first, we both stood and watched each other for some time. I laid some tobacco down and said a prayer. We both used our sense perceptions to evaluate each other. She sniffed and I listened. Her breathing was heavy. She was badly injured and not moving anywhere. I called to Grace ‘She’s here’. Grace gently told me to cover my ears. So I did. And watched. The shot rang loud and the cow’s fur echoed from the impact. She slowly went down. Breathing with determination. A struggle for life. Beautiful and tragic.
It was late by that point. The sun was setting as life left the massive creature’s body. She was facing west. Looking over Thatchell Creek and the Ruby Range Mountains. The last ephemeral glow of this fading world. If I were to die like that, overlooking the valley below, that would be just fine.
I was changed for a moment. So grateful to be inside this skin and inside this body so I can travel through time with reverence and acknowledge life so sacred. My heart melted out of its chamber and I cried.
It is easier to pull fish nets and give a trout a bonk on the noggin. Not to mention gutting a fish in comparison to North America’s largest land mammal. All this from a vegetarian. Oh, life’s experiences, huh?
Alright, so I am a push over, what can I say?
I’m guessing you’re pretty busy right now. And I’ll just assume that you like mountains…a lot…because who doesn’t?
And who doesn’t like geodesic domes?
Of all the shapes out there, this magical sphere begins with 20 regular polyhedrons culminating in the aesthetic beauty of a platonic solid. oh you icosahedron!
I found this dome on the north coast of the Yukon at an abandoned DEW line station called Komakuk Beach. Me and about 10 others were on an adventure to count lemmings on the tundra. This structure loomed in the foreground of my thoughts and dreams every day during the 3 week field camp.
During the cold war a system of radar stations were built to monitor soviet missle attacks. At one time Komakuk Beach was the temporary residence to over 100 men. Considerable environmental dammage occured on these sites. This was before 1990, when people didn’t have the foresight to think that oil may dammage the environment. Oil drums were left unmaintained. Spills of hydrocarbons littered the once pristine landscape.
It amazes me that we can travel to the most distant parts of the world and still see the influences of the anthropocene. We are in it. Changing everything we touch in innumerable ways. Altering the patterns of nature to suit our wants. It is awe inspiring, stimulating, stirring, and in some senses disuading what the crafts of our time can accomplish.
photo cred: cdub&boman
You are an aleatoric mountain flower called Myosotis alpestris (i think, or maybe not…i forget…)
Nonsense is the speech of society. Chaos is the order of the day. Have you ever heared of the religion of Discordia? It is based on the fundamental notion that chaos never died (and one musn’t ever ever eat buns on Fridays). You can see the quiet chaos in the rocky outcrops of the alpine meadows. Especally when psyciloybin interrupts the continuum of time.
We hike mountans here
7 to do’s when hiking mountains:
1. speak of the fatuity of life with friends, babble nonsense to the bears, be a balderdashing bee, flaunt with the flightiness of feathered falcons, rock rock roll; plymouth rock roll over
2. eat to the absurd decadence of our age, and eat with a bombastic constitution. high quality seeds grow into the cells of your brain. let the delicious raspberry licorice once chewed by the panda bear excite your synapses
3. go higher. if you think the mountain top is too far away, just keep going until a feeling of inanity is reached and then go further until you have been climbing climbing climbing and not realizing that you are scrawling a figure of infinity. realize this is your dance; this is how you frolic
4. spend time at the top of the world and just be. Being being the goal of any moonstruck venture. a suggestion: always bring pastels, paper, pencils, magnifyers, mosquito wands, and madness
5. if you see an alpine stream, you must swim in it. no matter what poppycock your mind tells you about the water temperature; it will be cold, but gandhi would approve, so do it. and refer to number 7
6. play games on rocks, trials, fallen trees, mountain spires. balancing with irrational behaviour. the ground musn’t be touched because it is made of liquid hot magma and it will vapourize anything it comes in contact with it. you musn’t loose your balance for fear of falling on the invisible spikes that will turn you into a potato if you get pricked. you must stay on or above the jive in order to attain the pretense of enlightenment
7. don’t complain. just jest at your misfortune.
8. Always attend Bunless Fridays!
you are like the aleatoric crusty lichen
Culture Communique #2
community food cultures
community gardens (as initiated by Downtown Urban Gardners (DUGS) of Whitehorse).
At the western boarder of downtown whitehorse, you will find the clay cliffs. 8 stories high and mazed with trials and trails, this is an ideal playground for anyone looking to begin exploring the different levels of our community. One level of that play includes commuity gardens. They can be found along the north west side of the cliffs accross from Baxter St. I am nursing my obsession of plants growing towards the light and building on the paterns of nature.
As part of his philosophy of spatial design and patterns of living, Christopher Alexander includes a section of building living neighbourhoods. Vibrant communities thrive when people can interact and grow together towards a common goal. Community food gardens exhibit this connectivity. Highrise apartment buildings do not.
organic food for by local growers
Building on the mosaic pattern of communities, much like la mosaïque culturelle canadienne, C.A. intuitively calls for the spatial separation between user groups. eg. farmers in one location, commuter culture in another. This separation instills a sense of defined workmanship between its constituents. This mosaic allows for the public to know where to find a defined user/creator group, such as artists in one area, fashionistas in another and so on and on and on. That being said, people must be able to move freely from tessera to tessera.
The location of many Whitehorse “local growers”, for example, is down the Takhini River Road or at the community gardens. The location of the community market is an outlet for those on the Takhini River Rd (and other locations) to exhibit their craftmanship. These are the pieces of our mosaic culture I respect. These are the pieces which instill that sense of integrity.
in a world where the coprorate and government relm takes advantage of practically everything, there remains outside thier world an autonomous zone which cannot be infiltrated by their oppressing forces. this zone exists within your mind and can be expressed temporarily in it’s ever shifting form of chaotic organization at the community market. The community market should never stay the same; it should be integrated with the new ideas and products of the support networks around it.
As passers by walk on through the drudegery of isolated realities, I realize a community striving to recapture it’s own identity. The isolation can be thwarted by growing food and making local artisian products, by participating in activities however beneficial or destructive they are. When you open to the idea of joning and participating in the market community, you become a part of an identity founded on supporting itself.
rules and regulations may hamper the farmers ability to profit within the system, but there are ways that growers may shift, sway, swing, and sting the oppressive system of capatilistic gain. workring within the market community is where i want to be. instead i am a part of the oppression occuring in our soiety. this is my existential struggle.
active food progress
Poetic Terrorism can be executed in the fashion of seed bombs, edible landscaping, dumpster diving, even destruction of the neghbours kentucky bluegrass is an act of PT. Active food progress means taking a stance on the status quo of our grocery stores and inviting critism however illegal it may be, only remember, as Hakim Bey said: don’t get caught.
Throw a potluck or join the FoodNotBombs movement. Donate to the food bank or help by participating in the “grow a row” initiative. Plants are the alchemists we have been searching for for centuries. Take their magical transmutations and infiltrate the system with homegrown kale, spinach, cabbage, squash, zucchini, tomato, basil, sage, beans, peas, potatos, beets, onions, lettuce, arugula, qunioa, sunflowers, and chickens. Not allowed to coop the chickens in your neighbourhood? Fuck that and do it anyways. Just make sure the henhouse can’t be foisted by foxes (and by foxes I mean automatons unreasonably justifying thier existence through the legislative process-like me!).
community gardens are fun, but wouldn’t the idea of a community farm be exquisit? Let’s be exquisit together and start the rise up! You, Ms. Graham, in your art and me in mine.
Whitehorse community gardens as viewed from the top of the clay cliffs. (photo cred. kathryn macdonald, master gardner).