Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The killing of wolves

There're few animals as mythical as wolves. They're the top predator in the boreal forest: intelligent, strong, fast and even organized. A pack of wolves are an efficient killing machine. That's what they do for a living. This means they compete with humans, who kill for fun -mostly- and who have to go further and further before seeing an elk, a moose or a dear.

But also wolves can kill for fun. It's been known that they sometimes go on a killing spree among sheep. There's been offered a biological explanation for this behavior: the killing of sheep doesn't wear out the wolves. A modern sheep is so cross-bred that it can't run fast. It's just meat and wool. This kind of live-stock is a piece of cake for the wolves, and there's probably nothing to the kill that trigger the wolves to stop. This makes the farmers bring out their guns.

photo: Henrik Nor-Hansen The wolves always seem to stirr up emotions and controversy. At least in those countries where they're still around. What we often see is a polarized discussion between rural and urban areas; between the working class and the middle class; between those who see the wolves and those who wish to see them.

It's a discussion that goes way back. The wolves even play the role as a scapegoat in a much deeper conflict -i.e. the centralization of power and the historical mischief of rural areas.

But in Norway the farmers have won (joined by the hunters). The last two-three decades we've had one pack of wolves in Norway. That was the compromise with the government. Around six wolves, that is. Apparently this number was too high; not one wolf will be allowed in Norway anymore, not on a permanent basis.

In Canada they still have some understanding of the wilderness. There is no lack of wolves either. The province of Alberta -almost twice as big as Norway- has around 3500-4000 wolves. When we stayed at Tapawingo, in the NW corner of Alberta, we often saw fresh wolf tracks in the snow. Occasionally we heard them howl. But we hardly ever saw them. The wolves were extremely shy. They avoided humans as the plague.

To actually see a wolf, in the wild, is a privilege that keeps lingering in your brain, in your very soul, for a long time. In that respect I would claim that wolves not only kill, they also gives our lives depth and meaning; they give life, so to speak.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Everything is alive

I consider myself an atheist. I didn't even believe in God as a child. Actually, I'm a bit proud of this. The religious atrocities, in the name of God, are simply the way these monotheistic systems work out.

This morning I looked at the pictures from Bistcho Lake. None of the desert religions fit well with the boreal forest in the dead of winter. In 50 degrees below zero it's sort of hard to imagine, say, Jesus dressed in robe and sandals.

Still, this was the place where religious thoughts came into head.

I went for a walk twice a day. I always walked alone. After seven or eight months it seemed rather obvious: everything was alive. Everything was somehow charged.

But I never did cross that line. I never really came into the cabin and started to talk metaphysical gibberish to Nina. I held on to our notion of a rational world, though the feeling of being seen really made me wonder.

I guess the natives got it right in the first place.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

In the centre of meth-heads

I'm getting tossed around at a buoy in Sausalito. It's a very nice place, but windy.

I've noticed a ghost of man who takes his little dog ashore every so often. The outboard makes a dark crunching sound. I will turn my head and see this man who sits perfectly still in his dingy; a white silky hair, a thin white face. The dog is in front of him, with its doggy affection. It seems like they're looking deep into each other’s eyes. Like lovers, I would say, or maybe as the two only sane creatures left on earth.

Yesterday I waved my hand as they passed. The ghost turned around for some chitchat.
It's the kind of lone rider who you might think has an interesting story to tell. A life full of twist and turns. But then he starts to speak and everybody loose interest. He can't relate to other people in any meaningful way.

There's more to it, though. The man spoke about our neighbors in the anchorage. It's bitterness in his voice. "You’re dead in the centre of meth-heads", he said. True, I've noticed some characters around. But I'm a bit naive when it comes to drugs and addicts. "You better lock up your dingy, the oars. They'll steal everything." I had a feeling that he spoke partly of himself, given the ghostly face.

Kids on drugs are in for an early death, but the thing is; these addicts are way older than me. They're survivors from the sixties. Sausalito is one of the few places where the legacy from the hippies is still around.

He changed subject to the weather. Not in a trivial way, but as a threat. He started to speak at length about the El Nino weather system. "It messes up my work," he concluded. I guess this is the place where a normal following-up question would be something like 'what do you do', but I held my tongue.

Later I've come to regret this. I'm still pondering about it.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Back in San Francisco

We´re back in the Bay area, after two months boat work in Madera (a three hours drive up in Central Valley). The transport was arranged by the industrious Jean Mondeau.

He also showed us how to raise the mast with an additional rope and a tree. Me and Nina agreed upon all this on the notion that we never knew when it could be the only way to do it. The next time we may be depending on a palm tree in the Pacific.

It wasn´t easy to get pictures while we actually lifted the mast, since we were only three people, and we all had a crucial task in the process.

The tide forced us to launch Bika in the dark, American-style, with the heavy truck backing slowly down the sloop, like they do in the lakes all over the USA.

Anyway, I´m planning to continue the blog. There´re still some things to do, mainly some problems with the electronics. But Bika sure looks good. I´m going to post something at length about the boat work on our website. I´ll just end this little entry with some boat porn.