GREY OWL

You’d leave 3607 Mara to walk down behind the big elementary school with the dome on top where you’d file up from class to watch Grey Owl films.  He’d walk out of Beaver Lodge and introduce you to his beaver kits, Rawhide and Jellyroll. Sometimes he took you down to the river ponds, where you could see their parents lodge made out of sticks they gnawed at night. Some shows flew you over the great north filmed from the cockpit of a de Havilland Beaver.  You could hear the Pratt & Whitney cough, catch, and smooth out when the pilot gunned it and see the float plane lift off the lake leaving a water spray sparkling in sunlight over the forest that stretched to the horizon where trees saw-toothed into the sky in black and white with the sound of the film travelling through the projector’s sprockets just below some guy’s voice-over describing unlimited natural resources. Northend boys sitting in the back row joked about beaver but you didn’t understand.

Grey Owl, who visited the King & Queen in his buckskins, brought the gift of a dried beaver tail, (with which She was delighted and promptly used to paddle the bums of her unruly children.  She was quoted as saying it left a nice crisscross pattern… it was gossiped later in the Daily Mirror that Chuck employed the tail as an overture to his spongiform engagements). Meanwhile back at the Montreal docks Grey Owl arrives to a welcoming committee of school children waving handfuls of maple leaves and pine boughs to be sent off in an awaiting de Havilland Beaver trailing watery diamonds from the St. Lawrence out over the dark green arboreal saw-toothing into the far horizon only to be kicked in the groin when the pilot sees there is no lake to land on, no ponds, no trickling rivulets nor creeks: the beds of lakes now dust bowls and there among the coniferous stands a forlorn Beaver Lodge high and dry.

Grey Owl now struck with the lightning that fires dry brush comes to know that those god-be-damned fur traders and trappers have stolen the show and wrecked in twenty years a thousand years of water conservation while Rawhide and Jellyroll are now hats in the fashionable streets of London and Paris, respectively, with a tip ‘o the hat in the hopes to find a damsel in distress to prove their valorous ways in the inner city far from the arboreal and the tiny screams of leg-trapped beavers.  Blown out of the water (dust bowl) when you found out grey Owl was a British born huckster with wives and children abandoned while he constructed a mask of native heritage as slippery as the canoe he paddled through river reeds. Another poster-boy-set-up you placed faith in as a picture of the true north strong and free, redemption, transformation of trapper to conservationist as false as unlimited natural resources… now what? You could dig deeper into biography and his own abandonment, the issues that never leave despite the geographical cure which never helps but enables the act-out in the North, that place shouldered on the borderline of the south, the North that waits out there where Grey Owl eternally snowshoes through the stands of poplars and birch, (where you enrol in the enlightenment, the understanding this is the place of an acting out, a frontier of lawlessness, without rules to introduce the white dick of rapacious desire, to impose, to usurp the names of ancient history, to supplant without understanding, not a moment of deep breath in the dark wood that would reveal another order, a way of the world that teaches reverence in the silent spaces, art forms visible between coniferous and deciduous, of travelling the ground on which you stand).

Grey Owl snowshoeing and exhausted falls to his knees weighted down by the travois of his deceit, falls into the clearing to wait the arrival of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, “On, King! On, you huskies!” in the fading hope that Nelvana of the Northern Lights travelling on the Aurora Borealis will show the way, her arcing light, green and spiking into the sky brighter than the moon, radiant across lit diamonds of snow to reveal the hidden trail that will take him away from the wind soughing through the arboreal, night screams, patches of blood reddening the white, torn fur, footpads leading into dark still underbrush impenetrable, silent, blanketed, broken by the lone howl of the wolf and the terror of the pack to which you and he belong.