Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wolverine is Ahma

A horse mane of waters; the fury of the Shaman Creek rushing to the lake.

At the lakeshore this morning, I saw a small hawk hovering in the air searching for prey, snow buntings swirling low along the ground like snowflakes, a tiny wee pot of a bird that looked like a wren, and more illusive, secretive hooded mergansers. Hooded mergansers have a 3rd eyelid that acts like goggles underwater, changing the refractive properties of their eyes, enhancing their underwater vision. The third eye...lid effect.

Coming up the overpass, my neighbour and I met up with Erkki who was already heading back home (he left at 6:15 am; we left at 7am). He said a pelican had just flown in and so too a massive flock of about 100 cormorants (known as meri metso in Finnish). The cormorants landed on a patch of open water, completely covering it, like a bobbing raft of black birds.

"That must be the flock that I saw flying overhead on Saturday when I was at the Island Drive Bridge Wetlands!" I exclaimed.

A nest of young merimetsot in Finland; photo by Markku Mikkola-Roos, SYKE. This nest looks quite strong! Like a basket of branches.

When I got home, I placed my medicine bag of tobacco on the paws of my dad's old ahma (wolverine) that is now in my garden by the foxglove that has yet to grow. I thought maybe it's not deer skin, after all. How common is deer in Finland, anyway? Maybe it's reindeer skin? I'll have to do some research. It's butter soft and thin, that I know. And light tan.

In appearance, a wolverine is like a small bear. This ahma was something my isa brought home one day years ago. It's exterior coating has since chipped away bit by bit. When my dad brought it home, like so many other things he brought home, my sisters and I groaned. Not again! What is that thing? I remember him asking us where he should put it. We looked at him like... what? At that time, we did not care for those odd things he brought home that we thought were useless. Stupid. No one's going to use it, we muttered to each other under our breath. Shook our heads, and went on our way. Now, many years past teenage hood later, we value his ways. So, his ahma is howling in my takapiha, my backyard, reminding me of his ways.

Ahmat ovat erämaitten kulkureita. Wolverines are travelers of the wilds.

As a teen, I used to wish my dad was a "regular" dad, a "Canadian" dad. But no, he was isa. He was omituinen. He had his own ways. Strange. Odd. Peculiar. Curious. Weird. [that's what my sanakirja ~ dictionary ~ says]

Omituinen Urho, the 85 year old Sami Finnish man who also has his own peculiar ways, gave me this bottle of Canadian Shiraz this morning. Fished it out of his jacket in the lane beside the Hoito Restaurant on Bay Street. Weeks ago he had asked me what was my favorite wine. I said, shiraz. Is that red wine? he asked. Write that name down for me, he said, as he pushed a scrap of paper towards me. I want to buy you some of your favorite wine.

So, he had been carrying this bottle of wine to the Hoito every Thursday morning for the last 3 weeks to give to me. But I was not able to go to the Hoito Thursday mornings for the last 3 weeks. So, he carried the bottle to the Hoito, and then back home again, inside his jacket, hidden from view. He knew I'd show up one day.

And I did.


rauna said...

I have enjoyed your stories of coming of the spring so much Taina! Like here, in your neck of the woods the spring has its own clock, it doesn't follow the GST of seasons which makes it so much more fascinating. It's also reassuring to hear you have snow buntings too! I already had thought I won't see then again next spring when I'll be in Ontario. But I can always come and see them in T Bay. Great news. And 100 cormorants! I've never seen them here though they're considered a sort of a national bird in Finland (after the swan of course). And wolverine - recently my views of ahma, or geatki in Sami, have taken a bit of beating. A young reindeer herder asked me recently if I want to see what the "Al Qaeda" of the tundra does - that's what he called the wolverine. I was of course shocked of his unfortunate choice of words, but then I was also shocked to see his pictures. A big male reindeer half skinned, torn and bleeding, but still alive and standing. He said that the wolverine kills for fun, not for food (that's why his totally inappropriate analogy). Now I understand a little better why reindeer herders want to get licences to hunt them (they're protected species). The name Ahma of course comes from 'ahmatti', a glutton. Another animal the reindeer herders are not too fond of is the wolf that also often wrecks a havoc in a herd. I wonder if Urho has any stories from the time he was young in Kaamanen? Maybe he'd tell them over the glass of that wine he brought you! What a character he is.

northshorewoman said...

yes, I read that reindeer herders have a strong dislike of the wolverine, and I can't blame them when their bread and butter is destroyed like that. That poor reindeer you witnessed suffering!

btw, Raija W says hi (I met up with her today at Masala Grille) and is looking forward to seeing you up here one day. She also sends congrats on your recent news!

The snow buntings leave but come back again in winter, just in time for your viewing....

Rather than Al Qaeda, the wolverine is more like neoliberal capitalism. Now there's something that eats everything in sight and leaves the lives of the vulnerable bleeding. The problem is that the corporate media does not construct a neoliberal monster. That's made into the Prince Charming on a white horse, coming to rescue all peoples, all economies, all livelihoods.

rauna said...

Indeed - I wish I had thought of that myself when I was talking to that reindeer herder, that the wolverine is more like neoliberal capitalism and economic globalization with its SAPs etc. Now even countries like Italy are beginning to admit that globalization wasn't quite the golden horse they expected (though they re-elected their own corrupt neocon back in power). I emailed the reindeer herder your take on the wolverine but haven't heard back. Ahma was recently also in the Finnish Radio news:

northshorewoman said...

only 120 wolverines in the entire Finland? and responsible for 4000 lost reindeer? that is almost unbelievable. That would mean that each wolverine is responsible for harming/killing about 33 reindeer each. Maybe the wolverine is feeling some sort of habitat encroachment, impact of climate change, and due to this is becoming more aggressive? out of fear? truly, each behaviour of animals, of river, of lichen and moth needs to be considered to understand the harm we are doing. I hope this stumped Ministry considers the effects of climate change.

northshorewoman said...

I came across this quotation today in a report by Forest Ethics (link below): “Woodland caribou, pine marten, and wolverine in particular are threatened by industrial development. Species like these require old growth habitat for shelter, food and breeding grounds”.

northshorewoman said...

trying again