Saturday, August 11, 2018

Another excerpt from the Square Bear

The sun was rising further and further and it was getting warm out. At least Epp could see what he was doing. It took a full three weeks before he was done with this long building, having ten different roof openings and being sturdy enough to withstand the winds and any other disturbances.  Now he could speak to Aleka.
“Now maybe I can find my little brother,” she exclaimed excitedly. “I will bring the bears and they will all come. They have been waiting a long time.”
And the bears came one by one or multiples of one, bowing down to Epp’s greeting. Soon the Longhouse was almost filled with the steaming bears, each emitting a flow of steam straight up through the flue above. They all lay there unmoving, four under each of the roof openings, seemingly relieved at the evaporation of frost from their bodies.
Outside you could see the steam streaming profusely from each of the openings in the roof. They were heavy billows of moisture, soon caught up in the wind and dissipated over the land. Epp casually thought about the four hundred year old steam wafting over present day Greenland. How strange it seemed for moisture from the last Ice Age to be released into contemporary air. It rose straight up until the wind caught it and sent it scattering throughout the east in a dense fog.
Epp was a little concerned at what this might do to the climate here. It was a little late to do anything about it so he let it go out of his mind. One thing was certain. This would take a very long time to complete. Gorilja had, as Epp had seen, tried to take a shortcut with his powerful glue. It hadn’t worked of course, as evidenced by the pile of broken body parts on the floor in the corner. No, it seemed this must take its natural course, however long that might take and there was nothing to do but wait.
Waiting was not something that Epp did well. He was wandering around the area trying to figure out what else he might do that was productive. About the only thing he could manage was to dig up the roots of the trees he had cut down. It would certainly provide an outlet for the tension he felt by sitting there waiting and would keep him occupied. Anything was better than just sitting on his hands. Unfortunately it was all done too soon and he was again without an activity. He would go back to the lab to see if he could find some seeds to plant. That was familiar enough and who knows what Gorilja might have left behind.
On the walk back to the lab Epp observed the wind coming off the ocean. It was a stiff breeze that blew over the huts he had built and straight to the east. The steam coming from the buildings was as strong as ever, blowing up into the wind and being carried away in a rolling cloud. It seemed a little darker, hazier than it had been. That, thought Epp, was due to the clouds of steam generated by the Square Bears. Strangely enough, it was a little cooler too. That probably had something to do with the clouds masking the sun. Epp walked on, paying little attention to the weather. But as he got closer to the lab, he noticed the tremendous amount of steam still emanating from the huts. He’d have to go in and check the bears before anything else.
It was amazing what Gorilja had brought with him in his venture to Greenland. In a corner of the lab Epp found some various seeds of grain, each marked as to its kind. Packages of wheat, barley, oats, were all marked in the German language. This was good. Now he’d have something to do that he was familiar with, provided that the weather would allow.
It was starting to snow. That seemed strange at this time of year. It should be warming, not cooling. The only thing Epp could think of was the cooling effect of the escaping steam from the bears that was still strong as ever. Of course with one or two bears it wouldn’t have made a difference but with nearly a hundred, it was another story. Epp walked over to the first hut he had built. Aleka was still sitting there, calling for her brother. The Square Bear was lying there, emitting a strong amount of steam, probably stronger than before. When Epp went over to touch the bear’s head, the fur was somewhat softer. He felt for the division in the bodies and noticed some softening there too, though not much. He put his hand up into the steam and it was cold, ice cold. This wasn’t steam at all. It was cold air – four hundred year old cold air embodied within the bears and now being expelled. That explained the snow. What in heaven’s name had he started?  By huddling together the bears had trapped the ice-age cold air within their bodies and by some great miracle, held it there. Well, the expulsion of it had begun now and there was no stopping it other than removing them from the huts. But Epp wasn’t willing to do that just yet. He’d wait and see what developed.
Going outside, he didn’t have long to wait. Snow was swirling all around. There was so much cold air emanating from the bears it was causing a change in the climate. As soon as it hit the free air it turned into snow which came down around them. As the wind picked up it was turning into a storm. The weather cooled as the sky darkened as the snow began whipping around, especially toward the east. Looking toward the ocean in the west it was relatively bright but very windy. The whole storm was blowing eastward into the mainland.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Random Excerpt from Sidney Square Bear

This is another random sample from the book for your interest:

A sudden chilling thought came into Epp’s mind. Was this old hag really there? Was she an apparition? She must be real. She was holding the large fish in her hand. But she hadn’t moved since he got there. She just only sat quietly at the corner of the stoop without moving and she wouldn’t go inside the building. And the dogs who were ravenously chewing on their fish never took any notice of her.
“Here, let me help you up. We’ll go inside where it is warm,” said Epp and he reached out to take her hand. She and the fish in her hands vanished into thin air. What the . . . . That the old woman could vanish was one thing, but that the fish too would disappear was quite another. Epp had a few Mennonite exclamations that wouldn’t mean anything in English and sat on the stoop, staring at the place where the apparition had been.
Slowly, out of a mist the old woman reappeared holding the fish in her hands. “You are not real” Epp muttered, unable to think of anything else to say.
“Oh, I’m real alright, only from a different time. There are things that happen here in Greenland with the indigenous people that the Europeans don’t understand. I guess I’m one of them.”
“Then you must be very old”, said Epp, not sure of what he should begin to ask.
“Do you have a name?”
“It is Aleka. Means older sister,” she said matter of factly.
“How long have you been here in this place?”
“I’ve been in this place since after the last ice age affected Greenland.” She replied.
“That must be a long time,” mused Epp.
“Yes, it was a long time ago. I remember the terrible cold. It was so cold it was hard to survive outside. My young brother went outside after me telling him not to. After a while I went out to find him and all I saw was little pieces of his mitts lying in the snow. That’s when I first saw the giant Square Bears. It looked as though they had eaten my young brother.  I called and called, but he would not answer. He must be inside them somewhere.
“Well of course, they had to eat too or they would starve so I had no choice but to forgive them. I asked them to eat me too so I could be together with my brother but they would not. They said I must help them to survive until this cold went away and then they could separate and become ordinary bears again. When that happened my brother would be released. “
“I don’t understand what you mean by the bears separating,” said Epp.
“When the ice age descended on us, the bears, which were ordinary bears at the time, huddled together to keep each other warm. They stayed together so close and so long that they fused into giant Square Bears which are the bears you see today. They could not separate anymore.”
“Why not?” Epp was puzzled.
“It seems they were fused so tightly together their fur intertwined and became brittle. It was impossible to get them apart. As time went on, they grew into one body to be the giant Square Bear seen around here these days with no possibility of seperation.” 
“So these are then more than one ordinary bear?” Epp asked.
“Yes, at least two, sometimes even more. There could be whole families.”
“That must have been awkward for them to be able to eat then. What did you do?”
“In those days I was still young and strong enough to be able to fish for them so that’s what I did. It was awkward for them to eat out of each side of their mouth but at least they managed it. They could not hunt for themselves and thus would have starved unless I had been able to fish for them. This I did gladly in the hope of seeing my little brother again.”
“Then how did you end up here?” Epp asked curiously.
“There was a man who came up here a long time ago. He said he had studied apothecary medicine at the university in Prague. I don’t know where that is, but that’s what he said. He has a picture of himself on the wall inside with some sort of writing on it. You’ll see when you go in.”
Epp pondered, “You say he built this place?”
“Yes he did. It’s a very strange building. Something like white men would build. Not very warm I think, but it keeps the flies away in summer.”

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sidney Square Bear's Supreme Sacrifice to Save the Greenland Polar Bear

Lately I've been held captive by what I thought would be a short children's book with pictures and all, only to find the story had a life of its own. So instead of preparing a blog, I thought I'd give you an idea of what it's about (excluding editing)> So here goes:

Being a history buff involves a great deal of research and verification of just about everything. It’s a lot more complicated than it seems at the outset. Had I known where this journey would take me, I might not have embarked on it.
I had no idea that my ancestor whose namesake I am was any sort of somebody, but a certain set of circumstances involving Bismark and military service set the whole business in motion.  Epp had after all, studied for years at the university to become an archeologist, and had no interest in picking up a gun and pursuing a military career. That wasn’t his way or the way of his people and he’d have nothing to do with it. Most of his people, beckoned by Katherine the Great went to Russia to drain those swamps as Epp had done in his young life in the Danzig area and he had no stomach for that either. So he pulled up stakes and left the Danziger swamps, going directly to Greenland where he thought it would be warm and inviting.
BLOODY HELL! It was colder there than any place he’d ever been. Well certainly Bismark wouldn’t go looking for him there! Somebody with a strange sense of humor had named this place, obviously to draw people there instead of . . . Iceland. Aha! That was it! Some Icelander had fabricated the name to draw people there instead of Iceland. Epp couldn’t see the advantage of that but then them Icelanders were a strange and adventurous lot anyway.
Having landed in Greenland ill equipped, Epp decided to make the best of it. There were a few people living there, mostly Eskimos they were called. They saw Epp’s plight and gave him shelter and warm clothing so he wouldn’t freeze to death. They were very sociable and kind to him, probably as much because he looked so different than they did as their generous and gregarious nature.
Being the sort of man he was, Epp was soon well clothed in skins and furs, had learned to eat the kinds of food they offered and was even beginning to learn the language, albeit haltingly. He went hunting and fishing with the men and relished in the feasts and social gatherings inside their igloos. In fact, they even taught him to make his own. Life up here in the north was about as good as it gets if you learn to adapt. And life was good for Epp.
It was on one of these fishing and hunting trips that Epp first learned of the Square Bear. The men were ice fishing while they waited for seals to come up for air. Well you had to multi – task to provide enough food for the village. One of the things that really impressed Epp was the series of rituals the Eskimos performed in their preparation to hunt and fish, asking permission from the fish and the sea to provide food for their table and giving thanks for its and their provisions. It wasn’t really dissimilar to what he was accustomed to although they were more directly speaking to the animals as though they were kindred spirits. They were it seemed, his kind of people after all.
After several days of fishing and sealing a sudden nervousness arose among the dogs in the team. It was almost imperceptible but they were fidgeting nervously, looking into the distance to the west. The Eskimos immediately began hurriedly hauling up their nets out of the ice holes in a panic state. Moving quickly like a well practiced team, they dumped loads of the fish in their sleds, leaving a large amount behind before taking off to the east in almost fearful fashion.
The only thing Epp could get out of them was that they had to get out of there before the giant Square Bear caught up with them. They hoped the food they’d left for him would be enough to keep him distracted while they got away to their home with what they had left. The dogs were straining at their harnesses as they dashed into the blowing snow. ‘Good’ said the hunters. The snow would cover their tracks and the bear(s) would be unable to track them. They would at least come home with enough food for the village.
Epp didn’t understand any of this at all. He’d have to find out more. Asking questions as they raced across the snow was useless. Dogs and men were fleeing as if for their lives and had no interest in explaining anything. It was a full day of this frantic travel before they started to slow down somewhat, following the dogs who seemed to know where home was in this blowing wind. Finally they stopped to eat a cold bite silently and then carry on into the night. The group traveled on in this way for three days and nights before reaching the welcoming committee at their home.
Things started to come undone at the welcoming feast when all were settled in and had eaten something. The hunters told of the dogs’ sensitivity about the legendary Square Bears and their flight. They were fortunate in having the wind to cover the sled tracks on the way home. That way they would never be found and the Square Bears would have enough food to distract them from giving chase.
Epp tried to enquire about the great Square Bears. Something was bothering him about this whole story. But the people would have none of it. They were far too excited about the adventure to pay any attention to him. He had so many questions and absolutely no answers.
Having spent two whole days and nights eating and drinking and storytelling, the band of people finally got weary and went to sleep one by one without a hint of answering any of Epp’s questions. He himself had slept intermittently and was kept awake by the haunting question. There was obviously a great mystery here that no one would speak about. It must be some kind of taboo. Well you don’t become an archeologist to just accept what you don’t understand, and that’s a fact. What you do is to find out for yourself.
And that’s where the adventure of a lifetime began for Dr. Victor Epp.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sidney Square Bear

Old Fat Square Bear Cropped.jpgSidney Square Bear’s Supreme Sacrifice to Save the Greenland Polar Bear
Imagined and recorded by;
Victor Epp
Descendant of the world traveler and Archeologist
Doctor Victor Epp

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Well - Spitting

Well – Spitting!
It seems to be an athletic sport; spitting, that is. It doesn’t matter what sport you look at, all the players are constantly spitting out their phlegm onto the field. Some of them are better spitters than players I think. Really, these people (unless they’re in a suit and tie) all do it. Yet, if you look around the world, there are fines in a lot of the cities and towns for spitting (among other things). I don’t know if they’re enforced or not, but they are there and they ought to be.
So what gives athletes the right to dispose of their germs all over the sports field? It’s disgusting behavior to start with, akin to having a pee against the park fence. And don’t think those germs don’t travel because they certainly do; only nobody takes note of it.
I think the whole business started with baseball and those players who chewed tobacco (another disgusting habit). Not having a cuspidor or spittoon at their disposal, they emptied their mouths on to the field. Of course they had to step in it and drag their germs all over the place.
The strange thing is that I’ve never seen any women athletes do any spitting, so it must be a male macho thing. In fact, thinking back to when we were kids, the guys used to do it all the time. I suppose it’s a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality.
Well, they used to have cuspidors in public places where you could get rid of your chewing tobacco mostly and any other garbage that had collected in your lungs and throat. In fact my own grandfather had a spittoon he used after contracting asthma. At least he didn’t leave his coughing fits all over the farmyard (though I wouldn’t have envied my grandmother having to clean the dad - blamed thing.) I imagine many a marriage was put to the ultimate test by cuspidor cleaning back in the day.
The point here is that today’s athletes aren’t spitting because something is in their lungs or their throat. They’re just spitting to spit. That’s the macho thing to do. Well, they’re a captive audience on the athletic field and can be fined for their spitting and that’s what I think should be done. Given their hefty salaries these days, one could raise a fair amount of fine money in the process.
That’s what I think.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather
Actually, the only thing I remember about chickens on the farm is that they were a form of entertainment for our dog. Mother would go out daily, putting out chicken feed for the birds in a long line and they would come greedily to peck away at their breakfast or dinner. That of course was the signal for our dog Max to go into action. His job as he saw it was to march along the line of feed picking at feathers here and there, causing mayhem among the chickens, sending them flying in all directions. Each must have derived some degree of pleasure from it because it was a twice daily ritual, always the same, with mother yelling at the fool dog to get outa there.
Well a kid on the farm wouldn’t think of the birds as anything but a roast on the Sunday dinner table when you watched them hanging in the barn getting their throats cut and being plucked and cleaned for the table or given away to city folks who might come out for a visit.
Who’da thought chickens might have personalities but my Tante Liese who was known as the egg lady in around her area all the way to Winnipeg Beach. Old Ab Marley, the paint salesman in my office and a real character would stop by her place weekly to pick up eggs asked her one day if he could go see the chickens. No, she said, they’d get all upset and stop laying their eggs. I remember him coming into the office with this tale that we were all laughing about.  
Well it turns out Tante Liese knew her birds better than most. One of her daughters confirmed that in a later conversation. It still didn’t register until one day recently I was watching something on TV. There was a lady there who, among other animals, kept a number of exotic chickens. Well, she would pick them up, rub their necks and ruffle their feathers, all to the birds’ enjoyment. Well, I never . . . even the visitors got to do it.
Chickens have never been good fliers, maybe good enough to get up into a tree, but little else. These days they are bred to be wider and heavier to provide huge breasts for the market. So for the birds it’s a lost cause. The millions of birds that are abused and force fed to provide more savory food for drooly mouthed buyers. No matter what they do, they’re still nothing more than a commodity.
A sad situation.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Canadian Military

Canadian Military
I’m just a little confused about our Canadian military personnel these days. We don’t seem to have a large military base compared to other countries but still we have troops deployed all over the world. We seem to be serving everywhere in almost every capacity and largely training foreign armies how to fight etc. Of course there are rescue missions right here in Canada too, but the only ones a person really hears of is the army filling sandbags.
Well, they’re burley young buggers, full of brawn and energy who can fling them things around like they were paper napkins. What a boon to have them around at flooded out places to help out. Of course they’ve got them big vehicles too to get in and out of places nobody else can, an’ boats an’ helicopters an’ all that sort’a stuff. An’ a few years ago they even had to shovel out a severe snow storm in Toronto, remember that?
What I wondered at was, were they hiring?  I went on the internet to find out and sure enough they are! Of course I immediately got curious as to whether I could hire on. But I suppose at eighty-three, the only job I could get is as a decoy of an old man in trouble that they would have to rescue. Of course that would be an automatic failed project ‘cause I’d never survive such a rescue attempt anyway. No, I thought, I’d better not apply.
Of course I’m now thinking in an entirely different direction. I’m thinking in the direction of our Indigenous communities with their water and sewage problems (and housing of course), not to mention education.
Well here we have an opportunity to hire a bunch of young Indigenous people, giving them an opportunity to become disciplined soldiers ( or naval or airmen), giving them good paying jobs, free training, free education and a purpose in life on behalf of their communities and themselves beyond their military service.
It sounds pretty fantastic doesn’t it? Imagine our nation being defended by a bunch of native warriors. The only thing is that a warrior in native languages does not necessarily mean the same thing as it does in the English or French languages. Of course it means the same thing, but also many other things to defend against.
We tend to think of native warriors as people like the code speakers or like Tommy Prince in our own country who made tremendous contributions to the military and without whom the wars may well have had a different outcome. But that’s only part of the story. There are wars and warriors to defend against other things in the community such as alcoholism, diabetes, shortcomings in the community etc. These are things that must be defended against, requiring warrior-like dedication. So a group of warriors dedicated to safe water systems and sewage systems could well be imagined.
It really is not all that complicated for the Indigenous communities who, in spite of the white man’s efforts to annihilate them, still retain the basis for the culture. In my mind it is a very wise culture.
So to get back to the point, it occurs to me that all these communities need tending to. And what better way than to enlist in the military, getting a good paycheck, free education in a field of choice and contributing back to the community. There is something very appealing about that whole scenario. But it ain’t quite that easy, especially among us white guys who are only interested in our own view of things. Not only that, but there’s enough corruption among chiefs and counsels to warrant investigations.
I would say it’s a well worth while effort for the Indigenous communities to make in order to bring such a system about. Certainly each community is different, with different issues, but the basis is the same. What is needed is a consensus and commitment by the Indigenous community and pressure brought to bear on the white community. Not a simple task, but it must be done.
They say the Elders have gone silent because they don’t know what to say. But the young people, if they grab hold of the opportunity can move mountains, and so they should.
Imagine our nation being defended by the Indigenous community. Now THAT’S a twist. Worth thinking about.