[folded pages from The Elusive Moose.]
I have never seen a moose. Not even in a zoo. I have seen the head of a stuffed one mounted on a barber’s wall. Even it was impressive, but not dignified. I know little about them, and what I do know may or may not be true. I have been led to believe they are pre-historic animals that are nine feet tall at the shoulder, aggressive, and eat the weedy-grass on the bottom of marshy lakes and rivers. I’ve wanted to see one ever since I was little boy when I spent many hours with a big book titled ‘Life Before Man’. I read next to none of it, I just looked at the pictures painted by Zdeněk Burian. Burian was so clever. He filled the book with pictures on every page, and pictures of so many different things. Pictures of our planet beginning to form, pictures of early life under the sea, pictures of dinosaurs, a picture of a lizard-bird (the archaeopteryx – he imagined it to be like a feathered dragon with sharp teeth and claws on its wings) and pictures of mammals . Each picture was done with such naturalism; it was like he’d been there, as if he’d watched these pre-historic events first hand. He painted the Earth’s violent beginnings as it boiled and hardened, he painted the hissing and jerky lizardy movements of dinosaurs terrified by their bigger carnivorous cousins. He painted the quiet and emptiness of the planet too. I particularly remember one picture: the view is from a high, I’m probably looking from the edge of a cliff. Below is a bear on the bank of a slow river – a lone animal getting on with life – he doesn’t know I can see him, or he doesn’t care. In many ways the pictures of pre-historic mammals excited me the most: bears, big cats with big teeth, woolly mammoths, and the many deer-like animals with big antlers. These animals had locked eyes with humans. These mammals had co-evolved with us. Many of these animals still existed, like the moose.
4th may, 2010. I board a late train in Vancouver going to Toronto.
5th May, 2010. From the breakfast car I see a black bear slowly make his way up an embankment somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The bear pays no attention to the train.
6th May, 2010. Crossing the Prairies I’m told I won’t see a moose. So I watch Hitchcock’s ’Rear Window’ on my computer. The train stops for some reason. The sky is all white. It looks cold outside, there is snow. Near my widow is a small group of birch trees. On one of the branches is a dark coloured bird.
7th May, 2010.10:30pm. It’s dark outside. Tomorrow morning I’ll be in Toronto. I will have crossed the width of Canada, and haven’t seen a moose. I can see my reflection on the surface of the window.
[text from The Elusive Moose.]
[in search of a Moose.]
State Library of Victoria