Tag: Myth

Squirrel camp and the Sun

You may be wondering why squirrel camp is primarily powered by solar. Perhaps you didn’t know that; well, now you do, and you can begin wondering. Or maybe you are reading this without even knowing what squirrel camp is. In that case, all you need to know is that it is a happy place filled with hard working people and their dirty socks. Or maybe even you don’t know where you are or how you are reading this, in which case, find the nearest adult human, and ask them to sing you a lullaby. And now we can begin this story.

Squirrel camp is powered by solar, with a slightly manic array of rectangular panels basking in the near-arctic sun. But of course, it could be powered by a great diesel generator, clonking majestically through the day. Or maybe a bulbous tank of propane, filled with gas eeked from the ground and ferried here to light the merry fires. Or why not chunky, dusky coal? Provides quite the heat. Oh yes, solar might be plentiful, and produces no smog at point of collection, and gleam most handsomely, but is that really any good reason to excuse the convenience of gas and oil? Well us squirrelers have our reasons.
It began in the sky. The sun was lonely. Sure, it has the stars, but they are far away and aren’t very good at texting back. And as for the moon, well when it comes around its hardly much of a conversation partner, always moaning about how it was treated like a common doormat by some guy named Neil. Tiresome. So the sun cast its eyes to earth for company. It scanned the plains, but found the people too simple and dull. It scanned the seas, but found the people too salty and superstitious. It scanned the jungles, but could not see anyone for the steam and leaves. And then it turned its gaze on the mountains. In a mountainous land, following a twisting highway towards a lake, the sun spied a solitary figure. Maybe it was the wild, unwashed hair. Perhaps it was the artful arrangement of patches and knitwork that held their clothes together. Or it might have been their purposeful stride (it was near lunch time). Whatever the reason, the sun’s search paused. 

Interest piqued, heartbeat (yes suns have hearts, as well as eyes) quickened, the sun followed our raggedy individual, who turned out to be an inhabitant of squirrel camp. After a few days of watching, the sun plucked up the courage to say hello. The squirrels was startled at first, as you would be if the sun shyly sidled up to you and said hello. But in any case, despite all the odds, they hit it off. Turns out they had several likes in common, like sunrises, snowy mountainsides, and the films of Nicholas Cage.
After a short courtship, the two were quite fast in like. Love was perhaps around the corner, but like was enough for now. Keen to show the squirreler more of the world, the sun asked them to come to stay with it in the sky. Needless to say, the squirreler was over the moon with this proposition, and hurried to pack their things. However, there was one small problem, the squirreler had a boss, and they did not care to lose one of their workforce without something in return. Speak nothing of the once in an eternity opportunity this represented, a budget is a budget, and it can only stretch so far. After some fairly intense negotiations, an agreement was struck. The squirreler was free to travel with the sun, and in return the sun would power squirrel camp with its bright warm rays. And so that was how squirrel camp came to be powered by solar. 
To this day, the relationship holds, and squirrel camp receives its power from the sun. Of course, there are occasional arguments, where the sun goes off in a huff. Without its rays the clouds descend and squirrel camp is plunged into a grey dimness. But much to the relief of camp, the sun and the squirreler usually make up quickly, and the sun returns to make the solar panels hum once more.

Advertisements

The legend of the lynx, and the long length of Lloyd

There was once a time when the ground of the forest was clear, and trappers and other users of the forest could cover miles in a day without breaking a sweat. There were no snaking, snagging branches catching your boots or tripping your step. Through this marvellous woodscape strode a great hero by the name of Lloyd. Lloyd was a mighty warrior, an intrepid explorer, and an above average bridge player, but above all else he was long. His length was said to be equal to the tallest spruce, and his stride covered tens of metres with ease. Great horned owls nested in his eyebrows and wisps of cloud were strewn over his shoulders like a great grey cloak.

Lloyd heard there was a great beast terrorising the Shakwak trench in the Yukon, and being the great hero he was, he set out to subdue this foe. Lloyd’s long length carried him there quickly, and he discovered it was a giant lynx stalking the people. This lynx (not so much large as huge, less lumbering and more thundering, not even loud but cacophonic) had paws the size of ponds, and teeth like shards of glacier. Pure white fur bristled along its body and in its throat rumbled a terrific yowl. It had been trashing villages, chewing up winter stores, a belittling peoples’ dreams all year, and it was time for this to stop. Lloyd found the beast not far from Kluane lake, and they did battle.

Lloyd and the beast raged at each other for months. Up and down the trench they duelled, Lloyd’s longsword clashing with frenzied tooth and claw. The lynx was  vicious and quicksilver, while Lloyd was strong and agile, and so when one would land a blow, the other would counter and return the favour. Eventually, each weakened by a thousand cuts, they came to at the brow of a hill a final time. Lloyd’s longsword dealt a savage blow, lacerating the lynx’s liver and lancing its lung. However, the lynx’s claws found Lloyd’s throat and tore it open. His long length came crashing down, stretching along the side of the hill where, in aeons to come, a highway would be built. The lynx, crippled by the final blow, slunk away under the hills cursing the world of men from the bowls of the earth.

The world is different now, and many of these great deeds are forgotten. But the long length of Lloyd can still be found where he fell, down a hillside in the Shakwak trench. The lynx lives, but it resides in the depths of the earth nursing its wounds. Although it does not terrorise the land anymore, its whiskers have penetrated to the surface. There, in the form of small shrubs with yellow leaves, they tangle the feet of trappers and other forest users, reminding us of the lynx that lurks below and the great evil that used to stalk the realm. And this is how it will remain, until a hero of long length returns, to clear the land for good.

Coyote and Squirrel Camp

 

Time was, before social media, global warming or Donald Trump, that there were a lot more dangerous animals around squirrel camp.  10-foot beavers would chomp off campers’s heads, giant mosquitos would drink their blood with a single slurp, great ostrich-sized predatory grouse would ambush campers with a loud thud and peck out their large intestines, and terrifying whuzmucks would prowl the highways at night, waylaying trucks and dragging the drivers into the ditch. Bears were the least of ones’ worries. This was altogether too much for the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short), as students were expensive and their parents were beginning to ask questions, so they decided to do something. They resolved to send up one of their students to deal with these problem animals. This student was known as Coyote.

8d26a82bab33bb5d0f823b675b40ee6f

Coyote was smart as a fox, swift as a hare, as playful as a bear cub and as loving of practical jokes as a frat boy. Coyote loved the forest and all its wonders, and they loved Coyote back, even if the animals were sometimes the victim of one of Coyote’s practical jokes. Coyote once stuck some fallen gray jay feathers into the rump of a chickadee, giving the small bird a hilariously long tail. Oh how Coyote laughed as the chickajay tried to fly, and how Coyote roared when it becme stuck amongst the twigs of its nest. Puzzlingly the female birds seemed to like the stupidly long tail, but Coyote decided enough was enough and removed the handicap from the poor bird. Coyote even created a study grid all to itself, choosing the best location with the finest view of the whole valley. From here Coyote would frolic and plan the next set of practical jokes. Around the grid Coyote scampered playing tricks on the squirrels by swapping babies between nests and crying with silent laughter as mother squirrels raised young from another mother squirrel entirely!

Eventually however, the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) rang Coyote to remind it its duties, and so Coyote set to work. Alongside its other qualities Coyote possessed magic in a small amount. The typically proved useful when playing jokes on the animals or convincing people to fund more research. This time however Coyote used its magic to make the forest safer. Coyote first cast a great spell to make the fearsome whuzmucks disappear. It worked, but a little too well, wiping out every whuzmuck around the world and even removing all mentions of them from textbooks or scientific articles. Hence to this day, you can find no whuzmucks anywhere, nor read about them any place. This great spell drained Coyote’s magic, meaning spells to get rid of the other animals were less potent. Rather than wait to be magicked away, beaver, mosquito and grouse tried to trap Coyote and stop the spells. Because of this, Coyote had to be very wary when moving around the forest, avoiding anything that looked or smelt like a trap, a trait Coyote’s descendants still possess to this day. While sniffing out and avoiding traps, Coyote cast spells to shrink each of beaver, mosquito and grouse. This made them far less dangerous to anyone in the woods. Mosquito was still incredibly annoying however, so Coyote shrank it further, and made mosquito susceptible to the cold, ensuring it would only be in the forest for the few short summer months. This second spell diminished Coyote’s magic even further, leaving enough for only one final piece of magic. For this final spell Coyote made beaver and grouse vegetarian, so that they would not take even teeny-tiny bites out of the campers. And so the forest was made safe.

852456-bigthumbnail
artist’s impression

With all of Coyote’s magic gone, it decided to stay up in the woods it loved so much, and start a family. Coyote’s descendants live there still, and on cold clear mornings you can hear them talking and yammering in high tones as they try and remember the words to re-cast some of Coyote’s original spells. Beaver, mosquito and grouse are now amiable members of the forest, although Mosquito still nips a bit of blood now and again from campers, for old times sake. And whenever grouse has been reminiscing most strongly, it sneaks into the long grass, wait for a camper to walk past, and then springs an ambush, flying between their legs with a great thud and terrifying the poor soul, leaving the grouse to chuckle and smile and remember when they were great predatory beasts long ago, before social media, climate change, Donald Trump, and the one called Coyote.

How Squirrel Camp got its bear fence

Squirrel camp, like many wilderness camps, has an electrical fence surrounding it. Normally they are called bear fences, but they can in fact keep many kinds of animals out. There was a time in fact, where there was no fence at all. The bears knew all the food in camp was safely locked away in coolers or tupawares or tins or other containers that require opposable thumbs to open. Therefore, they did not bother camp, and the campers were happy. Occasionally the camper would spot a bear opposite a grid, browsing for berries or inspecting a dead porcupine, and they would wave to the bear, and it would wave back, and everyone would continue with their days. However, an unfortunate series of events would cause this homo-ursine utopia to unravel.

People of all shapes and sizes come to work at squirrel camp, and some of these people are of particularly dashing shape.  Ones of these dashing types was walking along the highway after a morning of squirrelling, when a family from a nearby town pulled up. They enquired as to whether she was lost, and upon learning that she was not, enquired about her motivation for being in the Yukon. She explained what Squirrel Camp was and their research goals in a manner interesting and accurate but not complex or condescending, bid them good day, and strolled back for her lunch. Now it may have been her charming manner, it may have been her good leg tone and core stability after days of trapping in the field, or it may have been the way the autumnal sun caught her auburn locks in a frankly heavenly manner, but the eldest son in the family was captivated. While she talked he stared, while she gestured he drooled, and when she walked off she had already stepped into his dreams. They went back to their home town and all he could picture was her face, her hair, her luminous trapping vest! She had said they were others, and before long he had convinced himself there was a whole group of dashing young ecologists holed up in the woods. If only he could get back to her or find one like her he would be truly happy. But devoid of a car, much charm or practically any redeeming features, it seemed hopeless. 

However, one of his few qualities was cunning, and after a few nights spent sleepless in his box room under the staircase, he hatched a plot. Our desperate teen, “Chet”, assembled his cronies, “Chad” and “Chez”. He carefully slipped the keys to his father’s new truck into his pocket and stole into the night. Chet, Chad and Chez gathered in the dark of the garage. The others were scared and timid, but Chet bribed them with promises of a harem of dashing women, and threatened them with jabs of his hockey stick, and eventually they got into the truck. None of them knew how to drive, but fortunately this was an automatic, so after some squabbling, bickering and tedious name calling, Chad wrenched the truck into drive and off they went. Fortunately it was dark, so no police officers noticed them rolling past stop signs, and none of the teens had watched Nascar, meaning turning both left and right was not alien to them. Once out of the town they became giddy with excitement. Chad revved the engine, Chet pounded the horn, and Chez turned their obnoxious nu-country up to the maximum. This cacophony of noise and raging hormones careered up the road through the woods. This disruption greatly disturbed the bears foraging on the roadside berry bushes, upsetting them greatly. To discover the source of this irritant they followed the truck up the road. Of course this then meant that when Chet, Chad and Chez arrived at Squirrel camp, a posse of bears was not too far away.

Chet, Chad and Chez tumbled out the truck and began hooting and hollering. Chet yowled and cried for his love, while Chad and Chez yelped and wailed for anything at all. Alarmed by this noise, the campers tumbled out of the cookshack to see what was amiss. Unfortunately, at this moment the posse of bears arrived at camp. It was chaos. Chet, Chad and Chez scattered. Bears growled and prowled around the camp after them, and the campers tried simultaneously to find and eject Chet, Chad and Chez, while dodging around pissed-off bears. There were many near-misses, close scrapes and on more than one occasion a bear’s maw was only a hair’s breadth away. Finally though, Chet, Chad and Chez were corralled by the bears and the campers into their truck and sent packing. The bears dusted themselves off, took a couple of swigs of some cider they had unearthed in the chaos, and returned to the forest. Camp was a bit of a mess, and everyone was a bit shaken, but ultimately all was ok. The campers then agreed that such a thing could never happen again. Therefore, to preserve the chastity of camp from further bands of horny teenagers, the campers erected a crotch-high electric fence around camp to keep out those directed by their genitals. The bears however misunderstood this gesture, thinking it was directed at them after the cider pilfering. This mistrust grew between the bears and the campers, which was a sad outcome from such an unfortunate night.

So that is Squirrel camp got its “bear” fence. Over time Chad and Chez were forgotten, and the original purpose of the fence lost, so its ability to keep bears out was recognised as its function.  The bears largely stayed away from camp,  but occasionally they would sneak back into camp, looking for a sip of delicious  cider.  As for Chet, he became a psychology major, and spent his days diagnosing his infrequent dreams of a loud truck, angry bears, and shining auburn hair by the side of an open highway.

Squirrel camp and the great storm

Squirrel camp today is not completely like the camp first built. The original lacked a place to store new vs old eggs, or a spot for each persons’ electrical wires, or a place for hare poo, or other essential things. The original did however have all the huts to sleep in arranged together in a block. This provided warmth and security to the camper, who slept soundly. This was how the nights passed, with the days of spring, summer and autumn filled with work on all the animals of the boreal forest, from caterpillars to grouse, moose to wolverine.

One year in the not too distant past, as years tend to do, turned into winter. Oh my, what a winter. The wind howled, the snow blizzarded, and even the snow-shoe hares could be seen wearing little boots and mittens to keep warm. The campers huddled closer and closer around their stove each day to stay warm. One night of this dark and foul winter a particularly terrible storm blew in. The spruce trees heaved and swayed and the boreal animals hunkered down in their earthy homes. A particular strong gust swept through camp, and with a great crash picked up the sleeping huts and tossed them into the air. They were tumbled and tossed together, before being thrown back to the ground; scattered through the woods. Never had the camp seen such devastation.

The young ecologists were miraculously unharmed. But as they stepped out into the night, they moaned and wailed at what had become of their sleeping quarters. They slept the rest of the night in an awkward pile in their cookshack, and in the morning their gathered their tools and set to work. Seeing their great struggle to rebuild their homes, some of the animals of the boreal forest came out to help. The squirrels, being energetic with nimble paws and obsessed by neatness, dashed around gathering nuts and screws, which the humans ate or used to repair their huts appropriately. The snow-shoe hares hopped out of the woods and, being soft and fluffy and of calm dispositions, packed themselves around the campers, keeping them warm and soothing their worried brows. The lynx, being excellent and stealthy hunters, disappeared into the forest and fetched meat for the campers to sustain themselves while working hard on their huts. To all these animals the young ecologists were very grateful. However, other animals were not so helpful. The bears never rose from their hibernation, and slept through the whole ordeal. The coyotes snuck in through the unguarded date and stole away all the meat the lynx had collected, leaving the campers to subsist on the nuts the squirrels had bought. The moose and the wolverine decided they would prefer to go mountaineering instead and so only returned after all the work was done. And the less said about what the jays did with the chickadees when the ecologists’ backs were turned the better.

Despite this, working with the squirrels, the hares and the lynx the ecologists repaired the camp. They were greatly pleased with the help from the squirrels, hares and lynx, and so decided from then on to focus all of their research efforts into these majestic, helpful and interesting critters. The other animals would be left to their own devices in the woods, as they had left the campers. And it was ever thus

And so due to the great storm, that is why the ecologists at squirrel camp only study squirrels, hares and lynx, why all the sleeping huts are scattered around the woods, and, due to the to the coyotes’ deceit, why there is no meat to be found in the camp.

Squirrel camp and the northern lights

In the beginning there were three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short). In the boreal forest. Before that there were squirrels and lynx and bears and other such creatures, but as they cannot hold pens to write their stories down we can hardly start with them, so we will start with the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short). They conducted research in the boreal forest ad all its mysteries, and they were very happy with their work. They worked all day, and some nights, and the other nights they drank beer or told stories round a fire or avoided discussing that one time they all went skinny dipping as it was terribly embarrassing for all involved. They enjoyed their work so much and discovered so many interesting things that they decided to start bringing their students up to the forest to share in the discoveries. For this they needed a camp for their students to live and eat food out of tins and to conduct research, as that is how ecologists are made.

For this camps they drove an arbitrary distance along a road out of Haines Junction in the Yukon, Canada and turned left. They looked around but decided it was not quite right. They then drove another kilometre and turned right ad decided that this spot would do. The three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) were skilled builders and craftsmen, but there were limited tools and a small budget. Still, they constructed buildings to eat in, sleep in, enter data in and other necessary things for young ecologists. After they were done the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) looked at the camp they had created and saw that it was sufficient. They called down to their respective universities and summoned their students to the camp. They came in ones, twos and threes, bright eyed and bushy-tailed and excited to live and learn in the boreal ecosystem. The tall ecologist and the medium-height ecologist were optimists and, convinced they had keen and resourceful students in the same mould as themselves, were happy that all would be well. They smiled, clapped each other in the back, and went back to their permanent homes.
The short ecologist however was a little more pessimistic. He too knew he had keen and resourceful students, but was worried that up in the boreal, a long way from the city of Whitehorse and an even long way from civilisation, mishaps might befall the students. This possibility worried him greatly, and he paced up and down, wearing through three pairs of shoes in the process, which only increased his disquiet. He could not abandon the students he cared for so greatly, but he could not live in camp as he had his duties down south. Eventually, he hit upon a solution.Squirrel camp and the Northern Lights
In the beginning there were three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short). In the boreal forest. Before that there were squirrels and lynx and bears and other such creatures, but as they cannot hold pens to write their stories down we can hardly start with them, so we will start with the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short). They conducted research in the boreal forest ad all its mysteries, and they were very happy with their work. They worked all day, and some nights, and the other nights they drank beer or told stories round a fire or avoided discussing that one time they all went skinny dipping as it was terribly embarrassing for all involved. They enjoyed their work so much and discovered so many interesting things that they decided to start bringing their students up to the forest to share in the discoveries. For this they needed a camp for their students to live and eat food out of tins and to conduct research, as that is how ecologists are made.

For this camps they drove an arbitrary distance along a road out of Haines Junction in the Yukon, Canada and turned left. They looked around but decided it was not quite right. They then drove another kilometre and turned right ad decided that this spot would do. The three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) were skilled builders and craftsmen, but there were limited tools and a small budget. Still, they constructed buildings to eat in, sleep in, enter data in and other necessary things for young ecologists. After they were done the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) looked at the camp they had created and saw that it was sufficient. They called down to their respective universities and summoned their students to the camp. They came in ones, twos and threes, bright eyed and bushy-tailed and excited to live and learn in the boreal ecosystem. The tall ecologist and the medium-height ecologist were optimists and, convinced they had keen and resourceful students in the same mould as themselves, were happy that all would be well. They smiled, clapped each other in the back, and went back to their permanent homes.

The short ecologist however was a little more pessimistic. He too knew he had keen and resourceful students, but was worried that up in the boreal, a long way from the city of Whitehorse and an even long way from civilisation, mishaps might befall the students. This possibility worried him greatly, and he paced up and down, wearing through three pairs of shoes in the process, which only increased his disquiet. He could not abandon the students he cared for so greatly, but he could not live in camp as he had his duties down south. Eventually, we hit upon a solution.

As you all know, each person is made up of good and bad, dark and light, yin and yang. The short ecologist knew this too, and that was his solution. He took his good side firmly in his fist and, in one motion, tore it out of himself and threw it into the sky above the camp. There it stayed. From the sky above camp his good side could watch over all the students and help them stay safe. This satisfied the short ecologist, and so he left to return to his permanent home. However, now he only had a dark side, and so was always grumpy and saying “harrumph” and tearing down others’ ideas. This made everyone slightly crotchety to him but he accepted it was worth it to keep the camp safe. And it was ever thus. Back at camp in the high, still Yukon, on cool dark nights, camper who turn their eyes skywards may catch a glimpse of the short ecologist’s good side, dancing and curving across the sky in pinks and reds, greens and golds, keeping them safe.

And that is why the short ecologist is always grumpy, why those in the camp in the woods are safe, and why there are sometimes there are colours dancing across the sky at night.