#23 In praise of The Tiger
January 06th, 2015
There are many things we do not get in Tahsis. We don’t have a bank or credit union, we don’t even have a beer parlour or hard bar. No dentist, no vet, and if you want a ticket on the six-four-nine you have to drive an hour and a half over a goat trail to Gold River.
But we have our own symphony! Two waterfalls, a river, and the sound of the wind. Just to add some Wagnerian influence, we’re also getting thunder and lightning.
Right now we are getting hammered! Tahsis gets a large amount of rain every winter, but even for Tahsis this is just a tad extreme. The rain is bulleting down with about the same velocity as that which comes out of the average shower. Maybe the average car wash!
I can’t see each individual drop, of course, but it is possible to look out the window and see what look like strings or streams of water pouring from that gray blanket where the sky used to be. When those strings hit my neighbours roof they bounce back up making a sort of “mist” along the roof, it’s actually quite pretty and even, in its own way, interesting.
But someone can turn off the tap at any time.
There’s a seasonal waterfall out behind my sardine can. My “lot” backs onto a huge rock bluff, and this waterfall is part of the natural drainage. Much of the year there’s nothing there, just a sort of crack or split in the rock, but when the rain settles in on us in earnest, that little crack or split becomes a funnel and what I call “Rainbow Falls” forms.
Right now she’s singing opera, I can hear her from inside the house. Even with all the doors and windows shut and the sound of that downpour hammering on my roof, I can hear the music of the waterfall. When I go outside, the orchestration increases; there’s another waterfall down at the end of my street, it’s bigger and louder than “mine”, and the sound it makes is deeper.
And then there’s the river, and the song she sings as she charges to the ocean. Right now she looks like a river of chocolate milk.
My old dog, Minnie, waits until the very last minute before she asks to be let out to drain a bladder that has to be at least the size of the one in a Percheron gelding, then she is yammering to get back inside again. My cat doesn’t want to go outside and when things get to the point where he absolutely has to he dashes out, races off, does what he went outside to do and then streaks back to the door, and yowls.
Don’t even try to use an umbrella, it won’t last five minutes in what’s going on out there!
Sometimes the only escape from it all is a book.
I have just finished reading “The Tiger” by John Vaillant. Do yourself a favour. Get it and settle in for a fine read.
I don’t make a habit of recommending books because my own taste is… like Quebec… pas comme les autres but this book is different, it’s special, it’s absolutely glorious. There’s a stark inevitability to it, I knew from the get-go how it was going to end, but the getting there was wonderful.
It’s set in Siberia, and it’s about one particular tiger, but it’s universal, and tells us a lot about ourselves, about our place in the world, and what we have got to do to reclaim our own souls. What the writer has to say about the taiga could be said about Vancouver Island and , repeatedly, I read “tiger” and thought “cougar”, thought “bear”, thought “elk” and, yes, thought “salmon”.
It’s non fiction and I’m not usually big on that, I like a well written magical lie. I want to be taken out of myself, out of my own life, out of my own head, and , for me, that usually means rousing good stories focussed on John Rebus and crime in the city of Edinburgh, but my daughter recommended “The Tiger” and she’s no fool, and once I started reading it I was hooked.
It’s a book I’ll read again, and maybe even a third time, there’s so much in it, and so cleanly written I could only smile at the skill of the author. No cute tricks, no attempst to rhapsodize, it is, in many ways, almost surgical.
Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.