Home to Newfoundland, an Animal Deep-Ecology Novel
One ~ Leaving New Zealand
of the changes in the Maritimes went international, there were
many unexpected results. Maritime legislation had affected the
treatment of animals worldwide and many wildlife and conversation
movements were looking to the Maritimes as their model.
Most of the
information about the Maritimes that the rest of the world was
privy to came from Saul's web pages. Some even went so far as
to argue that the discussions of his various combative experts
brought forward ideas of an entirely different way that humans
might interact with their environment. Outmoded models of dominion
over animals as well as the notion of stewardship spouted by the
animal welfarists were going by the wayside. Instead, in the place
of this patronizing and fundamentally unequal relationship, was
a way of thinking about human, animal, land, and sea interaction
that promised for many to change the way we live on the planet.
were heady days for the international community, in the small
backwater of Fiordland, south island, New Zealand, only a faint
whispering of the sweeping changes had come. This distant rumour
had made it to a moose in the New Zealand woods, however, and
she decided, there in the deep gloom of the rain forest that had
hid her for nearly a hundred years, that it might be time to go
think of going home, they carry in their wallet-photo minds an
image of a place they, or their forbears, left many years before.
Likewise, when the moose tried to remember Newfoundland, she found
only the dry rags of images. With the overwhelming green of the
New Zealand bush around her, she had to admit that she remembered
little. She felt like cool breezes off the fjords could be counted
as a real memory, like the icy lakes in the interior of a vast
country. But handling the images like postcards, she couldn't
tell if she'd taken the photo or had it described to her so many
times that the smears of reality were from her own mind. That
inability to distinguish what was known from what had been replaced
as much as anything else made the moose decide to return.
leave, as any expatriate knows, is only part of the journey. Typically,
there are passports to order, government forms and waivers to
sign, and immunizations to get. The moose knew little of these
legal restrictions, however, and reasoned that if she had lived
all of these years in the New Zealand bush with only a few hairs
to prove her existence, she might as well slip between the interstices
of reality once again to travel back home. The moose packed nothing,
although she looked into her favourite haunts with a strange transplanted
nostalgia. It was like saying goodbye to a home that wasn't yours.
I've been house sitting, thought the moose, now it's
time to go home.
The trip to
the coast would have probably been fraught with danger, but the
tourists with their flashing cameras and open mouths were staying
in the north island for the winter. Other than a few Maori, the
moose saw almost no one. The Maori merely watched her go by. Some
of the children raised their arm in a kind of salute, but the
moose was far away and knew little of their calls. The mountains
were daunting at first, and Key Summit beckoned in the distance,
but the moose pressed on, the snow at the higher elevations reminding
her of something that she couldn't quite remember.
When the moose
saw the long coastline, and felt the fogs hanging over the mountains
at her back, she nearly returned into the woods. Just as the adopted
home becomes more beautiful as we are leaving it, she hesitated
before the cold waters. She had swum the lakes in the inland,
and once had been in the water for twenty hours, but she had no
idea how long the fourteen hundred miles would take for her to
swim. As well, she frightened herself with tales of sharks and
on the beach for nearly a week, feeding to build up her strength
and practicing short swims. If she could swim this stretch, she
told herself, then she could get home. She even considered following
the populated coast north so that she might set out for Lord Howe
Island, but that mere pit stop would save her few direct hours,
and the total trip would be much longer. Finally, just as local
attention was starting to focus on this strange, shaggy animal
stalking the beach, she confirmed her direction by asking a frigate
bird who hung in the air above her, and then she plunged into
The kiwi and
flightless Takahe watched in envy from the shore. The Takahe wondered
that she had never swum away when the people had come, wondered
that what could seem so difficult could be so easy. Above her,
the frigate and the albatross set a vigil. They sensed a resolve
in the moose that they knew was not local, and the storm-petrels
put out a watch for major storms, although they had no idea what
advice they might offer a swimming animal of the moose's bulk.
Whales breeched near the moose and working in conjunction with
the birds-although all felt the moose's task impossible-they deflected
any ships that would cross her path. A giant container ship might
mow her down as they had so many sleeping whales and smaller boats
would do her serious harm if they cut her with their propellers
or thrust her under with their bow. If all else failed, the whales
prepared, with the dolphins, a strategy that might make the moose's
stupendous undertaking more possible, if not likely.
Two ~ The Long Voyage
day in the water was comforting, although the southern winds and
waves blew spray into the moose's eyes and she frequently had
to rely on the frigate overhead for directions. She had no idea
so many forces were rallied to her side, but she felt the soothing
presence of a huge body beside her, who she presumed was a whale.
The water was slightly warmer on her southern side, and the current
was cut by the smooth strokes of the swimming whale. But the moose
could see little except a huge spray over her when the whale blew.
Unfortunately, she could smell the reek which resulted from what
she guessed were very poor eating habits.
her tiny charge as though she would an ill-formed baby, the whale
set herself to match the moose's slow pace. She determined, as
if she were a commuter who had passed the same way a hundred times,
to use the moment to look around and "eat the plankton," as the
long way from home." The whale always found it awkward opening
conversations with other species.
you think." At the risk of sounding cryptic, the moose answered.
She told of her distant kidnapping and how she had acclimatized
to her new home. At first she had longingly thought about returning,
but that was less frequent with each passing year. "It's like
a toothache," she said after looking to see if the whale had teeth,
"that you can't do anything about and that won't go away. It comes
at odd times. When wading in a swamp in the early morning, suddenly
it would all come back, and I've worn a path down to the beach
before with wishing. I never thought I could do it, that's all."
good swimmer," the whale lied. "You can make it."
breath for her swim, the moose settled into a slow rhythm that
seemed to be suggested by the rise and fall of the waves themselves,
and although she heard the sounds of motors far in the distance,
none came near her. In all, she decided, it was a peaceful trip,
with the very occasional breath of the whale spouting beside her,
and the cries of the birds overhead. They dove and came up with
fish flapping in their beaks and the day wound on to evening.
When night came, the moose felt the sleep that should have been
hers. But with the urgency that is death if she should stop swimming,
she pressed on, despite her tired limbs. After one day,
she thought. Only after one day.
She was kept
awake in the night by the dance of light in the ocean. At first
she thought it was her imagination. But when the sparks of light
began, and then, as the night darkened into a deep indigo, she
saw even her thrashing legs startled tiny insects into giving
light, her awe sustained her. "What a beautiful thing the world
is. I would never have thought such animals existed."
felt tempted, since she had a scholarly turn of mind, to tell
the moose about photo plankton, but instead she thrashed her tail
and sped ahead so that the moose might see the fireworks in full
display. The wonder of the moose infected her, and looking around
like she never had, the whale lifted her entire body out of the
water for the first time in years, splashing down with a wave
that almost swamped the moose.
When the morning
came, the moose was again disoriented. The sun, bright and strange
now that she was not clouded in the forest, came from the wrong
direction, and she asked the frigate twice if he was sure about
his navigation. Her limbs were hardening to the work, but thirsty
beyond measure, the moose drank sparingly of the seawater, since
she had heard it had ill effects on land animals like herself.
Luckily for her, if not for anyone else, the Antarctic shelf was
melting, so the seawater was less saline for the first time in
centuries, and so she was sustained for another day.
her was water and even when the huge waves lifted her to their
tops, she saw nothing but sea. She moose cautioned herself that
this was to be expected, but in the leaden sensation of her legs
and back, she felt her own mortality. "Whale," she called. "I'm
not sure I can do this. I wasn't made for sea voyages and this
is a passage of many days."
"We are here
as well," the whale reminded her, "and when you falter, we will
guide your steps." The whale felt silly saying steps, but it drifted
up from her ancient memory as a word that used to have meaning.
their support, the moose swam though that long day and then another
night. The albatross made the passage back to land behind-which
the moose thought was an ominous sign-and brought her seaweed
to eat. She would have preferred a land plant, but she was the
least choosy beggar on the wide seas. In disgust, the storm petrel
flew off and came back with grasses in her beak, and that cleared
the moose's mouth of the sea long enough for her to remember why
she was here. "I am going home," she reminded them, "to where
trees tasted tart in the winter and sweet in the spring."
On the third
day, the moose faltered. She felt her legs hardly at all and tiny
fish were settling in her fur trying to buoy her for the many
miles still ahead. She felt herself roll in the waves and then
suddenly awoke with a salty apologetic smile for the whale. "Let's
try that again." Only a few hours later, she fainted from exhaustion,
and began to sink. She felt the long reach of the ocean bottom
below her, pulling at her like the land had held her upright.
She let go finally and let herself be taken.