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Index: Serial: After the Snowbird Comes the Whale

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 7, Sec 3.

Tom Lowenstein: ‘But the storytelling process also has to do with healing. And I believe that this may have been Asatchaq’s motive in launching the long unipkaaq. The people whom the storyteller might try to heal may have been out of reach. In the past, perhaps, a community that came together might well have achieved the reassurance that life was worth living, that social existence continued.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 7, Sec 2.

Part 7, Sec 2: ‘As the wind hits the face, one apprehends cautiously the feeling of a double temporality, as though we, too, had labored across the ice: and at the same time as arriving, one were also waiting for the present: the now and the archaic collapsed into a conundrum in which ancient and modern periods were mutually identified: today encapsulated within the archaic and the archaic, like an icy calyx, carrying seeds of the present.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 7, Sec 1.

Pt 7 Sec 1: ‘Yes. I want the story to continue at least until I’m restless. I get bored quickly. Perhaps this is a fault that marks my generation. Or isn’t it a personal fault? Impatience for a conclusion, like the rhyming couplet with which Shakespeare releases you from obedience to a difficult thought. The constraints, nonetheless, had been healing. I return to those limits. It is, afterall, the writer or the storyteller who does the work. Nothing else matters during the period of domination. It was a question of minutes, that sublime superiority.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 8.

♦ The 2018 Fortnightly Serial.← Previously  Next→ Excursion to Cape Thompson Project Chariot I’VE WRITTEN A LOT about culture contact and the changes Asatchaq had seen in Tikigaq. But the word ‘contact’ doesn’t properly or adequately express the process. The word change is also misleading. Even during the traditional period change had been continual. And […]

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 7.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt 6, sec 7: ‘There’s the laugh of the skinboat owner which proclaims modesty and self-deprecation. There’s the laughter of chagrin which acknowledges pain as an unavoidable component of existence. There is laughter that rasps cruelly from the throat like knife blades. Wild, often hysterical, laughter reels out of the chest in great ribbons of ectoplasm.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 6.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt 6, sec 6: ‘The edge of the beach, the Point’s hook – changing as the tide erodes and builds it – is frozen, sealed down, hard to distinguish from the inshore sea ice, the chaos of the inshore rubble. Transitional and scarcely noticed. ‘Am I on the land or sea?’ the hunter asks in crossing. Does it matter? Transformation of environment which scarcely matters.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 5.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt 6, sec 5: ‘All things come in the particularity of language. When we say what we see, our mouths express things in concretion as the words materially fulfill themselves. Our words have the lexical weight of articulated pieces: harpoon pole, shaft, point, ropes and toggle. And so we give words to ice conditions as wind and water measure out coincident trajectories and transformations. Spring follows winter. Hard light hatches. We study the sun’s progress from the eastern hills out to the ice horizon…’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 4.

Part 6, Sec 4: ‘When the generation of our fathers is still active, we tend to project longevity, even immortality, onto its existence. We imagine it to be an omniscient regime that intensifies the childish sense we have of our own low status. But that experience is illusory. Tulugaq knew, as I did, that Pauyungin’s represented the last cohort to speak Inupiaq with competence and thereby knew things that only the old language could grasp. The language was what enabled the eye and the mind both to see and comprehend the complexity of existence. With the death of the language, the multiple realities residing within that complexity, would become inaccessible.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 3.

Pt 6, Sec 3: ‘the weight of the past, its vast, dignified and largely unknowable accumulation, lay mostly hidden, albeit magnetically drawing the mind to dwell in its presence, a presence that even given the prior, biological fact of death, refused to die and was still here animated in its own afterlife while the present flitted above it: and that it was the present that constituted the unreality: our shared, changeful and indeterminate present with its transient, mobile, superficial procession of calculable minutes which were haunted by our sense – in comparison with the semi- or imaginatively perceived wholeness of what lay behind – of incompleteness.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 2.

Part 6, sec 2: ‘These changes came in the wake of a long historical process and language moribundity was not in local control. This is no-one’s fault. And the linguistic education mentioned earlier offered contact and familiarity with Inupiaq, but did not propose fluency. Language death remains a tragedy both for those who have lost it, and the world is thereby poorer.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 1.

Part 6, sec 1: Born in 1884 on the Kobuk River, Bob’s Inupiaq name was Qimiuraq. In the diseases and famines that claimed many in the lower Arctic, Qimiuraq lost his parents, his adoptive grandparents, and in 1893 the boy and his shaman aunt Avagruaq walked north to Tikigaq in search of food and shelter. Stumbling up the beach from Cape Thompson, the two migrants found shelter at Jabbertown, and within a few months they were living as a family with the whaling man from Swansea.

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 5, Sec 3.

Part 5, sec 3: ‘Oil has been described as black gold, and without displacing that metal as global currency, oil, in darker weeds (as Orsino might have phrased it in Twelfth Night) crept up to merge with her older sister. And while none of us can do without the oil towards which we feel an irreconcilable ambivalence, future centuries will presumably view oil as having acted as a temporary convenience, as obsolete as the micro-organisms from which it has evolved. And while, again, it has kept modern society functioning, it will presumably kill us.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 5, Sec 2.

Part 5, section 2: ‘There is, nonetheless, a significant difference between resource utilisation by Natives and Euro-Americans. Native peoples have traditionally shared their territories with co-residential creatures. Native hunters never displaced a prey object. On the contrary, the pursuit of animals is in itself a reason for remaining in home territory. A subsistence dependent Native group will not make its capture and travel off elsewhere. They will remain in order to repeat the experience.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 5, Sec 1.

Part 5, sec 1: ‘North America, as generally viewed by incomers, was a barely inhabited wilderness with freely available resources. It was true that the Norse, in the eleventh century, seemed to have limited their interest to timber and iron. And exceptionally, the Venetian explorer (his Anglicised name: John Cabot), made north east American landfalls merely for water. That said, the Grand Banks south of Newfoundland had by the early sixteenth century become important fishing grounds for Europeans. Basques, Portuguese, Bretons, Normans, English and Irish fishermen who rendered the Americas a prime source for what would end up as stockfish, thus competing with Norwegian cod as a European staple. ‘

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 4, Sec 3.

Part 4, sec 3: ‘The hinterland looks beautiful. I stride forward, in the tutelage of Whitman, to embrace the wholeness. A place in the sunset of two half-defunct traditions. The globe’s circumference girdling my own uncertain stomach. As for the crossroads where I meet Mrs Charlotte, we acknowledge that our paths are culturally coincident but historically, religiously, divided. She’d been present at an early, raw encounter: between ‘savages and Christians’ as some stories had it, interpreting one tale from the vantage of another.’