SpruceRoots Magazine - November 2003

GOOD QUESTION!

by Amanda Reid-Stevens

Every once in awhile, Simon, the editor of SpruceRoots, calls and asks if I’m doing any writing. Below, and on the following page, is a fairly accurate recollection of a conversation we had about 8 weeks ago, and, word-for-word, what came out of it:

“Hello?” I say, answering the phone.

“Amanda, it’s Simon.”

“Hey, Simon. How ya doing?”

“Good, and do you think there’s anything funny about seals, I need something funny for SpruceRoots, g’bye.” And he hangs up.

Simon’s not one for small talk and doesn’t bother with segues. He’s always in a rush and thinks certain people are capable of producing sheaves of brilliant prose on demand.

And, so, for the past two months I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to come up with something about seals, which has proven difficult because seals don’t strike me as being particularly funny. Cute maybe, but not funny. I concentrated so much on seals, and drew a blank so many times, it made me cranky. And I’m still cranky.

At first, I tried creating a real seal situation in my head, but the image of a well-coached marine mammal clapping its flippers together while balancing a beach ball on its nose wasn’t very amusing, let alone funny.

And so I switched to thinking about the dark, bobbing heads of the curious seals I’ve often spotted out in the ocean. This, at least, was a warm and fuzzy thought, but it didn’t make me want to laugh. Realizing I was getting nowhere fast, I purposely stopped trying to conjure up hysterical seal-scenarios, took a deep breath, and told myself to relax.

Some days later, I found myself mulling over the issue of the seal populations of Haida Gwaii. I wondered whether seals have truly become a major contributing factor in the decline of salmon stocks. And I didn’t know the answer. Which, of course, is the real reason Simon put seals into my head in the first place. He wanted me to think about the seal/salmon question and write about it and then folks might read what I wrote and think about the question, too. Considering all of the strain and torture I’ve gone through in trying to put together this piece, I have no qualms about announcing, right here and now, my utter ungratefulness for the assignment.

Anyhow, pondering the seal/salmon question led me to thinking about the seriously high unemployment rates in my own community of Skidegate and on the Islands as a whole, and about the multitude of growing problems our commercial fishermen grapple with every day. I wondered whether, as has been suggested, a cull of seals really could alleviate some of those problems, and, if so, how big a cull might be necessary. And I didn’t know the answers.

I began thinking about balance, because without balance in the environment, everything goes kaput sooner or later. But, then again, who can say with any authority what the proper balance is? Aiming for environmental balance requires, among other things, informed anticipation of events—an understanding of cause and effect. But nature has suffered so much tinkering at our hands, is it possible for us to correctly anticipate much of anything any more? For instance, who among us knew that farting, pooping cows were destined to become major contributors to global warming? I certainly didn’t. I have, though, been informed that, in an effort to combat greenhouse gas emissions, the New Zealand government is considering taxing all farmers whose cows break wind. Furthermore, special cow diapers are now being designed for the butts of the bovines of New Zealand. And we all know what has to be done when diapers are full. If I were a cow farmer, I’d get out of the business right now. And if I were a cow, I’d jump the fence and head for the hills.

It took me four or five weeks to finish pondering all of the above confusing and depressing issues, which resulted in my head being filled with more questions than ever, no answers, and no ideas for a funny story on seals. So a few days ago, in a desperate state of mind, I forced myself to sit down and make a list of every single thing I knew about seals. The list is very short. And it’s still sitting on my dining room table and has doodles and coffee stains all over it.

Yesterday, for about 3 seconds, I considered researching seal stories through the Internet, but the net drives me bonkers, so I made a sandwich instead.

And here I am today, all cranky and sitting at my keyboard, haltingly making my way toward the end of this article. And the “e” on the keyboard keeps sticking, so I hope everyone who reads this is appropriately grateful for all the extra work I’ve done in ensuring that every damn “e” is where it’s supposed to be.

Th End.