The Winter Solstice Arrives: Rudolfo the Reindeer (Caribou) Tells an Eco-Story for the Season
This Holiday season we received our traditional message from Rudolfo the Reindeer. This amazing caribou came to life one night when I was doodling. Little did I know that he would wind up with his companions in a big herd up in Canada. But he writes every year. On these Solstice days, he sends us a greeting and a story.
Rudolfo’s Message: “On behalf of Natasha and our two youngsters, Pierre and Katie, I wish you all a spectacular solstice, a very merry Holiday Season, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and a wonderful New Year. By the way you may remember, that last year we had celebrated the coming of “Itsy-Bitsy Pierre.” We don’t call him Itsy-Bitsy anymore; he’s quite the young buck. But you can see a picture of Katie, who will be a yearling in a few months, and already a force to be reckoned with.
We like to read Ekos-Squared, but Internet connections up here are very iffy. I also want everyone to know that we are very concerned about the expansion of the tar sands oil industry up here. I hope you guys will publish more one how the mining and refining destroys our northern forests and tundra — vital ecosystems to our survival. We ask your readers to call your elected officials and tell em what I said.
This year I have a special story — one that I just told Katie and Pierre a few days ago.” Like so many stories they often often arise when a child asks a nearly unanswerable question to a parent. Katie asks me, ‘Daddy, why are there wolves? They scare me. They eat us don’t they.’ Pierre, now quite aware of his growing antlers, rolls his eyeballs.”
“Well, there is good reason to fear wolves. But listen and I’ll tell you a story that explains why there are wolves.”
The Story: “Many thousands of years ago when the first caribou came to live in the north country, there were no wolves. Those were pleasant times, it was a bit warmer than now, and grasses
and shrubs were plentiful. Eating was easy; our herd didn’t have to travel dozens of miles every day to eat. At first our group was small, a few hundred caribou; but because times were good our population grew by leaps and bounds. As, you know we’re good at leaps and bounds. It was fun at first; there were big feasts, parades, games and dances. Soon there were tens of thousands in our tribe. But after some years troubles came. There were so many mouths to feed that the herd began to strip away the vegetation. It was hard to find a clump of grass or a willow sprig anywhere. Little fawns like you cried for food. And many caribou died, especially in the cold winter. It was a sad time.”
The Great Spirit creates wolves. “And so our elders summoned the Great Spirit and described their plight. The Spirit, as always, was reluctant to intervene. But just then he/she saw a little fawn crying. Visibly moved, the Great Spirit told the elders that she/he would give the matter serious consideration.
The Great One thought and thought but couldn’t come up with any solution and grew very, very angry and grimaced, growled and stomped. On seeing this scene of other the Spirits laughed aloud. One said, ‘Oh my, oh my. Take a look at your reflection.’ So the Great One went to the pond and saw the reflection of a huge, muscular dog, but one with enormous, sharp fangs. The Great one ran from the pond in fright. Upon seeing this spectacle, the Spirits laughed again. ‘Why does a spirit so Great fear a mere dog?’ The Great Spirit answered, ‘This is no ordinary dog, it must be a ….. wolf! But, why am I afraid? — it’s just a reflection of my own fierce nature and strength.’ (At this the other Spirits worked hard to suppress their snickers).
Another Spirit, called Big Ideas had a big idea, ‘I know this may sound cruel, but the Wolf is obviously a carnivore and fast enough to catch caribous. A pack of these Canis lupi could keep the herd from overgrazing. ‘Hmmmm, said the Great Spirit, not bad.’ The others mulled it over and nodded their approval. ‘ Let it be then, we’ll send a bunch down. said the Great Spirit.’
When the Great Spirit told the elder caribous, they did not like the idea one bit. ‘ Wasn’t it bad enough that we have to migrate thousands of miles, be mosquito bitten, not to mention the bot flies, and then have to endure dark and bitterly cold winters?’ But their complaints fell on deaf ears. The decision was made.
In the years ahead, and to this very day, we caribous hear the frightening howls of the wolves (click to see and hear). But let me assure you for every thousands of caribou, there are only a few wolves. Our family is known for speed and agility. So kids, keep racing, stay in the middle of the herd, and keep the hooves moving. One more thing, live each day fully and stop to smell the air, the forest, the tundra, the herd, open up to the beauty of the rivers and lakes, and take in the mountains to the west and always feel the wind against
your face as you run.’
Celebration: “Pierre and Katie started to yawn — as is often the case when parents wax eloquently on and on. Fortunately, just then my beautiful Natasha came along, “Now Pierre and Kate, don’t doze off quite yet, it’s the Solstice and we have a wonderful surprise.” She displayed a huge bundle of bright green grass and a plant with little red berries. The young caribous knew that these were special treats, sweet, juicy and hard to come by. Somehow thoughts of howling wolves, Great Spirits and my fatherly philosophies all faded. Have you ever seen a young caribou smile?
Tomorrow the herd would move again; but tonight we all are warm and cozy in the family snuggle. Natasha sings a lullaby and the family drifts off to sleep. The snow dances down in graceful swirls through the tall and fragrant spruce trees. Natasha and I rub noses ever so gently. Soon the sun will climb back into the sky.”
If you want to learn more about caribous, see this incredible video: Being Caribou
By the way, we sent Rudolfo a message telling him we will cover the tar sands oil issue in coming posts.