Thursday, October 20, 2011

do you like green eggs and moose?

The Gaspé is mostly deserted the last weeks in October. The tourists have fled. The locals are observing the sacred rite of hunting moose. Every able-bodied male is in the woods in the interior of the peninsula, clothed in fleece camouflage, a bottle of liquor surely at hand, gun loaded and hot for a moose. Maybe women hunt too. I don’t know. The quota is one moose per family. I suspect men get the honour.
Traffic on the highway that connects village to village zips by at a fast clip. Cars, transport trucks carrying produce farther along the coast, salesmen, government workers. The pickups and jeep trailers loaded with a moose carcass—hoofs poked at the sky, antlers angled however they can fit—drive more sedately. Out of respect for the moose that’s been shot and brought to the table, or showing off like a carnival float? Look, there’s Jean-Luc. Saturday afternoon, first day of hunting season, and he’s already bagged his moose. He comes home to hang it in the barn and of course goes back. He promised himself a week in the woods with the guys.
I don’t know what it’s like in the woods, but along the highway, which defines the margins of civilization, it looks like moose carnage.
How many moose are there? Enough to allow for every man to kill a moose for every year that he can physically hoist a gun and shoot? Let’s say, seventy moose over seventy years? That’s just for himself and his immediate family. That’s not counting his brothers who have their own families, and his kids when they grow up and get a license to kill for their families. The math makes me shudder. Perhaps it’s just as well that the Gaspé peninsula is so sparsely populated.
I’m sitting in a bistro called La Broue dans l’Toupet, having a pint of excellent Gaspesian beer. Broue means what it sounds like. A toupet is the forehead version of a 1950s ducktail. What’s that called—bangs? a fringe? I don’t know the right term for a man. The bistro has a sign of a man with a luxurious toupet serving an equally coiffed mug of beer. It’s my closest WIFI access—in Mont Louis, a 15-min drive down the coast from where I’ve been holed up writing and walking on the beach.
On the beach I have to tell myself to stop picking up stones. I have decades’ worth already. Zebra striped, quartz eyes, crazed with iron, granite eggs. I can’t keep bringing sea glass home. Drop it, Alice!
I’m mystified by the rock formations that jut from the sand at low tide. They look manmade—like the edges of seats in an ancient Roman ampi-theatre. Tilted plates slid off each other, their side by side rims tracing a perfect arc. Do the endlessly slapping waves shape them like that? Is it tectonic energy? I take pictures of their fractured veins. Their smooth-worn faces like pillows. Shale marbled with iron so it resembles grained wood. I walk at low tide and clamber across the rocks, or at hide tide when the waves wash as far as the sand. The sound relaxes me. It’s good for my heart.

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