Tuesday, December 31, 2013

CEREMONY & TREK SURVIVAL - PART 1 (A)

[This story is an improved version from mini cassette recordings of Mekkar’s actual voice in 1990 while hiking and walking as a University student; Then, it was converted to a Windows Media Audio File and transcribed in 2011. Mekkar’s spoken English skills are nowhere near as polished as Saavo’s are.]

After awhile of Mekkar’s growth development from birth we have the ceremony. This is where one goes to work. The thing with this is you start early as compared to the modern work world. You have a ceremony at this stage because it is an honor. It shows that you have grown up enough to do work that is valued.

It is odd from the modern sense because if you look at other modern nations like the United States, kids are not expected to work until they get older in life. This was due to the abuse and exploitation by companies prior to the 1920’s.

But here in the native Arctic environment if you don’t pull your own weight you are considered a drag on the society. The native thinking and practice is you do not want to become a burden that negatively affects the whole. The whole is the most important thing because the whole group, the whole tribe, whatever terminology one wants to use - fits into the environment as part of the whole realm. Most native cultures adapt to their environments and circumstances while modern cultures seek to dominate theirs which natives see as to their detriment.

If something deviates from that perception, from the norm, there is the harsh reality of the environment to catch your attention. What is affected is not just that one deviation but the whole is also affected, everyone feels it in some way.

It is very intertwined there and it has to be, so that is why certain practices are frowned upon and other are followed. Such as when one is on a reindeer trek you always have to keep moving. The thinking is that you don’t want to eat up all the food and animal food supply that the earth provides in one place.

Otherwise the food won’t grow back quick enough to sustain the herd and you the next time the group is in a specific area. Which is important for the next season when you need it for feeding? If you don’t consider this factor, the next time you are in that area you will starve due to lack of foresight.

You let the earth go through its cyclical natural order, in other words – the whole. That’s the whole idea and viewpoint if you and your people want to survive there. The tribe or group is part of a whole big puzzle, a greater life cycle and that is why these things must be always considered.

Anyway, at the ceremony. The shaman is into his routine, beating his drum with his related items and used in situations like this. There is an alter made of stone and earth in which you have reindeer antlers adorning it and on the top of a hat. Mekkar will have to wear this headpiece as the ceremonee or the person as the focus of this particular ceremonial ritual on this day. The blood is sprinkled on the alter, along a few other items there that symbolize this realm and the blood of life.

The blood of life, there was a realization there on Mekkar’s part that without any blood there is no life. Since the basis of blood is water and without water, which the body is at least seventy percent of, there is once again no life. Any ritual is an interesting thing in that a person learns from their environment and how to deal with it through rituals. One learns how to adapt and their own limitations. This applies to all societies and all cultures. Neglect of this understanding results in destruction.

You think it is part of a cycle as life and rituals is also of a cyclical nature that reminds us that being part of the whole is the key. The whole has to fit within the environment whether it is the whole tribe or group. It must fit together in a unified way to be successful for all of those involved.

For instance, an example from the environment which is so harsh there during the winter is that if you are on the trek and you let the animals eat all of the food in one place. As well as you don’t move on, the food has little chance of growing back in time or takes much longer than expected. Then, the when you need it next time there might be nothing for you and you are up a shit creek without a paddle. If you have to go there in the future you will go hungry and starve to death. Not just you but the animals you are counting on also.

The group comes back to that location later on expecting any food supply in that area but it might not be there. The fault was yours due to earlier short-term greedy thinking regarding what Mekkar likes to call resource management. Similar to the impatience of stock markets around the world today. The tribe over used the land and resources available to them and didn’t think ahead for the long term future.

Everything and everyone is part of a great big puzzle. You have to fit in and consider the whole environment. When Mekkar speaks of the whole he is thinking of the whole group of people. People are just one smart piece of this huge realm, just like all the seas of the planet are a tiny portion of this dimension.

A star in the sky seems small to us, but we seem small to the star in the heavens. The sun that gives the earth warmth and light is considered by many scientists to be a fairly small star. It seems large to earthlings due its position which is very close to the earth. The thing with that is that is the whole point! People place more importance on themselves and think that they are greater than they really are.

Mekkar felt privileged at this point in the ceremonial event because he was the center of attention. He liked being the center of attention once again. He felt that he regained this status being here in the ceremony.

After his little brother was born only a few months earlier before this ritual, Mekkar exclusively enjoyed being the focus of many people and he thought everything in his own little world revolved around him. He was probably developing a sense of arrogance there. Now with a sibling Mekkar wasn’t the number one anymore. He was now not it and was frustrated by this!

His little brother Alf was now the cats meow. So in that way Mekkar resented him a bit or at least for awhile. Plus, Mekkar had his own dog as a pet. Mekkar eventually saw in another respect that hey here is someone I can help shape and mold his character any way that I want through his influence upon him. Mekkar felt whatever I want as a companion or lifelong friend as well as a relative for life.

Mekkar, even though he was young, was brilliant and highly intelligent. He had questions in his mind during the ceremony. However, wisely he kept his mouth shut for most of it. Yes, I am blessed but there is so much of the world I don’t know Mekkar thought to himself. Thus, Mekkar’s mind was continually flooded with more questions than answers. The more you find out, the more you know you don’t know (a modified quote of Socrates). For a small child that’s a brilliant deduction, but then Mekkar wasn’t like anybody else and rapidly absorbed many things shown him by his elders.

The thing with that is there is a reason why the ceremony, which usually happens on your fourth birthday, was happening for Mekkar even a week earlier. It was because his papa had to go on a business trip and papa is required to be there if he is alive. How little did Mekkar know that his papa was also working on his behalf right as the ceremony was going on.

Some of the individuals there observing the ceremony were friends of his papa. He was the person who took care of him and arranged for Mekkar’s first employment experience. Mekkar knew what was ahead because he was warned that there were many burdens to come and much responsibility. But, he didn’t know exactly how it happen. Maybe that was a good thing because he might not have wanted to forge ahead on this course. Especially if he knew the future difficulties and struggles laid out for him or would befall upon him.

This is what bothers Mekkar even as an adult to this day. Okay, well his papa worked it out and about a month later Mekkar was on his way to the sea off of the coast quite some distance to the west. The sea there has very cold water and is very unforgiving along with being an inducer of hypothermia.

Well, Mekkar was about to work on a boat of a crew of about twenty five people. He had the lowliest job but he was the littlest and thus was at the bottom of scale in regards to wage also. Some of the fishermen had been doing this job for more than twenty years and some much longer. Plus, because of their experience they also knew this area where they were fishing very well. Also, the boat was not the most modern one on the high seas nor was it a modern operation because the owners didn’t put much money back into the operation. It was a lack of funding for maintenance and operations which sounds like many companies today.

The good thing was that more of the profits were funneled back to the actual workers on the boat instead which is rare. There was a lot of cash to be made for hard work and a successful catch. Henrik felt this was a good experience for Mekkar but it would place many undue burdens upon the young boy.

Mekkar’s job was to swab (mop and clean) the decks and other cleanup duties. There were some long days, it seemed to Mekkar to be at least a few twenty hour shifts. That is a long time for a small boy but his papa thought it would help to toughen him up a bit. Mekkar was deluded. Even he at times thought that he was a man. Then, reality struck him hard that he was not. It was hard for him to keep up with some of these people and crew members who had been doing this type of work for a long time.

Originally there was not even a crank for pulling back in the fish nets. You had to position the boat so it would make it easier for the crew. Some of which would become divers into the cold water (brrr!) to help hook the net to another boat on a similar path and be able to pull the net in, full of fish. This is very difficult and dangerous work. There were other options such as to use another item to help the crew pull it in or you eventually have to align the positioning against the rocks while approaching back to shore. The result was you would always lose some of your fish catch. It was easier just to use another boat alongside at a specific distance.

This seemed to Mekkar to happen for months on end. Fill up the nets, come ashore, sell the fish, load the nets back onto the boat, and get paid. Not stay on shore too long and go back out to sea. The more trips out to sea usually meant more paydays for all. At first, Mekkar felt sick and he was very uncomfortable. There was no stillness even when he slept due to the constant rocking of the water.

It was a nuthouse during the day and Mekkar had to get used to the continual rocking of the boat at nighttime to finally get some shuteye. Early mornings, as Mekkar would later find out, were hard for him since Mekkar was not a morning person. He is more of a night owl and usually more productive at night also.

Late evenings while always trying to keep up with the others on the crew was hard for Mekkar. The physical labor was intense, especially for the little boy, the feeling was that maybe he would in time get used to it. The near freezing cold ocean was very dangerous, but he made good money.

Once on land, Mekkar would send most of the cash to his parents so they would put it into a bank account back home or at least save it somewhere for him. Later, he could get the stuff he wanted when he got back. In addition, Mekkar felt that he owed his parents something for taking care of him and even spoiling him a bit. He had this sense even though they both had good employment and each had their own money at their disposal.             

That was just the inducement of the rituals included in their culture. The thinking was you have to pull your own weight otherwise you are a burden and you are unproductive. This way of thinking was the reason, as like in other places at the turn of the twentieth century, for the institution of child labor laws and protections to prevent abuse. This was not an issue in Mekkar’s culture.

You were still part of the whole, not just an individual, and you have to produce and contribute in some way if you could. Otherwise the whole group could be affected in a negative manner. Thus, that is the way the thinking is. It sounds cruel, but certain people who do not pull their own weight are sent away. It does not matter whether the issue is a genetic reason, a physical handicap, or any similar type of thing. Sometimes older people, and if you are familiar with native people and tribes in general, many times those individuals go out themselves during wintertime to freeze to death. Many of those who go out to die already have an indicator that their time is up in this life or that it is almost over. Some see a vision, hear a voice, or have a dream, a premonition, or some similar experience.

It sounds very harsh according to viewpoint of the modern world. This is a society that relies on a majority of pure people and animal power to keep them alive, along with the whole tribe, in the harshest of environments. It was even more true in a time and area where not a lot of machines are used.

It was a necessary thing. They natives there must have been doing something right as they have been living in the same manner for thousands of years and still survive. No matter who has tried to wipe out the people and their culture many times in the past. Even though Mekkar didn’t understand these things at that time he later would and ponder about them in a deeper way. There were many things racing through his mind.

When his time was finished working on the boat, the operation had been slightly modernized. All of the boats received motorized cranks to pull in the nets from the water. Mekkar also had made a fair amount of cash and there weren’t a great number of choices or opportunities to blow his money. Of course he didn’t understand and consider yet what he would spend it on or even what to do it. He left it for his parents to help him decide on that later.

Mekkar was not grown up enough at this point to fully understand the worth and value of money, but he soon would! His parents were pretty smart, so he turned to them for their advice. They both had college degrees and were wise in the ways of the world.

Mekkar’s parents were not in the business of reindeer herding for the money because they both didn’t think it was sustainable as a full time occupation for the family in this time and age. The herding was done more as a hobby and to keep the option of reindeer herding in the eyes of the national government, where they resided. The natives who herd these animals and their direct family members would forever lose their reindeer herding rights if they stop and fail to have their offspring continue the occupation.

The boy heard from adults that laws like these are just other ways to curb, and in the future, eliminate the native customs and culture that have been there for thousands of years. This is done through what some have called strict legal maneuvers, in other words trickery by using law statutes. Regrettably, tactics such as these have been used against native living and cultures since the beginning of time.

His papa once again started working his own two jobs while Mekkar was still young. His mama was also working; it seemed to Mekkar, all of the time. They both were workaholics and enjoyed that euphoria rush that came with the constant activity around them. Mekkar would also help out at the small family restaurant and he felt that he should to do his part to contribute some of his efforts toward the family, tribe, and village. It is still part of the mental makeup of his native culture instilled into him.

Mekkar eventually would be weaned off of just participating in tasks restricted to the village and would move on to greater horizons. When he was done with this period of experience in his young life, Mekkar parents felt that he was grown up enough to expose him to other things and gather other work experience.

Sometimes his mama would take him along with her to one of her jobs. When she did a little modeling and similar tasks once in awhile others would give him goodies and pat him on the head. Mekkar did not care too much of the head patting because he felt that is what you do to a dog. Others would tell him what a wonderful little boy he was.

He did his best to behave but it was a hard thing to always be on his very best behavior. However, what probably kept him in line was the fact that he did like being spoiled and once again being the center of attention. This is another aspect of Mekkar’s character whether he wanted to admit it or not. Mekkar didn’t always want to accompany his mama on some of the trips because he thought he might get bored. Sirga had other plans however. On a few of the journeys she would take him to her work with her and he would be assigned responsibilities also.

They would get up early on these occasions to travel and get on an airplane. The destination flight, to Mekkar, would seem to take forever sometimes. On the other hand, Mekkar like these new experiences and it made him feel free in a different way from being on a nomadic trail or reindeer trek. But still when they finally got to where they were going cold hard reality stuck him.

Mekkar encountered lots of different people and foreign tongues speaking in phrases that he didn’t understand. This is probably, in his mind, the maximum languages in existence at that time and place. There were quite a few people there that were very different from him. While he was helping his mama, a couple of rude individuals would yell at him. He would think to himself, why? I didn’t do anything bad to you; I am trying to help you and my mama. Do you understand what I am saying? 

Mekkar, while working at the airport with his mama, would have contests and races between them. She would try to make it interesting but the boy always lost and had to pay up, treat his mama special in some manner, or meet one of her requests. Sirga was always working hard and thus expected Mekkar to do so also. She had a no loafing policy around her and did not tolerate it from anybody.

He felt that this is time he was able to spend with his mama, rare that it was, even if he had to go to do work alongside her. Mekkar would also go to work with his papa too. Mekkar now understood because they work so much this might be the only quality interaction he could have with each of his parents.

In an odd way they all needed to enjoy each other in their family and if this was the only way to do it so be it. This was however, not a normal thing in the native cultural environment Mekkar grew up in. Plus, Henrik was not a native, he just married into it.

Mekkar, of all people would always accept her challenges and he would race against his mama. He thought it was great. He would see if he could tag his bags, actually they were passenger check in luggage he was working with that came onto the conveyer belt, quicker than his mama could check the airline passengers in at the ticket counter.

Sirga could type extremely fast and a bad day for her was typing at a rapid pace. At least one hundred eighty five words per minute. This was one of those bad days. Well the thing with Mekkar is that he always tried to do the best he could, no matter what he did. He had this standard of himself. Mekkar’s own work ethic was instilled into him through the observation of his workaholic parents and family as a whole.

In that vein, Mekkar started to think more highly of himself. His mind was telling him that I’m special and that I better do things in the special way. That is better than the norm. It was an internal conflict trend that began to grow right there. The attitude of standing out due to his own pride and hyper individualism perspective that was in contrast to his native belief system and upbringing and even the national country culture at large.

The modern society had taken root in Mekkar even though he did not see it as a shaping source upon his personality. He was starting to analyze more and more like this. This trend would in time become the force to question everything you had previously learned before. He had heard of the saying that ninety five percent of a person’s personality is created by the time they are five years old. Now, that belief was being formed in him.

Mekkar was not far from that. Still some aspects of his personality and why he thought the way that he did, react the way he did was beyond his understanding. He would not be able to grasp it for awhile. On top of that, there are certain aspects he still has not figured out to this day. Mekkar referred to it as unknown mysteries of our inner being.

Mekkar knew he was special, in which way he still had no idea, but he figured there had to be a reason why he had survived so far up to this point. With this belief, he always tried to perform everything he did in a special way, a thorough way that would fit a special person. Maybe that was the stimulus for the many things he been exposed to and had learned in his young life.

He felt like I am doing stuff that nobody else, especially at his age, does. In his still developing mind he also thought that none of my friends do these kinds of things and have these adventures. I am getting to see things that they only dream about. Of course, he would tell his brother and friends the stories when he would go back. He tried to hold back and didn’t want to brag, but he had the great urge to share the details with them. So, they could have a little taste of what he had seen and heard.

When Mekkar came back home he would hang out a lot with his best friend Lasse. Lasse was also in the same culture as Mekkar. However, Mekkar considered his best friend was not as much of a native as himself because Lasse’s family raised him in a more non-native manner unlike Mekkar despite the physical location. Lasse never went on a reindeer trek along with his best friend. Mekkar’s opinion was that Lasse’s parents might have already decided he would eventually move away from the area on a permanent basis, but how did they know the future?

Lasse’s papa was not native as Mekkar’s was not either. But, both of their mama’s were fully native and their papa’s joined their families up here in the far north through marriage. Lasse spoke the language of the indigenous people just as good as Mekkar, yet it was not his primary one in his own house. Make no mistake, Lasse was still very familiar and exposed to the fundamental ways through contacts like Mekkar.

Lasse was no dummy and could be a great teacher Mekkar thought. After all, even though he is a one and a half years older, he still teaches Mekkar some things once in awhile. Lasse is a little obnoxious sometimes and rowdy at others. Mekkar thought he was a little crazy, but so was Mekkar. Adults would comment that Lasse was still a good boy and not as blunt as Mekkar. They both still grew up in the same environment with different viewpoints, perspectives, and a few varied influences.

Lasse would share aspects and features from the non-local dominant culture with their group that some individuals might not have exposed to. Lasse liked to tell stories just like his buddy. This is how they shared their special bond as they grew up together. Parents are familiar with how little boys are in their mischievous moods. At other times, the boys would go play army or games like that, at least it is good training for when they get older and have to do it for real.

The boys would participate in many things together with their friends in the village. This would include jokes, tricks, and pranks too. There were not many people in general populating this area, so it was a good idea to get along due to a lack of choices. The amount of people would increase greatly, even sometimes doubling the local population when tourist season hit. This was also true when reindeer trekking was in full swing and on their migrations to whatever destination. On occasion they would stop for supplies and rest.

Mekkar and Lasse would take on everyone else even during activities on the ice. It was at times like them against the world. This is how Mekkar thought of the relationship with his best friend and was of the opinion that they were a like minded pair. Even if that was far from reality.

There are two facets of living in a small town or village. Everyone pretty much knows everyone else, even if no one is all up in your business in a nosy sense. The second is a kid, especially during childhood, makes a few very close friends that you do almost everything with. The reason is because the selection is limited and in fact is that it is a numbers game, otherwise the alternative is a very lonely existence.

People in Mekkar’s area have a different philosophy, attitude, and outlook on true friendship. It is harder to pierce the steadfast guardedness, but once past that you have a friend for life. You don’t lose your friendship as easily as in other places just because the two of you have a disagreement or piss one another off. It is much deeper than that. Even the language has a better description of the level of interaction between people who know one another better.

At times, Lasse would just be overwhelmed by the stories that Mekkar told. Sometimes he believed him, sometimes he didn’t or until he could confirm their validity with one of Mekkar’s family members. He thought that Mekkar exaggerated a bit regarding some of the tales told by his best friend. But, isn’t that commonly used for effect when boys are that age? Lasse would even approach Sirga and ask her about the truth in Mekkar’s stories.

After awhile he gave up because he found it to be the case that Mekkar was telling the truth and not totally full of falsehood. Mekkar would just spit it out and try to be fascinating at the same time. Mekkar liked to tell various tales of what happened during the most recent trip. Sometimes he would go into too much detail or get sidetracked easily. But, you know it is just exploration of your surroundings and how one describes them. Everyone has their own biases. Of course, he would mention the bad stuff that went on too! So, there was kind of a sense of balance there.

That it, life and living, is not all easy and rosy, not all fun and games. There are negative aspects also. But, Mekkar didn’t think of those categories when reciting the accounts of his adventures, he would just let it all fly. Well, everything that he could recall like a boy his age could. Lasse eventually grew up to be a big physical specimen, much larger than Mekkar.

Even though Mekkar was born so much earlier than expected, they both grew about the same rate in their early years. Mekkar was for a time there was a little bigger on the more husky side of the two. Mekkar was more physically developed when they were younger but Lasse surpassed him at approximately eleven years old. Mekkar never grew any taller after that age.

Now with this, Mekkar would go on different trips with his papa also. Besides that, every so often he would work in the family restaurant as a waiter serving guests.