How do we know a bear or wolf? We may have "seen" one through the gloss of a magazine or glow of a computer or softness of a plushy toy. To our senses, these "animals" exist in the ideal permanent everywhereness of a manufactured or fantasy ecology. When we know an animal by experiencing the sensual reality of its habitat, its tree, its mussel shell its sandy beach, the uniqueness and specificity of that habitat is now part of the formation of our understanding.
When I pick up a shell or stone or hemlock cone what makes me want to bring it home? I'm sure beauty has its part. Then there is this sense of what is not me or us. Some force beyond us brought this into existence. The hemlock cone or cedar bark, visually intact as itself, does not seem like "material" but remnants of a life lived of its own. A tube of paint feels like "material." Paint shows nothing of itself as once lived or of life depending on it. When I hold a tube of paint, how do I recognize the place it came from? Was it a mountain a desert a field?
If someone points and asks, "Are you a wolf?" it will say, "I am a silhouette likeness of a wolf." Someone asks "Are you fir needles, is that cedar bark?" "Yes," it will say, "I am myself. I do not need your mind."
If someone asks this picture, "Are you a Wolf track?" "Yes," it will say. If someone asks "What is a wolf track?" it will say, "Wolf tracks point to the presence of a wolf, like a dark cloud points to the presence of rain."
If someone asks this picture, "What do your letters mean?" it will say, "They point to other letters, they point to other words, their wordsong nests only in the mind."
When I look at the stag's silhouette, sometimes he is looking away, other times he is looking right at me. He is still. My mind is jittery and fills in what isn't really there.
The cougar is standing like I am standing. He makes his shadow against the cedar tree. The ground the sand and stone and paw track seem impossible hanging tilted up at me on the wall. Why do I not feel uncomfortable, like they should be falling or that I should be? I can look down and up at the same time. There are letters too. They show me how easily they can slip off their paper into the sea.
Who am I? Who are we? What is Canadian? The likeness of animals appear on our stamps all over the world. We have the goose, the bear, the wolf. Others will come to see for themselves what we have to offer. Some will stay. Others will go back elsewhere for home. We will send letters. The stamps will be made out of our forests, our beaches, our mountains.
How do I know what a wolf is? Someone will point to a postcard, a book, a computer screen, a stamp, "This is a wolf." The wolf will shimmer in the postcard gloss, it will glow on the computer screen, it will be small and faded on a stamp. The smell of a wolf will be the spicy claw of cigar smoke in the tourist shop.