learns from others but does not think, one will be bewildered. If, on the other
hand, one thinks but does not
learn from others, one will be in peril." - Confucius
west of Vanderhoof, British Columbia
Remy is still
asleep when I get up, so I take my dog for walk down the road. When she
disappears into the bush I notice mushrooms growing along the side of the road
and remember what Remy said last night about the wild mushrooms. . I kneel down
to examine them closer and see mushroom patches in the forest sunned by the
eastern sky. Having acquired my bodyguard against bears, I venture into the
mossy forest where there are patches of all sorts of different coloured
mushrooms. There are pinkish-red mushrooms, soggy beige mushrooms and mushrooms
that are grey, blue, brown, yellow, black and pure white. It is a cornucopia.
The pure white mushroom with pointy barbs around the top instinctively makes me
regard them as deadly, as do the reddish-pink mushrooms. The soggy beige ones
are just plain gooey. Having sampled magic mushrooms in my youth, I am
determined to find some but am hampered by the fact that I don't know exactly
what they look like before they are dried out. So I examine each mushroom,
trying to determine if they are magic or not. After an hour of research, I find
a yellowish mushroom that looks identical to the psychedelic mushroom posters
of the sixties. It has a long stem and a penis-like head. So with a very light
step I set out to pick as many magic mushrooms as I can. With a plastic bag in
one hand, I find hundreds of them growing in mossy patches by fallen tree
So thick with
moisture, it feels on the verge of rainfall. I scour the spongy floor, perfumed
by fallen trees. Like a rainforest. When my bag is full I return to my camper
where I empty it onto newspapers spread out in my dry sink. With Remy still
sleeping, I return to the mossy bog with my plastic bag for more. I spend hours
picking mushrooms. Finally, after returning with my fourth full bag, there is a
protruding mound of mushrooms in my dry sink. Perhaps a bit extreme. I walk to
the other side of the road to where Remy is sitting in his metal chair with a
mug of coffee in his hand.
doggie was full of beans."
have some hot water on."
"Love some padre." He hands me the mug with the
single-mug coffee filter on top, scoops a full amount of coffee grounds into
the filter followed by the hot water.
to overflow now," I say, hoping to usurp any Tom Foolery. Remy administers the
water as I hold the mug. Water reaches the lip of the filter.
Reluctantly he stops pouring.
"I think I
found some magic mushrooms." He scrutinizes my face to see if I'm joking.
they're magic mushrooms and not poisonous?"
but pretty sure. They look just like the magic mushrooms on a Jefferson
Airplane poster Tribby had on his wall at university."
are they?" Instead of describing them I take out about five specimens I had in
my pocket. I put them in there because there were the best. Remy begins to laugh.
How many did you pick?"
were a lot around and you slept so late."
I glance at my watch for emphasis.
"I was having
a good dream. It couldn't be interrupted."
"So I picked
three or four plastic bags full." He lets out a long sigh.
"And is this
for personal consumption?" He shakes his head and doesn't wait for a reply.
"What's wrong with you? I can't believe you just picked four bags full of magic
mushrooms for personal consumption."
I shrug my shoulders because I'm at a loss for words. One can never have too
many magic mushrooms I'm thinking in the back of my mind. "What happened to you
over in Hong Kong?"
these mushrooms are duds? And you accidentally injure your person? Then what?"
"No, no. We
have to test them first."
"How are you
going to do that?" Loki, the spirit of mischief in Norse mythology, comes upon
me like the sun breaking through clouds.
"We can test
already read my mind.
"By giving a
sample to my new bear protector."
learn how to earn its name."
"I'll only give her a small tester...first.
Then..." My voice trails off.
Listen, I won't take anything that's going to injure my person so relax.
Everything's fine." I sip my coffee and pick up the map that's beside Remy.
"Think we'll hit Smithers today?" I say to change the subject. Again he sighs.
Shakes his head.
"Naw, I don't
think so. We're leaving too late. Remember, I live on Indian time. Besides,
there's no rush. We'll get there in due course."
Out on the
valley road the sun highlights the avalanche chutes that cut through the deep
green pine steeped on both mountainsides. Some mountains that face the road
show large stretches of red moss - almost a dry rust colour - that looks soft against
the rugged grey rock and the broken trunks of pine. The mountains too have a
story told by the visible scars exposed under the smiling sun.
road buggies are not considered a trailer; we can legally park anywhere. Maybe
that's why Remy always spoke of the mountains and the countless hidden
campgrounds and nameless nook-von-crannies
as if they were his own property. They are all like his ports of call across
Canada. His trip from Manitoba took him across the prairies and over the Rocky
Mountains, from Banff through the ice fields of Jasper, and through McBride
along the old Yellowhead Indian Trail, and he never once paid a fee. He called
it "taxpayer's privilege." It's a life lived rolling on wheels across vast
expanses of country, with each turn revealing a different landscape and a new
memory. It's one thing to hear someone talk about it, but it's another thing
entirely to live it yourself.
through Fort Fraser and Burn's Lake to Houston, where we have a late lunch and
refuel. The closer we come to Smithers, the busier the traffic becomes.
Eighteen wheelers hurry towards Prince Rupert carrying countless massacred
trees and I find their driving obnoxious. Everyone is in a hurry. And there's
something about the steepness of the mountains around us that gives me
claustrophobia. Hemmed in. Only east or west. Deepening more as we roll west.
Despite this, it's a breathtaking landscape and the joy of being here pushes my
hunger for mushrooms away and lessens the temptation to sample.
sun kisses the mountaintop in the west signalling the end of the day, so we
look for a nook-von-crannie
leading away from the highway. Remy passes me and turns off a logging road
where we stop for the night at an abandoned quarry. We park ten metres apart,
far enough to be out of range from one another. In no time Remy is eating stew
he heats from a can while I eat bread and peanut butter and water. The dogs
play in the wide-open quarry.
"Do you have
a name for your doggie yet?" he asks.
"I think I'm
going to name her Inge."
"As in Inge Hammerstrom?"
the one." For some reason it feels appropriate as a name for my dog.
good that it ends with a vowel," he says. "That's what you want."
I scoop out a
large amount of peanut butter and stick three big mushrooms inside. Then I put
the peanut butter-covered mushrooms into my dog's bowl. Inge comes immediately
for the food but doesn't eat it. She leaves again to play with Blue. Both of us
watch in silence.
"This may be
more difficult than I thought," I say. I put in two more peanut-covered
mushrooms in her bowl, wash up and then join Remy for a smoke.
"So how was
your road trip down to the Hopi Indian reserve? We've never really talked about
it." Here it is, the moose on the table now ready to be disembowelled. Finally
brought up. When Tom Cardinal had told him about a vision he had had that the
long-awaited Messiah would seek him out and learn from him, it planted the idea
in Remy that he might be this Messiah. He told Remy that this Messiah had to be
an identical twin, but this was before he knew that Remy was himself an
identical twin. This stirred something within Remy so he read more about the
Hopi prophecies. He discovered that the Messiah - or as the Hopi Indians called
him: the Pahana - was not a
full-blooded Indian but rather Métis who looked white on the outside but was
red on the inside. The prophecies, Remy had told me, also referred to the
Messiah as "The True White Brother." So being both an identical twin and Métis,
Remy had come to believe that he "might be the guy." He told me that the only
way to know for sure was to go to Arizona to speak with the Hopi elders. After
all, he said, they were waiting for the arrival of the Pahana. He wasn't kidding around; his solemn seriousness scared me.
I wondered if he had gone off the deep end while I had been working overseas. I
feared that he had lost touch with who he was. For me it was new territory
because Remy had always been very down to earth. Without me around to keep him
grounded and to remind him of who he was, he had recreated himself through
unchecked intellectual idiosyncrasies and had become carried away. I was
frightened for him. I felt that where I should be was with my brother before he
slipped over the edge into the abyss. I could sense this Messiah Complex had
the potential of getting out of hand. I could tell he thought that he was the Pahana and that he had a ministry to
perform through the publication of Tom Cardinal's teachings and his own ideas
of humanity and religion. His belief that he could heal people was so thorough
that it had swallowed his life. His absolute freedom of self was based on this
single premise; all else fell away in deferment to it. It enabled him to let go
of the things that hold men to the normal conventions of living. Remy believed
that his mortality was not at risk until he had finished his book. So until
then, he was the man who could only be killed by the golden bullet. Despite it
only being a possibility, Remy's belief in his destiny as the Messiah
eliminated any trace of doubt in his voice.
sceptic at heart, I suggested to Remy that the only way for him to know for
sure whether he was the Messiah was to go to the Hopi Reservation in Arizona.
At the time I didn't realize the possible ramifications of such a road trip to
Arizona. In fact I thought it would help to dispel the silly notion of being a
Messiah, and would help Remy return to a more normal life. So I sent him the
money last year to drive down to Arizona to meet with the elders, but I never
heard from him what happened.
cold," he replies. "That bearskin saved my life. Without it I could have
perished." My reflex is to brush this off as more hyperbole but I am realizing
that Remy is now more about understatement than exaggeration.
"So what did
the elders say?" I only know that he had received my money and had gone down to
have enough money to even stay at the campground down there so I was only there
for a night. It's pretty strict getting on the reservation and whatnot but I
went into their office and asked to speak to an elder after I said I was Métis
and that Tom Cardinal was my teacher. So after 1500 miles getting down there,
the woman at the office says I can speak with one of the tribal elders. The
elder was a man of few words." He is quiet for a moment as he smokes a
"So I asked
him if I was the Métis Messiah that was expected during the Seventh Stage of
mankind. I was even wearing red. He said that he was sure that I may be the Pahana but that he was not able to say if I was the long-awaited
Anointed One. But I could tell from the twinkle in his eyes and the words he
used that he was telling me that I was The
Guy. I mean he couldn't say it outright, so I took it to mean that it wasn't
a ‘no.' There wasn't much more to say. Since I couldn't stay overnight on
the reservation I was forced to make a decision so I left that night another
1500 miles back to Manitoba."
"So the elder
said that he was sure that you might be the Pahana?"
"Did you tell
him you were a twin and Metis Indian and all that stuff?"
"Yeah, but he
didn't seem that interested to be honest. My feeling was that there were many
people who came looking to be anointed but that only the True White Brother would know in his heart if he was the One or
not. So I left the Hopis with that in my head - that only The One will know the
truth. It was what was in his eye that said that which couldn't be said."
I had to think about this for a second.
"And I believe
him that he wasn't in a position to say for sure if I was The Guy or not. That's the reality of the situation. So I think
it's up to me to write the book of Grandfather's teachings in order to know for
sure whether it's me. It will be Grandfather's teachings and my own - sort of a
inconclusive, non?" I regret the
words as soon as I say them.
elder looked at me in the eye as if communicating not to me but to my spirit;
so on the way back it occurred to me that there was nothing he said to deter me
from being the Pahana. Even when I
spoke to Grandfather when I returned, he also had the same reaction. It is what
the Pahana does that will determine
if He is The One. Like Jesus, he was taken for a loony until his ministry gained
momentum. It was His works that caused those stuck in the inertia of doubt to
see that He was the Messenger they had been waiting for." We both sit in the
dark thinking. There is a new and potent emotion swirling around my gut, a
perturbation that I know intuitively leads down a road I am afraid to explore.
Besides, he is a master of this slippery logic that simply cannot be dislodged.
"Well I guess
we both have books to write and things to do."
we do." It is late so we both retire to our campers for the night. I try to
push it out of my mind but to no avail. Restless in the cold, I hardly sleep.
morning when I jump down from my camper into the quarry, Remy's dog sprints
over to me, frantically wagging her tail as if she's in the middle of a run.
"Goooood doggies," I mumble at both dogs
as Blue and Inge begin to play. Not wanting to wake up Remy, I take the dogs
out for a walk down the deserted logging road. As I walk along the road and
smoke a cigarette, I can't help look for more mushrooms but I'm disappointed
when I can't find any. Eventually I turn around and begin walking back to my
camper but soon notice that Blue is still running around with a manic look in
her eyes and her tongue hanging out. When I return to the campers, Remy is
stirring. It's barely eight in the morning so it's early for him.
says, as per our custom.
reply. As the water heats up on his propane stove, I notice all the dog tracks
in the sand around the quarry.
these tracks all over the place?" I say pointing at them. "Looks like something
happened." Remy drinks his coffee pensively as he looks at all the tracks.
"Your dog was
out all night?" I ask him.
come in last night so I left her out. But look..." Remy points to the far sand
wall where there are dog prints on almost all parts of the quarry's edge. Dog
tracks are all over the sand enclave. There are also paw tracks around our rigs
in the sandpit where we're parked.
"That is weird." Just at that moment, we both
turn around and look at the empty bowl where I had left the mushrooms the night
before. It's Remy who has a double take.
"Oh no. No.
Did you-" He stops. He knows what happened but he isn't able to verbalize it.
looking pretty chipper this morning," I say. The words just float there in the
"Inge was in
your camper all night?"
"She was. She
was very quiet." Remy ignores the words. We both look again at the empty bowl.
There isn't any trace of peanut butter left at all; it has been licked clean.
mushrooms did you put in there?" he asks me, motioning towards the bowl. I want
to say only three mushrooms but no matter how hard I try I can't find it in me
to lie to Remy, even a little bit.
"Well, I put
in three mushrooms but she wouldn't eat it," I say. Remy keeps his eyes on
mushrooms were in the peanut butter Trapp?" The tone is firm. Remy watches his
dog running in circles around Inge. A manic and cockeyed canine.
"And then I
added another mushroom - or two."
is silent for a moment, drinking his coffee and finding more tracks behind my
camper. Despite the hair on his face, I can see his stiff upper lip. Blue is
jumping with glee around my dog with its tongue protruding loosely out of its
spunk in that dog of yours this morning," I add for good measure. I skip my
morning coffee and prepare for the day's journey.