I drove yesterday. 11.5 hours door to door. My cousin’s daughter, Elise, read and slept and watched movies on her iPod and I listened to a book CD, John Valliant’s, “The Tiger. A true story of Vengeance and Survival.”
I was engrossed. Intrigued. Fascinated by Valliant’s account of the true events that happened in December 1997 in Russia’s Far East. I didn’t start listening until Kamploops (about 8 hours from Calgary) and in my listening the kilometers sped by — but I’m not quite three-quarters of the way through! I need another road trip to finish it.
In, The Tiger, I am reminded of the delicate balance of our home, planet earth. I am reminded of the relationship we all have with nature, with the animals who share our human path, and our fellow humans who walk beside us.
Elise and I stopped several times, to get coffee, a bite to eat, stretch our legs, washroom breaks. We chatted briefly in between her changing CDs for me, her sleeping, her movies. It was fun! And restful and relaxing.
The reason for the book CD is simple — it keeps me awake and makes the miles disappear and it is the Year of the Tiger! Also — because of the vastness and remoteness of segments of the drive, and because the mountains interfere, radio reception is intermittent. (cell service is spotty too.)
Which is what made this particular book/read/reading so interesting — I was travelling through similar country to Russia’s Far East — perhaps not as remote and impoverished, but in parts, definitely as densely forested — it would be easy to lose oneself, or another in the forest. Had we gone north and not due west, we would have found ourselves in almost the identical terrain — which is why Valliant’s question — why didn’t the Amur Tiger (Siberian Tiger) cross to North America, all the more interesting. Why didn’t it?
No one knows. These are giant beasts who love to swim — there are even accounts of fishermen in canoes being attacked by tigers while fishing.
More than just the tale of a tiger seeking revenge by killing a human(s) who wronged him, this book is a journey through time — Valliant shares the history of the region, from before the Czar’s to Stalin to current times where those who scrabble to survive in the region resort to poaching in order to get by. He also tells stories of tigers, and lions and leopards that are riveting and fascinating. Like Jim West who fought off a grizzly while out hiking near his home in the interior of BC — no one believed he could defend himself, and his dogs as he did. But he did.
Valiant shares stories of the great beasts of our world, and throughout, we learn how our ‘progress’ is making their survival all the more challenging.
And that is the tragedy of this story. The Amur Tiger is being stalked. By humans seeking trophies and the mystical qualities the blood and bone and fur and meat and organs of this legendary beast are said to hold.
We are killing off one of nature’s beasts and in the killing, we are shifting the natural balance of our world.
I didn’t know much about the Amur Tiger — other than to call it the Siberian Tiger and to be fascinated by a tiger that lived in an area where snow covers the forest ground in the winter.
In listening to John Valliant read his book, I am wiser, and sadder. We do horrible things to our fellow inhabitants of planet earth.
To make a difference we must create peace in our hearts. With peaceful hearts we are capable of creating peace in our world.
It was a good drive yesterday. Long. But good.
I learned a great deal, spent time with a delightful young girl and travelled through some of the most beautiful country imaginable. And in the drive, I was made different by a story of a gripping tale of man and beast and the wisdom of nature.
It was a good day.