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Becoming men: Aleutian whale hunting, halibut fishing, sea kayaking, and my anima

excerpted from IN AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas



             Little boats and big fish are a dangerous mix. I recall being up in Alaska, where I was working as a kayak guide one summer, and standing in the museum in Sitka, in absolute awe as I inspected a traditional Aleutian seal-skin, bone, and driftwood kayak (there are no trees on the Aleutians, so the builder’s task was further burdened by being dependent on another world’s jetsam), and a sealskin dry-suit, and I could hardly imagine an intrepid Inuit hunter out on the tempestuous sea in this precarious contraption, harpoon in hand, waiting bravely for the whale to resurface. Good God, a whale! Taken in this jury-rigged mish-mash of found objects and imponderable rigging. I was set aback, for I realized right then that all true heroism had long ago vanished from our world.

                There is not a man alive on this earth today who could take a whale with a harpoon from a kayak. Not one. Compared to the hunters of old, we are all faint-hearted, lily-livered, pitiful excuses for the gender. All the men are gone from earth and only little boys with toy guns and wet dreams remain.

                I was satisfied with that thought as I sat eating the hotdog which I had stealthily hunted down at the local supermarket in Sitka, and began recalling the time when I was out on the sea, kayaking on that first visit to the Charlottes with Sandy and our buddy, and impressively experienced paddler, Greg- whom I would consider to be one of the few men left on earth if it weren’t the case that none remained- and Greg also hooked into a halibut- which, in a kayak, is a different story altogether than in a zodiac, deflated pontoons aside- and I recall the almost manly and yet idiotic efforts we engaged in to bring the catch aboard, rafting our kayaks up together for stability, and taking turns reeling in the squirming monster. We had decided to land the beast while out at sea, despite Sandy’s continuous admonition that we were fools, and the best and only possibility was to paddle to shore, towing the monster along, and then land it while standing on good ol’ terra firma, where the odds would be more even. Sandy, my anima in the flesh, was right of course. And yet I was not ready then to accept the voice of my anima, my female side, for I had not the humility necessary to be whole and not just male, nor, I realize now, was I even prepared back then to accept …the earth.

                I see now how symbolic this whole event was, displaying perfectly the polarized state of my soul at that time; I and my male buddy, Greg, a guide, happily tangling with a creature from the depths of the unconscious- a duel in which we were certain to lose, though I could not see it. And there was the one voice of wisdom amongst us- a young, beautiful blond woman, my anima, living on the other side of pride, on the earth- who was able to see the solution which our bravado precluded us from seeing. No, we were men. We would not paddle to the safety of shore, we would hover above the depths and never accept that a man needed more.

                 So while I was draped over Greg’s kayak and holding the fishing pole and line, he, with his strong and almost manly arms, gaffed the beast and lifted it out of the water, which was a feat in its own right, and the halibut began to put up a fuss like the devil was inside of it or something, and Greg was holding it aloft, somehow, as if in the reverse iron-cross, and his body was gyrating and being whipped about in the sympathetic vibrations of our whale’s mania, and I was desperately trying to keep us from capsizing, and the fish flew into a more spectacular tantrum, and Greg continued holding on I don’t know how, and neither of us knew at that moment why we had ever attempted such idiocy nor how we were going to get out of the mess, for the fish was now hooked twice, once with the line and once with the gaff, and it was in an insane mass of fury and force and certain to sink us both because we had never considered the voice of reason within or without us, and instead we had tried to be men in a world of spoilt brats, because we had heard about men but never met any, and because we had heard about heroism but never seen any, and damnit someone had to be a man and it was our chance, only we were going to have to die to receive the medal, or so it seemed, until Poseidon stepped in again and pardoned our puerile foolishness and the halibut thrashed its way off of the gaff and snapped the fishing line and in a moment the epileptic fit was over and all was calm.

                We were living boys in a world without men, and we had lost our little whale and our chance at heroism, and though all we had left was laughter, boy did we howl. It was the thankful howl of two spineless white guys in kayaks loaded with bread and cheese, salami, crackers, peanut butter, German mustard, pasta, vegetables, and wine. Two anti-heroes on the slow and darkened path to wholeness, who did not have to paddle back to their village as failures, as gelded stallions.

                Not us. Luckily enough we had come from the tribe of comfort and plenty, and we had only to paddle back to camp, eat and drink like emperors, forget that we had lost the battle because we had chosen it, and forget that we could have raised up the animal from the depths, from the unconscious, had one of us- namely myself- been humble and strong enough to believe in the woman within and without him, the woman who sought only to make things right by luring him down from the heights of disillusion, from the distance of mind, from the separation of the male spirit, and thus leading him back …to earth.


excerpted from:


author Jack Haas, west coast British Columbia wilderness, ocean forest island



IN AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey

by Jack Haas


















spirit and flesh, mystical books, visionary art, fine art photography

Mystical books, visionary art, and fine art photography by Jack Haas




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