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Voltaire's Candide, Stika Alaska, sea kayaking, humpback whales, and lousy American beer

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




                 Another glaring synchronicity based on animals which comes to mind occurred while I was working in Sitka, Alaska, and a few of us had gathered on a buddy’s sailboat for a couple of drinks, and we were passing a bottle of the German bitter, Jaegermeister, around which has on its label the picture of an eight or ten-point buck, with a glowing crucifix between its antlers. Amongst our party was a man who was at that time writing a book about deer hunting, and his keen interest in the emblem brought about a lengthy conversation regarding its possible meaning. We tossed about all sorts of hypotheses and then forgot about it and went on with the evening. The next day, however, I was rummaging through a thrift shop in the town and a certain book on one of the used-book shelves seemed to grab my attention for no particular reason. I picked it up and it was all about the sacred link between man and animals, and not only that, it contained an exact description of the insignia which we had been discussing the night before: it related the story of St. Eustacius, and how one day while out hunting he had chased, on horseback, after a large buck, and when he had finally gotten within his arrow’s reach, the buck turned around and between its antlers there shone a glowing cross. At that moment St. Eustacius was converted and spent the rest of his fairly trying days spreading the good news, only to wind up being roasted in a hollow iron bull by the heathens of the day, though when they opened it up afterward he was found with a bewildering smile on his face.

                This episode carried other synchronicities as well, for, not long after finding that book an acquaintance of mine suggested that I read Voltaire’s Candide, which I did, and which described incredibly similar events to the story of St. Eustacius that had transpired in Candide’s life, and so I figured the universe was trying to tell me something, which it was, because perhaps a year later another friend of mine wrote me a letter and, for no specific reason, chose to address it to St. Eustace. I understood then the message I was receiving at that time, but I will leave it to the curiosity of the reader to consider or disregard what that message was, however they choose.

Occasionally the messages from the wilds are neither symbolic nor abstract. Sometimes the warm-blooded beasts simply want to send out some love.

                For me this type of event came about on a paddling trip I undertook with a very brilliant young man who had camped beside me at our illegal bush-camp in the forest, just behind the town of Sitka. He had never sea-kayaked before but decided to come along anyway. And so we each took a few days off of work and paddled across a channel of water to a nearby island with a large, extinct volcano on it. There we set up camp, slept the night, and the next morning paddled out to another island renowned for its puffin and auklet colonies.

                The puffin is a beautiful and laughable creature, appearing like the clown of the Pacific, and we spent the whole day circumnavigating the outer island, bird watching, and then paddled back to the camp we had set up the evening before. The next morning when we awoke the weather was foul, with a strong southerly crossing over large swells from the west, making for a chaotic blender of spray, swell, and chop, which was a messy soup for small craft. Normally I would have waited it out and hoped for better weather the next day, but my buddy had a flight to catch and we had to get back. Always there is a good reason for making a bad decision.

                We got halfway across the strait we were crossing to return to Sitka and the weather system picked up and shifted to an easterly, and suddenly we were paddling into a strong headwind, making no headway, and being lashed from the side by blowing swell and chop. My companion’s lower back had seized up and he was having a very tough go of it. I was beginning to worry that we had screwed-up badly, because I knew that in these conditions if he tipped over I’d have a hell of a time rescuing him, and if I went over I’d most likely fail at the Eskimo roll- a technique which I was no expert at even in calm and tepid water, let alone in raging, icy seas- and he wouldn’t stand a chance of helping me. Things were looking grim. Real grim. I was trying to support him, but what could I do? We were in separate kayaks, and I had to keep my own head forward, conscious of every incoming wave, and paddle fiercely just to keep from going backward. It had become an epic, and was bound to get worse, but just as I was thinking these thoughts, and sensing that we were in true danger, a massive humpback whale surfaced right beside me, and blew out a huge cloud of spume- which, on every other occasion that I have caught an unlucky whiff of the spray, smelled as bad as the most horrid halitosis a festering, never-brushed mouth could have, with a nauseating stench that stuck to your clothes and all, but this time it was the sweet perfume of love and support- and I knew the blessed beast was saying- “Come on man, dig in brother, you can make it, I am with you!” And I let out a joyful yell of gratitude and victory, and my mate must have seen and felt the same thing because we did dig in, and did make ground, and finally crossed the channel, coming to shore soaked and exhausted, but we were alive, and we were alive perhaps only because of the visit from the whale which had spurred us on. And the lousy American beer we toasted to that living gift tasted wonderful that night.


excerpted from:


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



IN AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey

by Jack Haas



















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




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