Outside of the library last week, whenever I looked out the windows onto the beach, I would see a group of ravens crowding around a white lump. On the weekend I went out to investigate, and found a dead seal, mostly intact, except for its head and bottom flippers. I'm not sure what happened to this guy, since I'm pretty sure hunters here are pretty good about using the whole seal, especially the meat and skin of the body. Maybe it died of natural causes. It was still pretty sad to see this particular seal washed up on the beach.
I thought of this seal yesterday, when I tried on a pair of sealskin mitts which still smelled like the sea. I realized that my friend lying on the beach wouldn't even have the dignity of the job of keeping someone's hands toasty warm.
Inuit hunters used to sprinkle snow into the mouth of seals they had recently killed, believing that it would ensure the spirit of the seal would not go thirsty. I'm told they don't really do that any more, which I think is a shame.
But maybe that's just because I'm a qallunaat.