Thursday Tidbits

Posted on September 17, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments



Ahem. Snow on the mountains and snow in the forecast today



Warning. Senior’s rant.

I would like to think that I’ve mellowed with age. Nothing much bothers me anymore. I often think of that wonderful book by the American author and psychotherapist, Richard Carlson who penned that wonderful and insightful book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff” published in 1997. We humans can get ourselves in a lather over the most ridiculous things but when we look at these things in the clear light of day, we often give our heads a shake wondering why we expended so much negative energy on such mundane things.

This is all well and good. Yes, I’ve mellowed and rarely lose my cool until someone royally pisses me off.

I don’t mean to make light of concussions. I’ve had two. In sports jargon, a severe blow to the head is often referred to as “getting your bell rung”. My first concussion happened in elementary school when a big lad fell on me while sliding down an icy hill outside of Morrison School. The second happened when I was playing junior hockey when an opponent laid a two hander with his stick on my head sending me to the hospital overnight. Some have suggested that I never quite recovered.

Upon my arrival in Kangiqsujuaq, I decided to get a landline. Generations of children have never seen one let alone know what they are. Why would I possibly want to get an old- fashioned phone in this digital smart phone age?

Safety. In an emergency, I need to be able to get in touch with someone without having to rely on the internet.

You see, there is no cell phone service here in the north. Yes. We have internet but it is not always reliable. Case in point. I received a bill from my internet provider. Even though I have been dutifully making payments for almost a year with the credit card information they have on file, for some unknown reason, the last payment didn’t get processed. They asked me to go online to update my credit card information even though it is the same. Stay with me here. The problem is that I haven’t been able to contact my internet provider because the connection has been so poor lately. Would you consider this just a tad ironic?

Our community is served by one company when it comes to phone service. I won’t begin to tell you the hoops I had to go through to get my phone hooked up. The word I’m thinking about is hell which oddly enough rhymes quite nicely with the service provider. I didn’t expect this to be easy. I wasn’t disappointed. However, it has been worth the wait as I can now place and receive calls without all of the annoying interruptions and delays I experience when trying to chat on Messenger, Facetime or WhatsApp.

One month after the installation, I received my first bill with the instructions to go online and register. I tried unsuccessfully on at least four occasions, twice at home and twice at school where the internet connection is marginally better than home… except when it’s not.

Last weekend, I decided that I would give this my full attention and take whatever time was necessary to get this matter resolved. The last thing I wanted was to have my phone cut off. Having had success in the past with “live chats”, I contacted the phone company and started down the long torturous path to hell. I was gingerly passed from one agent to the next as they tried desperately to find my account. I reckoned that the phone number was a dead giveaway. (Don’t get sarcastic, Len). The last trouble shooter, the lovely person who guaranteed me that they were the ultimate problem solver, suggested that we try and resolve the issue “by phone”! Why is Alanis Morissette ringing in my ear?

The agent called me at home on the phone line that this company provided using my phone number. As my temperature rose ever so slightly, I mentioned that all I wanted to do was give them money. By the time the call ended, we had made no progress. They could not find me anywhere in the system. And then came the right hook to my temple. “Would you like to give me your credit card information to make the payment once we find your account?” I respectfully declined. I know you can feel the sarcasm oozing out of everyone of my pores. I told the agent that I would try to resolve this again after I took a leisurely 36km walk to blow off some steam.

I lay on my couch. It almost felt like I had suffered a concussion. The phone rang. “Mr. MacDonald, we understand that you would like to have your phone disconnected. ”Luckily, I had taken an online course during the pandemic on ‘trauma informed mindfulness’. I took a few deep breaths and implored the agent not to disconnect my phone.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again. I was relieved because at least I knew that my phone still worked. It was my service provider wondering if I would be interested in doing a customer satisfaction survey. I am NOT joking. I politely declined.

I was clearly rattled. I had just spent the better part of two hours of my life in a state of frustration and bewilderment. I desperately need a coffee and some food. I opened a fresh bag of coffee. The smell was divine. As I spun around to grab some food from the fridge, I knocked the bag on the floor. I will confess. I used the F word. After sweeping up the contents and returning them to the bag ( Don’t come over for coffee – grounds have taken on a new meaning), I put a plate of stir fry in the microwave. I sat at the kitchen table and flicked on the television. (I have a story about my cable bill too but I have restricted myself to 1500 words on this piece).

Just as I was putting the first mouthful of rice in my mouth, an ad came on the T.V. I won’t insult your intelligence, but it was a well- known phone service provider. My fork missed my mouth by about a half an inch and several beautiful morsels of rice rolled effortlessly onto the floor. There were still remnants of coffee grounds in the dustpan as I swept up my second mess in less than five minutes.

Stay tuned for the next installment. Or better still, give me a call. If you get a recorded message that the number is no longer in service, you’ll know I didn’t get my problem resolved.

It’s never pleasant having your “bell” rung.

“Isn’t that the way they say things go,

But let’s forget all that,

And give me the number if you can find it (!)

So I can call them just to tell them I’m fine.”

Operator. Jim Croce

Have a great weekend.



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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 14, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet


Caribou meat in the community freezer


Do you know where your food comes from?

Some of you were raised on farms and know exactly how things get from the land to the shelves of the grocery store. Many of you are avid gardeners and grow beautiful crops right in your own back yards. My guess is that most of us in this part of the world scarcely give this a thought about where our food comes from as we wander aimlessly up and down the aisles (in the right Covid established direction!) of one of the large grocery chain stores.

The notion of food security seems to be a hot topic these days but let’s face it, in many parts of the world, having access to nutritious and affordable food is not a given. Truth be told, this is a serious issue in our own country and even in our own back yards if we care to look closely enough.

So, what is food security? I checked that unimpeachable source, Wikipedia and found this definition: “Food security is a measure of the availability of food and individual’s ability to access it. Affordability is only one factor.”

I don’t mean to be cheeky (yes I do) but for me food security is a piece of coconut cream pie, or a half dozen, fresh out of the oven, chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of chilled milk. And speaking of pie, today’s existential question is this: Are there the same number of calories in a piece of day-old pie compared to a fresh piece? I don’t wish to make light of such a serious subject, but I’m always prepared to share my weaknesses, which is painfully obvious to my regular readers.

There’s also a lot of talk about sustainability these days. According to one source (US EPA), “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability, is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”

A few days ago, I was walking through the village. A truck pulled up. I knew the driver and he knew me well enough not to offer me a drive. A few of the local people have started calling me “the walker”. This is the same man who graciously gave me caribou meat on a few occasions. I thanked him profusely for his most recent offering. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was standing inside the community freezer.

Since the day I arrived here almost a year ago, I have been intrigued with the community freezer. It is situated close to the tundra and to Wakem Bay, just a handful of paces from my front door. I knew that it was a storage facility for food from the land and sea. Some of you might shudder at the picture at the bottom of this page. This is the place that arctic char, caribou, beluga, snow geese and other species are taken and processed. You can see the hides of caribou which will be used to make things and for warm bedding. Nothing is wasted. The hunters are paid for their efforts and then all of this food becomes public domain, stored in freezers in this same building. Yes. Anyone in the village referred to as a “beneficiary” can come to the freezer at any time and take what they need. The door is never locked. I repeat, they take what they need and not what they want.

Teachers from the south are not beneficiaries yet last spring when the pandemic began, the mayor of the village offered access to food from the freezer to us.

The Inuit have been practicing sustainability and food security for centuries, long before these words became hashtags.

Those of us from the south have much to learn from our indigenous people.

“Maybe I’ll be there to shake your hand,

Maybe I’ll be there to share the land.”

Share the Land. The Guess Who

Have a great week.


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My Brother’s Keeper

Posted on September 12, 2020 under Storytelling with one comment

Road warriors


“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9

Death, that most unwelcome of guests will pay all of us a visit someday. Every minute of every day, somewhere on the earth, someone takes their last breath. Those of us left behind grieve and mourn. The pain dulls with time, but it never leaves entirely.

One year ago today, our youngest brother, Thomas Patrick MacDonald took his leave. He had suffered the scourge of cancer for the better part of 10 years and finally succumbed. Even though he knew, and we knew that his time was up, his passing left all of us bereft. I know many of my readers have had family members pass in the last 12 months. Every time you post a picture of your mother, your son, or your grandmother, the pain is visceral. It leaps off the page.

I have thought of Tom nearly every day since he died, during one of the most challenging years of my life.

In this space, I have documented Tom’s memorable life. He was a pretty remarkable guy who had boundless energy to go along with countless spreadsheets! We often referred to him as ‘Tornado Tom’ as he always seemed to have somewhere to go and something to do. More often than not, he was doing something for someone else. He was an experienced marathon runner and coached many other people to do their first marathon. He volunteered at the cancer clinic in Victoria with boundless optimism and empathy while he was dealing with his own suffering.

My brother Gerard also possesses the maniacal marathoner’s DNA. It must be a family trait as I too ran a few in my day but nothing compared to these two. I’ve lost count but I think they each ran more than 20 marathons, several of them together. Misery loves company! Of course, I mean the pain of running 26.2 miles (42km) and not sibling rivalry!

Today they will run together again.

Gerard was supposed to have collected his Boston Marathon finisher’s medal earlier this year, but Covid-19 put an end to that. Gerard is a doctor and, while disappointed that the race would not proceed as scheduled, he realized that there were bigger fish to fry with a global pandemic.

To honor Tom’s memory, Gerard is running a marathon today in Amherst, Nova Scotia. By the time some of you crawl out of bed, he will be well into his run. The P.D.’s are early birds and he’ll hit the pavement at 6:00 a.m. This is not an official marathon. Many of his friends from the Amherst Striders running group will accompany him for parts of the run. Family and friends will be there to cheer him along the way.

While there is apt to be a bit of heaviness in his heart, Tom’s indomitable spirit will lift him up when his energy is flagging as it certainly will. It is often said that there are two halves to a marathon: the first 30 km and the last 12km. I would never classify the first 30km as “easy” but it’s not too bad. Right around this time, weird things start happening to your body. I don’t have the scientific explanation of what happens when your body slowly falls apart! The last 12km can be quite excruciating.

I mentioned that Gerard and Tom would be running together one last time. Yes, Gerard will be carrying some of Tom’s ashes.

And if Gerard dares to falter, there is one other person who will be there to give him a swift kick in the arse. Mother T., our late mom, who watched Gerard run his first Boston Marathon in 2001, will join her boys on the run. I will be there in spirit.

“Long may you run”, Gerard.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

He is my brother’s keeper.

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