Thursday Tidbits

Posted on December 31, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Outdoor winter games

 

“Will the circle be unbroken,

By and by, Lord by and by.”

I can answer that one.

No!

Truth be told, I had planned to mail this in, my last post of 2020. Do you know what “mailing it in” means? A refresher. I would be willing to bet, that with very few exceptions, we have all mailed it in at least once in our life. We can’t have our “A game” all the time. There are days in our working lives that we’ve shown up for work and done the absolute minimum to maintain our employment. We breathed in oxygen, we went through the motions of work but truly, our employer would have been better off if we had just stayed at home.

After 2 posts a week, every Monday and Thursday for the past 10 years (plus numerous tributes and other assorted detritus) -1179 posts in all, I was going to take New Year’s Eve off and just mail it in, wishing you a happy New Year, and nothing more.

That is until I received a message that there were Inuit games out on the lake on Tuesday. It’s about a 25- minute walk from my place to the first in a series of lakes eventually connecting to Ungava Bay. I walked through town and then jumped on the skidoo trail running beside the frozen brook that bisects the village. Off in the distance I could see a large crowd along with many skidoos, Hondas (all 4-wheelers up here are called Hondas), hamutiqs (sleds) and trucks.

It was a cold morning but not bitterly cold and there was no wind. It was an ideal day for outdoor games.

A game was in progress when I arrived. Many students came by to say hello and several of them offered hugs which I cheerfully accepted. I was literally thrust into the large circle that had formed to play the game. In the middle of the circle was a huge block of wood and a hand saw. The person running the game also occupied the inner circle – a moderator and referee of sorts. I did not know it at the time, but these games are taken quite seriously and there are significant cash prizes for the winners.

Several die (dice) were placed equidistant around the circle. The moderator would then choose a number between 1-6. All of the die would be rolled and continuously passed around the circle. Anyone who rolled the correct number on the dice would get to run to the middle and start sawing through the block of wood only to be replaced hastily by the next person who had rolled the correct number. The die  flew around the circle. Once it landed in your hands, you had a fraction of a second before passing it along to the next participant.

I am never a reluctant participant but on this day, I was content to be a spectator. Both my knee and my back were killing me and I was wearing my Michelin man outfit which made bending awkward and difficult. The first time the dice landed at my feet, it took me several seconds to actually get down to ground level to pick it up. I received a few stares bordering on glares. I wasn’t playing fast enough. I’m a quick study so I decided to get down on my knees like most of the other contestants. Truthfully, I should have been awarded a prize on the spot for this feat of dexterity. The next time you’re chatting with the Michelin man, ask him what it’s like to try and get down on his knees.

The further the saw bit into the block of wood, the more the excitement level rose. The die were literally flying around the circle and people with the right number were frantically running to the block of wood hoping to be the one to deliver the last saw cut entitling them to the winnings. I could see why there was so much of a buzz. The prize was $300.

Now, picking up a dice with seal skin gloves on is next to impossible. No, it is impossible so like everyone else, I removed mine. A chill went through my bony fingers. It was easy to discern that a winner would be crowned any second as the hand saw neared the bottom of the block of wood.

And wouldn’t ya know it. I rolled a 3 which was the golden number at that moment. “Run, Len, run”. I felt like Forrest Gump. Not really. It took me several seconds to get back into a standing position. In retrospect, I probably could have gotten there just as fast if I had just crawled.

There is a certain etiquette to the game that escaped me until I became an active participant. When you get to the wood, you’re supposed to say “My turn”. I didn’t realize this as several other people with winning numbers stampeded towards me. I grabbed the saw from the previous participant. I looked down and could see that one more pull on the saw would yield me $300. My joy was short lived as I was bowled over by at least two people and landed on my arse, much to the amusement of half the population of Kangiqsujuaq. I sheepishly waddled back to my spot in the circle.

A song ran through my head.

“The First Cut is the Deepest”

The last cut is the richest!

Wishing all of my long-suffering readers a Happy New Years.

P.S. I decided to take the airport road back home as the walking would be much easier. I was offered a ride on a ‘Honda’ by a woman and her daughter. Rarely do I accept a ride preferring to walk. After the failed rugby scrum at the wood block, I was only too happy to accept. I rode side saddle all the way down to the school holding on for dear life. The road through town is ice covered all the time. Salt would be useless up here. It’s probably my imagination but I find everyone drives very fast up here. My driver was no exception. I was well chilled and sore by the time I got home but I am so glad that I had experienced Inuit winter games.

P.P.S. The circle is no accident among indigenous people.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on December 28, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

 

Gustav and Len – Storm Chasers

 

You probably remember as a child, returning to school after summer holidays. One of the first things most teachers asked was to write a short essay on how you spent your vacation. Of course, summers were endless back then and time drifted along like a lazy river. These days, it seems like that same river is a torrent and seasons come and go with such rapidity that it feels like whiplash.

I am sure you are just dying to know how I spent my first Christmas in the north. That would be about as interesting as hearing someone tell you about their exotic vacation or worse, showing you their photos, filling you with a combination of envy and disdain.

“Whoa, Len. Easy big fella. Just tell us what you did. If we don’t care to read your post, we can watch the World Junior hockey championship or get the latest coronavirus statistics.”

You know I’m just toying with you. I have nothing to write about which is fairly normal so I will bore you with the events of recent days.

Overall, Christmas in the north has been fantastic. It started with the receipt of many Christmas cards and some gifts from family and friends. My students’ pen pals came through in a big way as well. Thank you so much. I had numerous Zoom calls and phone conversations with friends. It’s hard to feel lonely or homesick when you’re this connected.

I’m hoping that my school doesn’t have hidden cameras. I’m over there every day trying to get a good internet connection to check my e-mail, watch videos that people send me and do some online banking. On Christmas Day morning, I meandered over to the school at 8:00 a.m. to chat with my siblings who were sitting in the cottage at Bayfield basking in 13-degree temperatures. On Christmas Eve, seven colleagues plus your truly, got together for a potluck dinner. It was fantastic and I ended staying up way past my bedtime. I didn’t have the energy on Christmas morning to get dressed so I walked to the school in my pajamas. Now, the school is only 30 seconds from my apartment, so I wasn’t too worried about getting stopped by the fashion police.

Speaking of videos, I was thrilled to watch the virtual performance by the St. James United Church choir. It was fabulous and certainly one of the musical highlights of my Christmas. I was also proud of my children for their video recording (from coast to coast) of Silent Night.

Oh yes, at the staff potluck dinner, I played tunes for a solid two hours after the meal. There were reports of indigestion the next day! I trotted out all of the usual Christmas favourites, but we rapidly moved into Great Big Sea, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young. You get the picture.

We all know that Christmas, while being a wonderful family time, is also a bit of a rat race. From most accounts, Covid changed a lot of traditions which saddened people, but it also created new ones. Christmas can be exhausting with all of the commitments, travel, expectations etc. I think many people, including yours truly, found this Christmas quite relaxing. Mind you, if you have young children, there is no way to escape the pandemonium and exhaustion.

My Christmas holidays have been most enjoyable. I made a commitment to write 1000 words every day for my 7th book. I am happy to report that I have the first 20,000 words penned. My days have been filled with walks, meals and movies with fellow teachers. And a lot of chocolate! All of it is unplanned and unscripted.

You may be wondering about the Christmas Dinner. We had to reschedule it because of a wicked storm on Boxing Day. If the weather cooperates, we will cook the turkeys today and prepare and deliver the meals tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it went. Thanks to the many donors who contributed $3,200 to make this possible.

Yes, this was a Christmas to remember. It’s hard to pick out a highlight but I would have to say that the tiny, hand made Christmas card I received from one of my most challenging students, left me with a lump in my throat.

I was touched by all the messages I received from you, my faithful (and terribly misguided!) readers. Your support and encouragement is greatly appreciated.

One more post left before New Year’s.

Take care and stay well.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on December 24, 2020 under Storytelling with 4 comments

Christmas stalking just took on a whole new meaning!

I think the polar bear is interested in my presence (presents)

(Thanks to Pete MacDonald for braving the elements and staring down this huge bear to take this amazing picture!)

I am filled with gratitude. This will be a Christmas unlike any other for all of us. We so desperately want to be together and to experience family, friends and old traditions. Sadly, this won’t be possible for most of us because the pandemic has changed so many things in 2020.

I think many of you would agree that Covid-19 has upset the apple cart but for many of us who haven’t been directly affected health wise, it has been little more than an inconvenience to our normal way of life.

However, this has deeply affected people in so many ways. Our seniors in care facilities have suffered tremendously. Despite the heroic efforts of nursing home staffs, not being able to see family and loved ones has been awful. People with mental health issues have also suffered terribly.

Health care workers and those assisting our most vulnerable populations in care facilities are heroes. They have put themselves in harm’s way every single day for months on end. We owe these people a huge debt of gratitude.

Ditto for all of those other essential workers who are mostly ignored by society until it’s crunch time. They have proven their true value when they were needed most.

I am truly grateful to my family and friends for continuing to be a part of my latest adventure. I must admit that I never feel lonely or homesick because a day rarely goes by that I don’t hear from somebody.

I am especially thankful to all of you who continue to read my posts. Today is number 1,1178. Your dedication and support is so appreciated.

I am most grateful for my good health. With good health, anything is possible. So far, so good but I take nothing for granted.

We are not out of the woods yet with the pandemic. We all know this. For me, I have adopted my marathon runner mentality. A marathon is a test of physical and mental endurance. I think my fellow runners would acknowledge that the mental part is the toughest. You can’t look too far ahead. Thinking about the finish line too early in the race is a recipe for disaster.

We’re well into the coronavirus marathon and yes, with a vaccine, the finish line is closer than it was a few weeks ago. But we still have some more miles to put on before we can return to any semblance of normalcy. Rather than wish my life away, I have decided to focus on the short term… the next mile. There’s a lot of living to be done between now and the end of the pandemic. I don’t plan to waste this precious time pleading for it to end.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Best wishes.

Len

 

 

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