Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 14, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments


Eze earrings


After an extended Christmas vacation, we’re back at school. Despite the restrictions and lockdowns in the province of Quebec, our region of Nunavik is the one exception. Nunavik is the part of Quebec’s territory that is located north of the 55th parallel. It covers a territory of approximately 507,000 square kilometers and is inhabited by some 13,000 people called Nunavimmiut, who live in fourteen villages. The very large majority of Nunavimmiut are Inuit. The language of the Inuit is Inuktitut. In Inuktitut, different word endings are used to distinguish between something, two of something and more than two of something. Therefore 1=Inuk; 2= Inuuk; 3+ =Inuit.

Covid cases in the north have been few and far between. It’s hard to put a finger on why this is so but one might surmise that the Inuit have had experience before with other pandemics and take very seriously the threat of the coronavirus. Anyone returning from travel to the south has to quarantine for two weeks. Facilities have been arranged in the community to accommodate those travelers. Teachers returning from Christmas holidays are isolating in their own apartments. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

The earrings that you see above were crafted by a very talented Inuk. His name is Eze. He is 31 years old and tells me that he has been carving soapstone and making earrings since he was 14. I am told that he is very good at what he does. The earrings in the picture have an ulu as the base. As I wrote about in a previous piece, an ulu is a knife that is traditionally used by Inuit women for all kinds of things, like skinning and cleaning animals, cutting children’s hair and cutting food. I plan to meet with Eze one of these days to learn more about him and his excellent works of art. P.S. Despite the fact that I have a tattoo (a memento of my Camino walk), I’m not planning on starting to wear earrings any time soon… but one never knows! I have done crazier things and let’s face it, at this point in my life, I’m not overly concerned about what people might think about my fashion choices.

Envy is not a word that I use often. I’m pretty lucky. I am creeping up on 70 with an assortment of aches and pains (which seem to have gone viral lately) but no serious health issues. I am doing work that I find interesting and fulfilling. I have a nice apartment and plenty of food – too much if you look at my waistline these days.

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday that had me drooling. Next week at Pingualuit National Park, there is going to be an igloo building demonstration along with ice fishing and a number of other activities. The park is about 120 kilometers southwest of our village. Apparently one of the elders will be there to lead the demonstration. The park is the site of a meteoritic crater. I am envious. I would love to be there to listen, learn and document this four- day event.

However, not all is lost. A few days ago, I was up at the airport to pick up some cargo for teachers. I ran into a local man that has an Antigonish connection. Fifty or so years ago, he was a student of a retired Antigonish educator who, along with his wife, spent many years in the north. Last year when I arrived in Kangiqsujuaq, I brought him an old black and white picture of he and two fellow students when they were teenagers. We have bumped into each other a few times over the past 15 months. He asked me if I would like to go ice fishing with him. I am eagerly waiting for the phone to ring.

I remember when I first came up here. I asked an experienced teacher from back home for some advice. “Learn more than you teach.”

The learning continues.

Have a great weekend.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 11, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments




“Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blest.

The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home; Rests and expiates in a life to come.”

An Essay on Man – Alexander Pope.

One has to dig very deep these days to find hope and optimism in the early part of 2021.Everyone I know is exasperated. The twin scourges of Covid-19 and Donald Trump seemed to reach their peaks last week with records of cases every day in nearly every country of the world combined with the President of the United States inciting his followers to riot in the seat of democracy at the Capitol building in Washington. We still have a way to go before the pandemic is contained but the roll out of the vaccine is very encouraging. South of the border, one can only hope that a bright, black woman and an aging white man can bring some decency and calm to a broken country. Sadly, there is no vaccine for narcissism.

Hope springs eternal. People will keep on hoping, no matter what the odds. I still buy the odd lottery ticket!

Are you as fascinated with the sky as I am? What is out there in all that vastness? A lot of people find this time of the year quite difficult with the dearth of light. It is much more noticeable in the north where daylight hours seem mercilessly short. I go to school in the dark and come home in the dark. I am sure there are days that my students think I’m in the dark the entire day! However, the north provides some rewards. The sunrises and sunsets can be jaw dropping.

I have never studied the properties of the atmosphere, but I would love to know what it is about the north than creates an endless stream of colors early in the morning and late in the evening. Every day is a bit different and truth be told, I have stood watching many sunrises and the color scheme changes by the minute. Our village is surrounded by mountains on all sides and the sun barely makes it over the mountain tops these days. When the sun comes up, it casts a light in many directions. Some of the mountains look pink, sometimes purple, and others blue, white, orange and yellow. With the limited capacity of my iPhone, I can’t really capture a panorama view. Just as well. It could never do justice to the real thing.

I posted a few pictures on Facebook last week of one particular sunrise. Classes hadn’t begun (they begin tomorrow) but I was at the school early in the morning checking my e-mails. As I was heading home, the sun was just starting to rise. I literally stopped in my tracks. I have never seen anything quite so spectacular. The sky was on fire. I didn’t know if it was a harbinger for the end of the world or the dawn of a new civilization.

Of course, Mother Nature treats us regularly at nighttime with the northern lights which provide us with many shades of green, purple and pink. When they’re all mixed and dancing together it takes your breath away.

And on some dark, clear nights, I wander across the tundra to the large inukshuk on the outskirts of the village. I stand at attention and gaze up at the billions of stars, staring into eternity. Makes one feel small and insignificant.

Truly, one of the great rewards for those who live and work in the north is the raw beauty that we get to experience nearly every day.

Hope springs eternal.

We just have to hang in a bit longer. It is sad to say but attending a wake or funeral without restrictions is something that we might cherish in the not too distant future. Won’t it be wonderful just to do regular stuff and not have to worry? We are communal people and need to see, feel, and touch one another.

There will surely be some grand get togethers like lobster boils, barbeques, weddings, festivals, concerts dances, and yes, even bingo games. We will be able to hug our aging parents in nursing homes and (blush) even kiss someone special.

The ‘soul has been uneasy and confined from home’ but it won’t last forever. The shackles will be removed, and we will once again experience the beautiful and simple pleasures of life.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the pandemic is the re-discovery of gratitude.

Have a great week.

P.S. There will be no reincarnation of Leonardo, the well-known artist. I have progressed from stick men but only marginally!


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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 7, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Wakem Bay at sunset – My first drawing . Be kind!


“Fools rush in, where wise men never go.”

I’m sure that on Monday, my first post of the New Year, you were breathlessly awaiting Len’s New Year’s Resolutions. I’m sorry to have disappointed you when there was nary a mention of such trivial matters in my 2300 -word post. Truth be told, I’m not a particularly big fan of making idle promises in January or any other month of the year for that matter. Yes. It’s a good time to hit the reset button and reflect on the past and the future. We all have hopes and dreams. I think we are unified in one thing in 2021 – the end of the pandemic.

Today’s post is about hope and despair… and possibly hopelessness. You see, I have decided in my 70th year on this planet to take up art.

Somewhere Sister St. Roderick is rolling her eyes. You see, this patient sister of the Congregation of Notre Dame tried to teach me art at Morrison School. She would have had as much success if she had tried to teach me Mandarin or Sanskrit. Most of you know of the game Pictionary where you have to draw something based on a clue. Anytime I played, my artistic renditions drew gales of laughter. There are only so many ways of drawing a stick man.

So why in god’s name am I thinking of learning how to draw at this ripe age?

Why not.

As with so many things in my life, I stumble upon something and decide on the spot that I want to give it a go. It’s in my DNA. My mom was like this so she can either take credit or blame.

I posted a picture the other day on Facebook (“Len, you post a picture almost everyday.”). I went on a skidoo ride across Wakem Bay with some colleagues. We stopped at one point as the sun was setting. The scenery was jaw dropping and the atmosphere was very serene. I received many comments about the photo and wondered if I could ever draw this image. The next thing you know, I was messaging our art teacher, Zina who agreed to try to do the impossible – teach me how to draw.

The combination of Zina and St. Jude just might give me a fighting chance. My first effort is shown above.

Speaking of drawing, I continue to draw inspiration from my late brother, Tom. He was like mom in many ways. He was tenacious with boundless energy and enthusiasm. There is NOTHING that he wouldn’t try. In the last few years of his cancer shortened life, he decided that he wanted to learn to play piano. He took weekly lessons, and I had the pleasure of hearing him play a few pieces at his home in Victoria. As the cancer progressed, playing with both hands became impossible so he played with one.

I do believe that learning something new in our senior years is good for the mind, the heart, and the soul. I do not expect to become a good artist. As a matter of fact, even if there is an anti-aging pill, I don’t expect to be competent ever. But who cares? Exactly. No one! But that’s not the point of this. I believe that our brain needs to be constantly challenged. Of course, I can hear many of you chuckling as you know that my brain has been challenged for a very long time!

So, here is my New Year’s challenge. Try something new. You might find a new passion. It is either that or continue drawing stick men.

And now, for something completely different.

I am trying to control my outrage and nausea. Democracy is under threat from all sides. I won’t dare touch the situation south of the border. A great empire is in a free fall.

My wrath is squarely directed at some politicians in our country who have created another pandemic, one rooted in mistrust and cynicism. Sadly, this is not a new virus. Entitlement has been around for a long time. One former politician famously stated, “I am entitled to my entitlements.” The unmitigated gall of some politicians to flagrantly abuse their power by opting out of all the health guidelines imposed on us ordinary Joes by travelling abroad while those of us at home can’t properly bury our dead or celebrate the birth of a new grandchild… or visit our ailing and despairing family member in a nursing home. The hubris of these individuals is gob smacking. They only apologize when they get caught which is as sickening as their transgressions.

Thank god we have the media to ferret out these rats.

Sorry. But I just had to get this off my chest.

Have a great weekend.

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Highland Hearing Clinic

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