Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 18, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments


Oh, Lord, for a hot tub…


“My body’s aching and my time is at hand,

And I won’t make it any other way.”

Fire and Rain. James Taylor

When one is completely baffled for a conversation starter, he/she can always fall back on the weather and health.

So, I’ll start with the weather. I’m not about to trot out my bathing suit any time soon but the weather in the north is unseasonably warm. We are in the heart of winter up here and we have only had a handful of days when the temperature has been in the -30s. Normally, days of -30, -40 and -50 are the norm for January but so far this month most days have been in the -20 range with the odd day in the teens. Let me be clear. Those of you in the south must think that -20 is brutally cold but I can assure you that the same temperature in Montreal or Halifax feels markedly different. I have found that the cold in the Maritimes can go straight through you even when properly dressed. The problem in so many places is that the temperature whipsaws and one is never sure what to wear. Up here, it is winter. Most days are sunny and cold. If you’re dressed properly (a given) you rarely feel cold.

If you have any doubts about global warming, just ask the Inuit hunters. Freeze ups are later and shorter, affecting the hunting season.

I received a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. Under normal circumstances, I can finish a big puzzle in a reasonable amount of time. This Christmas was not normal. I couldn’t go back home to Nova Scotia so with fewer distractions and a vacation spanning three weeks, one would think that I would have made a significant dent in the puzzle. Wrong. I was so busy watching and participating in Inuit outdoor games, working on my next book, going for walks, watching movies and hanging out with colleagues, that there were days on end that I didn’t touch the puzzle. And now that I’m back to school, my output is even lower. At my current pace I will be lucky to finish it by next Christmas. I guess it’s better to be busy than bored.

Do you remember when you were young and strong and fleet of foot? I’m sure you do. The problem for many of us these days is trying to remember what we did yesterday. I can see the nods of agreement. When we were young, we attacked everything with vigour and rarely suffered any consequences.

I was reminded last Friday that I no longer enjoy the vitality of youth. I decided to join our two grade six classes in a game of indoor soccer in the gym. While I was running up and down the floor for nearly 35 minutes, I felt awesome. I never considered myself a superior athlete in my youth, but I loved sports and tried most of them. I could skate endlessly on frozen ponds or play basketball for hours at “the Centre”.

Luckily, this soccer game was the last period of the day and the week. It didn’t take very long for my body to revolt. I have a bad back, a wonky knee, and a weak mind. If I had a strong mind, I would have chosen to sit on the sidelines and not play soccer with children nearly 60 years younger than me. Dripping with sweat, I walked the hundred metres to my house. Good thing it wasn’t -50 or my face would have turned to ice.

I sank into the couch and then all hell broke loose. EVERYTHING hurt. Of course, my knee and back were absolutely killing me. Ditto for my neck, my arms, my toes, my fingers. I swear to god that the hair on my head hurt. At least there were only a few strands of hair! I had a headache and my ears were ringing. My eyes hurt.

I dreamed of the hot tub at our former time share in Florida.

The couch in my apartment might be as old as me. When you sit down, it kind of takes the shape of your body. When you lie down, you simply disappear. Like a five- alarm fire, my body told me that it immediately needed help in the form of painkillers. I’m fortunate that there were no hidden cameras in my apartment to watch the pathetic display that ensued. How does one extricate themselves from a couch when their body refuses to cooperate? I rolled from side to side and tried my hardest to swing my legs over onto the floor. Of course, I hurled expletives at no one in particular. My back and my knee told me to just shut up and get the extra strength medication they needed. I wobbled and teetered and eventually got myself upright. I inched towards the medicine cabinet looking much like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I took double the recommended dosage and slathered Voltaren all over my body. Being Friday, I silently prayed that none of my colleagues would pop in for a sociable at happy hour. There was nothing happy about this that I could discern.

Note to self. In future, stick to gentler pursuits like knitting, puzzle making, pie making, and writing.

Have a great, pain free week!


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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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