Thursday Tidbits

Posted on November 7, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Magnificent Kangiqsujuaq at sunrise


“Is it safe for me to go out walking early in the morning?”

Most of you know that I’m an avid walker so it should come as no surprise that this is one of first questions I posed to my new best friend from Kangiqsujuaq, ADF.

“If you stay within the boundaries of the town, you’ll be fine,” was her reply. For a newcomer to the north, this is kind of what I expected her to say. “However, should you decide to wander beyond the town, make sure you carry a knife.” This comment immediately got my attention.

I have to admit that the last two weeks have been a gigantic blur. Early in the fall, I was trying to map out my plan for the winter months. Staying at the apartment binge watching “Suits” and perfecting the art of cream pie making weren’t going to cut it. I narrowed down my options to teaching in the north or volunteering in Tanzania. It would be hard to fathom two options more diametrically opposed.

A few weeks ago, the north came calling and I answered. In a whirlwind of activity, I was offered a teaching position in the Nunavik region of Northern Quebec. I completed mounds of paperwork, packed my personal belongings, and hopped on a plane (s) – the entire trip required five different flights.

On the flight from Montreal to Kuujjuaq, I sat with a film maker. She was traveling to Northern communities to screen her new movie, “Restless River” based on the Gabrielle Roy novel, “Wind Flower”. Although she is from “down South”, she spent the better part of four years in Nunavik researching and filming the movie. Of course, I asked her for advice, something I have been doing routinely lately. Her answer was pretty simple. ”Enjoy the experience.”

I changed planes in Kuujjuaq and ended up in the very front row (no, it wasn’t business class but I lucked out on the Halifax to Montreal leg by occupying a seat in business class). My seat mate, ADF, looked at me and asked,”Are you the new teacher in Kangiqsujuaq?” I guess bad news travels fast! She kept me spellbound for the next three hours as she has been teaching in the school where I was heading. A challenging pregnancy is forcing her to move closer to home in the south.

Not only did she provide me with tons of useful information about the school but she also told me quite a bit about herself. When she’s not up north, she lives “off grid” in southern Quebec. She is extremely talented with her hands. She is a carpenter but can turn her hand to just about anything including skinning a polar bear! Yup. Not all that long ago, she learned the fine art of removing the hide from a polar bear. The beautiful parka she was wearing, she made with her own hands.

It was dark as we approached my new home community. We couldn’t see Wakem Bay below but ADF and the flight attendant were having a spirited conversation about the beluga whale hunt going on in the waters below. Apparently the belugas come into the bay twice a year and local hunters hunt them for food. Apparently the meat is very tasty. It is chilled and eaten raw. I suspect that I will be partaking of this delicacy very soon.

We were met at the airport by two staff members of the school. I was immediately taken to the local Coop so that I could get a few things to keep me alive in order to show up for school today. I got a quick tour of the school and was taken to my apartment. It is probably three times the size of my apartment at home. It was designed for a family and has four bedrooms on two levels, a sunken living room and a very spacious open concept kitchen, dining and living area. The staff person who got us at the airport also gathered up a few supplies, including some of her homemade soup and spaghetti sauce. I feel at home already.

So why do I need to carry a knife on the outskirts of town you ask? Polar bears.

My education is just beginning!

Have a great week.

P.S. A shout out today to my daughter, Betsy who will be blowing out candles after work!


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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on October 31, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet


24,918 sunrises and counting. None more spectacular than the one pictured above, taken with my IPhone this past Monday.

I can’t claim to have seen every single sunrise in my 68+ trips around the sun but I’ve seen a lot of them. Even when the sun doesn’t shine, you know it’s up there behind the clouds. It’s amazing when you’re flying somewhere. You can be experiencing the worst weather imaginable on the ground but before your plane reaches cruising altitude, the sun envelops you.

I’m a self-professed morning person. This is easily understandable when you grow up in a family of 10 with just one bathroom. You learn at a very early age to get up early and make a mad dash for the bathroom when it’s your turn lest you be s..t out of luck!

The rhythm of my life can be traced to early mornings.

It started with minor hockey when we would lace up our skates at home and walk through knee deep snow en route to the old Memorial rink. If Frank McGibbon hadn’t arrived, we would all muster in the boiler room to keep warm. I can still taste the sulphur in the coal.

Next up was my life as an altar boy. I served many early morning masses, including priest retreats. I also served private masses for the late Father Bernie Roddie.

My teenage years in the summer were spent at the local golf course. I would be up before the birds making my two egg salad sandwiches which were the only thing I would eat during the day. I played till my hands were raw, caddied, hunted for golf balls and eventually got a gig working in the Pro Shop. We lived 2.5 kilometres form the course. In addition to walking around the course all day, I walked to and from the course (uphill both ways?!) carrying a handful of used clubs.

I never had my own newspaper route but occasionally subbed in for one of my brothers. The deliveries started at 5:30 in the morning requiring first, a stop at Oak Manor, to pick up the papers and say hello to Ray Simpson.

When I got married, I would be up very early to read the morning paper while nursing life-saving coffee. As the years tumbled by, I started journaling in the wee hours, chronicling the daily lives of an ordinary family. Three binders with my hand written observations is a prized possession.

I became very active in my community serving on many boards and committees as well as town council and the school board. Breakfast meetings were all the rage back then and it was not uncommon to be sitting at a table at 6:30 a.m. with a coffee and a muffin discussing the pressing issues of the day.

My next serious addiction was fishing. After hunting for night crawlers the night before with my children, I could be found in the South River at 5:00 in the morning waiting for the sun to rise and the fish to bite. I have so many fond memories of the serenity and the beauty of these outings. Catching fish was secondary.

Later in life, I took up running and for the better part of 10 years, I pounded the highways, byways and backroads of Antigonish with arguably the greatest long distance runner Antigonish has produced. Charlene Druhan taught me about grit and determination. Whining was dealt with swiftly and irreverently! Charlene won her age division at the Boston Marathon a few years back against the best women from around the world. It was on these long walks that I really started to notice and appreciate the wonders of nature.

And then, purely by accident, at the age of 60, I discovered writing and most of you know how I spend some of my early mornings. But I don’t start penning my musings or tidbits before my morning walk. When my body finally protested after running several marathons, I took up walking and every day starts with a long, brisk walk. Most of my daily walks on the Camino started at 5:30 in the morning.

As you may have surmised, I am not a nighthawk so don’t bother trying to rouse me after 9:30 p.m.

None of us know how many more sunrises we will be granted.

Appreciate every one while you can.

“What I know for sure is that every sunrise is like a new page, a chance to right ourselves and receive each day in all its glory. Each day is a wonder.” Oprah Winfrey

Have a great day and Happy Halloween!


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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on October 24, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments

Red Flags?


Oh Canada.

The people have spoken but no one is gloating over the results of the Federal Election. At least, they shouldn’t be. Like so many other countries, democracy seems to be under siege in the “true north strong and free”. I’ll leave the analysis to political scientists but there is something happening globally that is unsettling. Divisiveness and acrimony have replaced civility and compromise.

I have been fortunate to have lived in three of Canada’s provinces and have had the joy of traversing the country by car at least eight times. I haven’t walked it yet but the thought has crossed my mind. Hey, maybe I’ll walk for Canadian unity!

We can’t ignore the feelings of our friends and neighbours in other provinces. We do so at great peril. No one said that Canada has an inalienable right to stay together as a country and until such time that we figure out a way to co-exist, keeping our federation together is not a given. I am not pessimistic but I am very concerned.

I chose to ignore the rhetoric of the recent 40 day election campaign. So did many of you. However, the tone of the election was inescapable and this is troubling. Must we denigrate ourselves and get down in the dirt, slinging mud and invective? Surely we are better than this.

The threat of Quebec separation has reared its head again. Yes. I can see you nodding your head saying “Here we go again” but if we choose to ignore the alarm bells, one of these days we will find ourselves requiring a passport to get into “La Belle Province”.

Western alienation is real. I lived in Alberta in the late 70s (the 1970s, not the 1870s!). Even 40 years ago, there was a pervasive sentiment that Alberta was being taken for granted. The frustration in Alberta is palpable and if we’re not careful and thoughtful, we might be carrying another passport. I know this sounds alarming and it’s meant to be.

Lost in the shuffle and the noise is the ongoing embarrassment of our country’s treatment of our indigenous people. I continue to read and learn about the north and it is an ugly, brutal story. How can we call ourselves a nation that cares when there are still people living in the most atrocious conditions? Doesn’t every Canadian deserve the same opportunities, the same living conditions and the same access to education and health services? We have made a mess of the north. May I strongly suggest that everyone reading this go and pick up a copy of Tanya Telaga’s sobering book called “All Our Relations”. If you want a quick overview of the plight of our founding people, this book provides an excellent explanation. It is very depressing and disturbing. As a country, we are quick to pony up money and other resources when a crisis happens somewhere in the world. We have a crisis in our own back yard.

Is Canada too big to govern? Personally, I don’t think so but we must be very vigilant. This is a very tricky time in our history. I believe that we need to do a lot of listening and exhibit understanding and empathy to those whose views we do not share. If we don’t, trouble is on the horizon.

“We stand on guard for thee”.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. Hope you won’t mind if I puff out my chest just a wee bit. Our daughter, Betsy, ran for the NDP in Central Nova. It takes courage for anyone to put their names forward. While she didn’t prevail, she conducted herself in a dignified manner. I have been told that Central Nova had the highest voter turnout in Nova Scotia which speaks to the calibre of people who let their name stand. It also speaks of the people in the riding who cherish their democratic right to vote.

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