Monday Morning Musings

Posted on December 23, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

A beautiful sight when you’re heading home for Christmas

“I’m leaving, on a jet plane,

Don’t know when I’ll be back again.”

Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver

I am thrilled to report that my trip home was mostly uneventful.

Traveling anywhere in the world at Christmas time is precarious but flying from the north adds other layers of uncertainty. The two days previous to my scheduled departure, nothing flew in or out of the airport in Kangiqsujuaq so that last Thursday, the tiny airport was overflowing with three days’ worth of passengers trying to catch one flight. Even my meagre math skills knew that this wasn’t doable.

However, because this situation wasn’t unheard of, Air Inuit wisely added a few extra flights. When our plane arrived, I high- fived the airport employees. Because of my weekend walks to the airport, I know most of the workers.

The first leg of our flight was to have had three stops but because of inclement weather, we overshot two communities and landed in Kuujjuaq, the capital of the Nunavik region. Then we cooled our heels for 7 hours before the flight to Montreal. We had plenty of time to walk into town. Some of my co-workers were hungry so I went and sat with them at a restaurant. A clubhouse sandwich with fries set you back $25.

During the long layover, I decided to write a story, a summary of sorts, of my impressions of the north after 6 weeks. I tried to go beyond the superficial things like the landscape, the cold weather and the price of groceries. I realized that trying to explain the north was very complicated. I also wanted to be respectful of my new community, not dwelling on the challenges that Inuit communities in general face. I have decided to save that piece for another time when I have more experiences and a better understanding of how and why things happen as they do.

By the time I boarded the flight to Montreal, I was tired and not in a chatty mood. Most of my colleagues who hadn’t had a break since mid-August were more boisterous. I was surrounded by teachers and staff but in my row, there was a young man and an elderly Inuk woman. I thought about the words of my Finnish friend Raul who zinged me with the best line on my Camino walk. “Len, in Finland, we are comfortable with silence.” I decided that I would not engage in conversation. Those of you who know me must wonder how this would be possible!

I needn’t have worried about the young guy. He was watching something on his phone for the entire 2.5 hour flight. The Inuk woman sat quietly, beginning to sew a pair of handmade winter gloves for a grandchild. Her hands were withered from a life of toil. I said hello to her and that, I expected, was the end of the conversation. I closed my eyes. I felt a tap on my elbow. “I’m going to Montreal to a hospital to get a scan.” I politely acknowledged this, wished her well, and closed my eyes. Fifteen minutes later, she asked me what I was doing up north. I explained that I was a teacher in Kangiqsujuaq. “I lived there for a long time,” she replied.

This woman had a beatific smile. She told me more about her life. It wasn’t easy but she seemed at peace with her lot in life. Food and drink were delivered. The meal was arctic char pie – shepherd’s pie with char instead of ground beef. It was amazing. Her food tray wasn’t level, so I kept it propped up while she ate. We were now buddies.

“Me and a number of the elders in our community go to Montreal several times a year to visit Inuit prisoners in jails.” With a full stomach and now wide awake, I was completely captivated by this woman. The word “saintly” crossed my mind. Mary (not her real name) was special and I had drawn the lucky straw that placed her beside me.

“My son Zachary (not his real name) lives in Kangiqsujuauq. He had a terrible accident many years ago and lives in the senior’s home.” I broke out in the broadest of grins. A week ago, I had visited the senior’s home and have a one person concert to Zachary. He rewarded me with the greatest smile ever. And I was sitting with his mother. Sometimes things are just meant to happen.

When I wasn’t chatting with Mary or eating, I was flipping through the on board magazine provided by the airline, Canadian North. “Above and Beyond” is an excellent publication. I came to a page adorned with amazing photos of the north. I thought I recognized a few of them. I then looked up to the top of the page: “The Arctic and Subarctic Photography of David Brosha.” David is my nephew and I can tell you that I was some proud waving around the magazine showing off Dave’s talents to anyone and everyone.

One of the best things about Dave is that through all his success, he remains Dave. He is modest and humble and hasn’t changed since he operated a hot dog stand outside of Brosha’s Short Stoppe when he was a youngster.

Dave wrote the script for the piece I was looking at. His final paragraph kind of summed up nicely what I had tried to do earlier when writing a serious essay about the north. “The North, I feel, is my own unique world. It’s a place where I go to feel alone, and out of that aloneness I gain so much community: a contradiction I feel many who have ventured North will understand, agree with, and share in.” Well said, Dave.

I’m hoping to see some of you during the holidays.

Stay safe and stay well.

Merry Christmas.

P.S. My sublet fell through at the last moment so my apartment is available to rent once again from January to the end of May.

Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
Highland Hearing Clinic

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