Monday Morning Musings

Posted on February 3, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet





Paul Zizka. World class photographer and new friend


I have been called many things, some of them not fit for print.

These days, old, bald, irascible and impatient are all worthy monikers. When you’re closing in on 70 you rarely hear adjectives like spry, serene or sensitive. It comes with the turf, or in my case these days, it comes with the tundra.

A friend who lives in Scotland gave me a new handle the other day: ethnographer. I must admit I had to go scrambling to the dictionary. So, bear with me as I give you the definition. Ethnography is a research method that comes from the discipline of anthropology. Ethnography is the in-depth study of a culture or a facet of a culture. An ethnographer not only observes the phenomenon under study, but also becomes a participant in daily life.

I much prefer ethnographer to curmudgeon… or arsehole!

I guess my six- month travels in India, in some small measure, qualifies me as an ethnographer and this latest stint up north adds to my resume.

Of course, travel is all about the people you meet. Yes, the world had spectacular things to see but listening to the stories of people you meet from far flung places is what gets my juices going.

I knew when I came to Northern Quebec, I would meet some amazing people and, on this score, I haven’t been disappointed. I’m just scratching the surface but I’m starting to get to know a few of the elders in this beautiful Inuit community of Kangiqsujuaq.
What I didn’t expect was to meet some famous Canadians like Clara Hughes and Jordin Tootoo.

Last week, I received a message from my son who mentioned that a famous photographer was up in my neck of the woods. Paul Zizka is no ordinary photographer. He is a friend and colleague of my extraordinarily talented nephew, Dave Brosha.

According to Dave, “Paul Zizka is not only one of Canada, but the planet’s best astro photographers. But to call him only a night photographer would be to diminish the fact that that he’s a world class educator and landscape photographer. He is exceptionally skilled at wildlife photography, and, most importantly, one of the nicest and kindest humans out there that you could ever hope to come across. He’s the real deal and I’m proud to call him one of my best friends.”

Dave was able to connect with me with Paul and I sat down with him for an hour before school one day last week. A Quebec native, he completed his undergraduate degree in geology at UVIC and then went off to Iceland where he did a solo 1400 kilometer walk back and forth across the country. This kind of makes my Camino walk seem like a Sunday stroll. He has travelled to all seven continents. He is married and lives in Banff with his wife and two daughters, when he’s not globetrotting.

With his vast experience and travels to some of the remotest places on the planet, I was curious to know what Paul has gleaned about the place we call earth. He feels that people have lost touch with the most precious resource we have – the land. More and more of the world is becoming urbanized which keeps people away from the land. One of his greatest joys is when he takes clients out on the land as part of a workshop. Stressed out executives and Type A people start to breathe and relax once they get out of the rat race and experience the wonder and serenity that only nature can provide.

The more I thought about this encounter, it made sense that I met Paul in Kangiqsujuaq and not Montreal or Vancouver. As Dave said, he’s a great guy and I felt very honored to spend time with this exceptional Canadian.

I met with a parent last week after school to discuss the progress of his child. When the meeting ended, I had a chance to talk to him about other things, specifically his Montreal Canadiens toque. We had a spirited conversation about Les Habitants. His only regret is that he never got to see a game at the old Forum in Montreal. He’s going to take me fishing one of these days.

I am happy, and quite lucky, to be called an ethnographer.

It beats some of the alternatives!!!

Have a great week.


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