Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 6, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 4 comments



Why not.

Life continues to be a never ending, unfolding mystery and for that, I am grateful… most of the time. When travelling, knowing where you are going and how to get there are rather important. However, as many of us know, sometimes “the road less taken” provides unimagined experiences. There’s nothing wrong playing it safe. There is comfort in routine and the known.

“So, you’re back up north, Len. Did you take a wrong turn on one of your long walks? Heat stroke? Early onset dementia?”

Truthfully, when the Air Inuit flight left Kangiqsujuaq at the end of May, I never thought I would ever see the place again. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically fatigued. I limped home to Antigonish and cocooned for two weeks, save for a Covid approved daily walk. I didn’t cook a single meal. Family, friends, and neighbors looked after that during my 4th quarantine. I didn’t bake. Not even once, a streak that lasted all summer. After a winter of baking every third day, I figured that I had contributed enough to the stock price of Robin Hood flour.

Once out of self-isolation, I discovered Fast Food Matters, a wonderful food emporium just around the corner from my apartment. Their wide variety of soups, salads, hummus, and prepared meals was the perfect solution for a single person, bored to death with their own cooking.

I ramped up my walking and got back into decent walking shape, culminating with my 77 km walk on my birthday. I started to socialize, as Covid rules in my home province were relaxed. I swear to god, I kept several restaurants in business single handed, enjoying lunches and dinners on their patios. I spent more time at Bayfield, where family members own two cottages, than I had in decades. Long walks on the beach and bonfires are the perfect tonic for stress reduction.

I had a chance to spend time with my granddaughters. Need I say anything more?

I had company from outside the province and had a chance to show off Nova Scotia in the summer.

I always seem to be meeting new people and this summer was no different.

All of this being said, by mid-summer I felt totally relaxed and rejuvenated. A bit of restlessness started creeping in. The days were flying by which is nothing new.

I was also keeping a close eye on Covid, at home and abroad and what I saw was not encouraging. Fourth waves were breaking out all over the place. Personally, I wish authorities would stop using this terminology. It sets up expectations both positive and negative. I knew that any thoughts of international travel in the near term weren’t realistic. Even domestic travel was iffy.

Around this time, I became aware that there was a teacher shortage in the north. This is nothing new, but it seems that the pandemic has exacerbated things and convincing teachers to go to remote, fly-in communities was a harder sell than ever. This included my school. This is when I started corresponding with my principal. I told her that I might be available to come to help out on a short-term basis with teacher shortages. We continued to dialogue in the waning days of the summer and a ten days ago, I received a call offering me a position in the school as a jack of all trades. I will do some teaching, but I will be used in a variety of ways.

It didn’t take me long to commit. I didn’t relish the idea of sitting around my apartment, twiddling my thumbs for the fall and winter. I plan to come home for Christmas unless Covid says otherwise. And then reassess.

Before I accepted my first teaching position in the north, I conferred with Wab Kinew who is an indigenous member of the provincial NDP in Manitoba. I asked him for some advice for a newbie heading to the north. “Learn more than you teach.” I will continue my education.

I arrived last Thursday at suppertime. After being treated to an awesome meal by six of my colleagues, I made my way to my new home on the shores of Wakem Bay (see photo below). Another colleague has gone on sabbatical, and I am fortunate enough to be staying in her house. The beauty of this arrangement is that I didn’t have to haul everything but the kitchen sink from home. The house is fully equipped and (gasp) has excellent satellite internet. I might even dust off the guitar one of these evenings and do a Pillow Talk show.

My first full day in the village was last Friday and it was filled with mixed emotions. I visited with teachers and students. I went for groceries and walked to and from my home several times. I was treated like a rock star. Very few people knew I was coming back. Let’s just say that I received incredible doses of love. I felt like I truly belonged.

The afternoon was much different. I attended the funeral of a young man who died suddenly. The grief at the gravesite was indescribable. The keening of the grieving mother was gut wrenching.

On my first full day back in the village, I experienced the north in all of its triumphs and tragedies.

On Saturday, I went berry picking with one of the young teachers. She is an avid outdoors person, recently completing a big section of the Appalachian Trail in Quebec. Simply put, she is a badass. Ingrid is strong mentally and physically which is in stark contrast her berry picking partner! There are many varieties of berries but one of the most cherished is the arpik or cloud berry. Our walk (24km) took us through the tundra which can be spongy in spots with rocky, uneven ground. We stumbled upon an amazing patch of the coveted berries. Against my better judgment (bad back, bad knee, weak mind…!), I decided to get low to the ground to pick. We were surrounded by mountains and a pristine lake a few meters away. The only sounds that broke the deafening silence were the honking of a few geese and a haunting call of a lone loon. Pure magic.

Pure magic was soon followed by pure hell. I realized on the inward part of our walk that trying to pick berries in my fragile state was a piss poor idea. I barely made it up the flight of stairs into my house. I showered, had a bite to eat and remained virtually motionless for the remainder of the day, except to get up to walk off some muscle spasms.

I have a few goals on this third trip to the north. I want to take yoga and partake in daily stretching exercises… so that I can go picking berries (and mussels on the shoreline outside my house) without requiring traction. If I can find a patient Inuk, I also want to learn some basic Inuktitut. I am already able to sing a handful of songs in this language but have no idea what I’m singing!

So, there you have it. In these most unusual times, I feel a deep sense of gratitude that I can pivot quickly and stay engaged and interested in life.

Have a great week.


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