Thursday Tidbits

Posted on December 5, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Welcome back, Kotter!


“Out of the mouths of babes.”

Matthew 21:16

I grew up in a small Catholic town. Antigonish is the seat of the Diocese of Antigonish which covers a sparsely populated but large geographical area. In its heyday back in the 50s and 60s, the diocese could boast a church in every village, town and city. Of course, this was the post war baby boom era. Churches were well attended for all masses and absolutely jammed to the rafters on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.

Large families literally had their own pews. We needed every square inch of ours when the ten of us showed up together. With the population explosion, there was always a newborn or two at mass and invariably, as if on cue, they would start crying when the priest was delivering his homily. Many adults felt like weeping too. Some of the older guard of priests simply couldn’t tolerate babies crying and would publically banish mother and child.

I attended the funeral of an Inuit elder last week. The small church couldn’t handle the expected crowd so it was moved into a community gymnasium. The ceremony was simple and dignified. The crowd grew and grew and by the time the funeral ended, I feel certain that nearly every one of the 900 residents had made an appearance. Included in these numbers were several very small children and a handful of infants. I was sitting beside a mother with a newborn. It couldn’t have been more than a few days old. Very near to me was another child who might have been three months old. It was only a few days later at supper that it hit me full force. I didn’t hear a single whimper from any of the babies.

What I remembered very clearly is that every single person, man, woman, boy, and girl in a thirty foot radius handled the young ones. They held them to their faces. They cooed, they kissed the babies, and they smiled. The love and affection was palpable and it seems the little ones felt it too. New life and death, the endless cycle were been played out right in front of me. At the end of the funeral service, all of these same people walked by the open coffin of the elder, once again sharing the timeless gift of love.

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t hate the cold. I hate being cold. Back home in Nova Scotia, I always feel cold in winter. My hands are perpetual iceboxes and I find the cold winter winds cut through me like a knife. Now I know why. I don’t think I was ever properly dressed for winter. Of course, when it’s raining one day and -20 the next, it’s hard to know what to wear on any given day. Up here in Northern Quebec it’s cold and it will get colder. For the first time ever, I have the right gear to keep me warm on the most frigid days. The Michelin Man would be proud of me. Two days ago it was -28 and I was playing volleyball with the children…outdoors. I’ll let you know what it feels like to serve a volleyball when it’s -57!

Some of you saw the picture on Facebook of my rack of seal ribs, the before and the after. I was given this meat by a local. It was frozen when I received it. I let it thaw for a few days in the fridge before making a stew. The instructions were straight forward enough. Throw the ribs in a pot of water, bring to a boil, simmer for a few hours and add vegetables. When I removed the ribs from the plastic bag, they were… very bloody. I manoeuvered them into the pot of water but no matter how I angled them, the whole rack wouldn’t fit. The pot was too small. No worries. I removed the ribs, pulled out a cutting board and tried to separate the ribs from the carcass.

The seal seemed to be insulted that I would so irreverently desecrate his body. Blood seemed to pour out of every fibre of his being. My hands were bloodied and my lower arms turned crimson. I was afraid if my roommate showed up that she might faint on the spot thinking that I had committed an atrocity. Well, in the eyes of the seal I certainly had. The dirty deed completed (literally and figuratively), I went to the couch for a much needed rest.

I must admit that the smell of seal cooking might not rank near the top of my list of great kitchen smells. By the time it was cooked, my appetite was compromised. I ate a few ribs. They received my seal of approval.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. In the “discretion is the better part of valour” category. Yesterday, I took a long walk to the wharf in the wee hours of the morning before school. I was carrying a bag of seal rib bones to give to the dog of one of the teachers. As I walked along the road by the bay, two VERY LARGE dogs approached me and they were snarling. At first, I thought it was me they were after but the main course for them (mercifully) was the bones. I hastily removed them from the plastic bag and dropped the contents on the ground. Friends for life. They accompanied me on the rest of the walk. My teaching colleague understood my predicament and I asked her to apologize to Kajuk!

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