Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page


Black wings frame the sky –
Raven calls. The vast wind sweeps
away all known ground.


Home, sweet home.

I missed the sound of cicadas.
I missed the crickets, the seagulls, the songbirds.
Wind rustling the leaves.
The sound of traffic – not so much.
I missed the smell of grass.
I missed dropping Bonhomme off at martial arts class and getting a half-hour to myself.
I missed blue boxes and black boxes and green bins. I never knew I took recycling so much for granted. But after two weeks of fighting how utterly wrong it feels to throw tin cans and cereal boxes into the garbage, I will never take the ability to not have to do so lightly ever again.
The Ottawa summer colour is a feast.
I didn’t miss shopping at Walmart, with the florescent lights and loudspeaker announcements and advertising as far as the eye can see, but I did miss the prices.
I am back in the land of plentiful food and convenient conveniences.
Like a decent cup of coffee that I didn’t have to make myself.
Bonhomme has forgotten how to behave in restaurants and stores. We’re learning about the difference between Iqaluit rules and Ottawa rules.
Cars don’t stop for pedestrians here; not everyone has young children or appreciate their range of noises; it’s not a given that you can just run outside and play.
But we can go out without four layers of clothing here – man, I missed my Birkenstocks.
“Momma, I missed the birds!”
“Me too, Buddy, me too.”
I miss the Iqaluit air, though, my chest heaving on my first few gulps of Ottawa summer humidity and pollen.
“Look, Momma! A butterfly!”
“Look – a store! And you know what, Mom? You know what they sell here? Shoes! It’s a whole store just for shoes! Whoa-ee, I think you’re gonna like this store, Mom.”
“And look at all the trees! And flowers! I think you’re gonna be really happy here, Momma.”
“And check out all this pavement too, Bud. Nice and smooth. No boulders.”
“And the cars can go really fast here, Mom! Even side by side!”
“Momma, I’m glad to be back in our world.”
“Me too, Love. Me too.”

A Breath of Northern Air

A summer coat of fog clings skin-tight to Iqaluit’s waking wintry body.
The wind’s out on an early¬†smoke break, allowing the lighthouse a rare glimpse of its reflection.
Frobisher Bay licks at the mud flats, slowly carving stone.
Sultry mounds of Canadian Shield beckon.

Place of Many Fish

The North is poetry for the eyes.
Beauty defying description, long pauses, deep breaths.
The rhythym and meter are different here.
Friendships are many-stranded, tightly woven.
Folk just step in to say hi, stop by for a chat on the way to and from the grocery store (where milk is $13.75 for a 4L bag).
With three growing kids in the house, that’s a lot of chats.
It’s been three days of non-stop sunshine and t-shirt weather.
It’d be heaven, but for the bugs.
Mosquitos, the curse of the land. The sun mocks us with its siren call, a lure for uncovered skin.
The bugs feast in swarms, at least a few vying for every square inch.
Every time we close the car doors, we spend a vigorous minute “dying” the bugs (as my nieces like to say).
Black smears of victory streak the windows on the inside, rivulets of dust on the outside.
Today, we saw a truck watering the road with saltwater: roadside dust control.
Child-rearing is different here too, an unspoken community pact of loving neglect.
Laisser-faire parenting.
With a 30Km speed limit and no traffic lights, every truck tire loudly crunching the dirt and dust, no yard fences or sidewalks or curbs, and an unquestioning pride in children being the most important resource there is, kids here roam as freely as the ravens.
Games of pick-up tag at the park. Making your own fun with whatever’s at hand. An assumption that kids should just play; no scheduled playdates, no after-school martial arts or swimming lessons to get to on time, no focused one-on-one teachable moments.
There may be something to it.
Then again, I’ve never met kids more starving for attention than the ones here. Hangers-on at every park, endless look-at-mes, class-clown behaviour everywhere.
A mother with her infant cuddling her back, arms around her neck, tucked into her traditional garb hood – while driving an SUV.
There may be something to my bureaucratic, citified, scheduled, over-stimulated world too.
But walking the tundra on the way to the playground with the kids, I relish every quiet, uneven, rocky, unplanned, squishy step.
Last molded by glaciers, rucked and tucked, I am adding my imprint to unfathomable history.
Timeless time.
There is a connection here, renewed with every glance out the window, every footstep.
A reminder that we don’t shape the land, even with our intentional and unintentional alterations; it shapes us.