Christmas in Iqaluit – a week in

Sometimes it feels so much like a city here. Traffic slowdowns at the stop signs (with only two four-ways in the whole of Iqaluit), no parking spots at the NorthMart, porchlights shining in and breaking up the night. And then, between the houses, you see tundra, and rocks, snow and mountains, pack ice, and sky and sky and sky. And you know, in the depth of your bones, that it is thus – The Land – all the way to Ottawa. Where the houses stop, they stop, and there aren’t any more. There is just The Land.
It seems as if the sun sets horizontally in Iqaluit. Long layers of light, uncurling.
I went for a walk, Hibou tucked into the sling. We didn’t make a block, Hibou thrilled with the outdoors but not with the -42C windchill.
Yesterday, the kids built an igloo in the backyard, sawing snow into blocks. “Quick, let’s get out there while we’ve still got some daylight left!” At 1:30 in the afternoon, that was a real threat. Darkness is total by 3pm.
The winter solstice lasted 19 and a half or so hours. Now, each day will see noticeable seconds more of sunlight, until by the time we leave in a couple of weeks, the days will last minutes longer.
The sun actually rising and setting here isn’t what’s important – it’s how long the sky emits light. A raven silhouetted against the indigo sky, waves of dark and darker clouds punctuating, is a wonder.
Imagine the morning sky in Ottawa, before 7am, when the shadows cross the street and sun barely peeks around the corner of buildings, and then multiply those fifteen minutes by about ten. At the end of that will be about the time the sun will then begin to set here, for another couple of hours.
Walking again today, solo this time, I stopped at a street corner and saw a rocky cairn of tundra at one end, and vastly rolling mountains of it at the other. Until my glasses fogged up – and then froze over. All the way back home I saw nothing but a Christmas ball of sun, refracting through the frost. I knew it was time to go in based on how much of my legs I could no longer feel.
I saw the Northern Lights last night, for my very first time. They weren’t at all like I was expecting. A large green smoky ghost curling all along the Big Dipper. I stared, and stared, and then shivered back into the house, wishing I could see them from inside the warmth, wrapped in a cozy blanket.
Christmas baking later, with two babies, three in-laws, a husband, and three kids all hopped-up on almost-but-not-yet-present-opening-time in the kitchen.
This is Christmas in Iqaluit.


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