Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

Christmas in Iqaluit – going home

The snow danced this morning, a whirling sparkle of sun-drenched white. The 60km/h wind whipped the loose flakes off the ground and into the air meters high, transforming the town below and the bay beyond into a frozen Sahara, turning tundra into dunes.

And the sun, the sun, the glorious sun, shone.

I’ve been here twice now, at opposite times of the year, when either the day or the night lasts just 4 hours. Whether the slanting light is around for many hours or just a few, it is never, never taken for granted.

In a place with no trees, there is so much sky. And you begin to resent the houses getting in the way of your view. The city seems like such an intrusion upon the great, vast land. The Land. (Which is always capitalized in my head, requiring reverence.) Until the wind picks up. And suddenly, the houses become something else. Warmth. Shelter. Safety. Tonight, the wind gusts and rumbles, and the houses and people in them tremble. Outside is fierceness. And you are suddenly grateful that there aren’t any trees to be tossed about.

Tomorrow we’ll be home. Home to seat belts and car seats and strollers. Home to sharp knives and good cutting boards and counter space. Home to Costco. Home to walking trails and indoor malls and gyms and aquafit. Home to things-to-do. Home to routine. Home to not worrying about using too many paper towels, and tissues, and toilet paper that are too expensive and won’t be replaced until the July barge order comes in. Home to fresh herbs and fresh bread and affordable nuts and shelf items that aren’t expired. Home to milk and bread being available at all at the store each and every time you go, no matter the cost or expiry. Home to gelato and lattes. Home to Netflix. We’ll bring the usual mess and noise and chaos with us, of course, but it will be our mess and noise and chaos. Choking hazards will stay out of reach when they’re put there. Naps might last more than 30 minutes. Hibou won’t know what to do with all the peace and quiet, but I will. Oh, I will.


On the plane, Iqaluit is nothing more than a few unwavering lights. A half hour into the flight and already the sky is brighter. We are heading toward a strip of light, with afternoon on the other side of it rather than night.

There is a blizzard coming to Iqaluit tomorrow, with roof-ripping winds of more than 120km/h anticipated. Ottawa promises freezing rain instead – a trade which I’m happy to make. After 3 days of fever and 5 of migraine, with Bonhomme, Hibou and Dearest starting just as I’m ending, we’re all chafing to have this Christmas over and done. Hibou’s bringing home 2 new teeth, 3 new signs, 4 items of clothing that no longer fit, and 5 new words; Bonhomme stories of spear-throwing and igloo-making and playing outside without any adults at all. Dearest’s stories are of frozen pipes and grocery prices, socioeconomic policy challenges and old family baggage. I am coming home with a sense of the vastness of Canada, the value of baby-proofing, and the pleasure of routine.

Outside the airplane window the clouds mirror the hills beneath them, long rolling ridges of dusty blue. The sun outlines the far-off edges of the cloudbank and the sunset lasts all the way home.


Sitting in my livingroom drinking coffee, it is light out a full 2 hours earlier than I’m used to. Traffic and dirty grey slush surround, instead of mountains. The snow in Iqaluit had never been anything but pure white, and blown into drifts. Here it is grey and brown and speckled, and shoveled and plowed into mounds. I stare at a guy standing still at the corner, texting with his bare hands. Dearest and I laughed at the “life-threatening” windchill warning while Bonhomme whined about the need for snowpants.

Christmas is over at long last, and I find myself glad to be a Southener.

Happy adventurous New Year to you.