Dose of Awesome # 277

The community of Kuujjuaq came together yesterday to welcome the competitors in this year’s Ivakkak dogsled race at the finish line. The race began in Quaqtaq, and went through Kangirsuk, Aupaluk, Tasiujaq, before finishing here.

1. Awesome was an early school closure that allowed everybody to head to Stewart Lake to welcome the Ivakkak teams. Team 10 was the first to arrive in Kuujjuaq, but team 7 won the race.

Waiting for the first team to arrive.

Team 10, from Puvirnituq.

2. Awesome was a mid-week afternoon of snowshoeing, thanks to the early school closure. Since I’d gone in early to get some work done in my classroom before school began, I decided to take advantage of some amazing weather and get a few more hours of snowshoeing in. I went for a beautiful 3 hour loop through Nuuvuk Bay and by the marina. What I love about that loop is that every time, it can be so different, as the land is so vast.

Snow drifts and tree shadows inspired me.

3. Awesome was progress made with a challenging student – thanks to an awesome and dedicated team of people and their support. Sometimes things take time, and sometimes lots of it, but this, I hope, goes to show that if you don’t give up, great things can happen.

Dose of Awesome # 276

My favourite time of the year has arrived in Nunavik. It’s spring, but it still feels like winter. It’s -30 degrees, we have tonnes of snow, and there’s more coming. I love it because after enduring an average of approximately -45 for seemingly forever, -30 feels mild. I love it because it stays light out longer – long enough that I feel a notable boost in energy each day, but not so long that it causes you to miss the northern lights. I love it because I know it’s only a matter of weeks before the snow melts – and it will melt fast. Then I’ll be able to go hiking, and biking. But in the meantime, I appreciate the snow and cold all the more because I know it will soon be gone.

I love it because it’s the perfect time for snowshoeing.

1. Awesome was 2.5 hours of snowshoeing yesterday, by myself. It’s been a long time – since my third year in Tasiujaq, in fact – since I’ve been out on the land by myself. I forgot how peaceful it is. I forgot how liberating it is to just drop everything and go (my plan for the morning involved doing laundry and reading, until the sun started beaming through my living room window), without having to wait for, or answer to anybody.

Yes, company is nice. But, every once in awhile, so is this…

Yesterday, I went through Nuuvuk Bay and then toward the marina – making a huge loop up and down the hills and back the way I came. Further awesome was finding my own tracks again as I neared the start of my loops – a definite boost to my confidence in my own navigational skills.

2. Awesome was another 3 hours of snowshoeing today. Only this time it was with friends. Today’s route took us through Nuuvuk Bay toward the marina, and on a loop back down to the Koksoak River, which we followed back to where we started.

3. Awesome was time to catch up with friends this weekend, through phone conversations and dinners. It’s crazy how busy life can be – time can really slip by if you let it!

Dose of Awesome # 275

March Break is coming to an end. Tomorrow is a pedagogical day, and Tuesday, it’s back to school. I am back at home in Kuujjuaq, where the temperature hovers around -30 degrees Celsius, the sun is shining, and the snow is no less plentiful and white than it was when I left ten days ago. It’s the kind of perfection that I appreciate all the more after a week full of rain, slush and mud in New Brunswick.

1. Awesome was the feeling of walking into a spotlessly clean home, and unpacking after ten days of living out of a backpack in various places. Though I’m certainly grateful for all the hospitality I’ve been offered during my vacation, this is a pretty awesome feeling.

Also awesome was finally being able to play my violin, which I’d decided to leave behind because I didn’t have a definite plan of accommodation for my trip to New Brunswick.

2. Awesome was a trip to my home town which included everything and almost everything I’d hoped for. Filled with many delicious meals and cups of coffee with friends from elementary school, high school, and university, it was truly a walk down memory lane.

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My friend Amanda and I at dinner.

3. Awesome was also being blessed with the opportunity to visit my old university town (a place I hadn’t been to in ten years), browse through the Moncton Farmer’s Market, do a bit of shopping, have a massage, go on a little hike, see a movie, and go out for karaoke.

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Posing with my first Tim Horton’s coffee of the vacation, and the giant lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick, on the way to have lunch in Sackville.

Mel’s Tea Room, from the booth in which I spent many afternoons and evenings writing philosophy essays and reading. 

The train bridge on the Tantramar marsh at the end of Bridge Street – location of many a muddy adventure, my first winter camping experience, and lots of hours reading and writing at the edge of e broken bridge. 

Dose of Awesome # 274

Awesome is finishing another work of art.

I much enjoy the process of creating any work of art. I appreciate the slow start of meticulously sketching the most important details, measuring each line to the very last millimetre. I love the smooth momentum of shading – darkening shadows in layers and erasing the highlights in a similar fashion as gradually, the portrait come alive one detail at a time. I love the struggle of working through a new challenge, as I’m forced to experiment with new techniques so as to best reproduce a detail or a texture I’ve never worked with before in a drawing. But as much as I enjoy all of that, there’s a special feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a piece of art.

There’s a story behind this portrait. It’s a self portrait, drawn from a photo taken in late February on a sunny, but freezing afternoon of snowshoeing with a friend. My scarf was frozen solid and covered in frost, as was some of the fur around the hood of my parka. My face was frozen to the point that I couldn’t tell if I was smiling at the camera or not. My hands froze instantly as I removed my pualuuk to take the photo – the photo that I couldn’t tell would take or not, because the sun was so bright it washed out the screen and, for all I knew, the cold had sucked the life right out of the camera’s battery.

I liked the photo immediately – not only because of how it turned out, but because of what it represents. It could have turned out a million different ways and it still would have told the same story – a story of healing in the midst of a lot of loss, a big life change, and a huge shift in focus. That’s why, after months of artists’ block, I was inspired to make this my next piece of art – a self portrait taken on a day I’d felt the most free and content than I’d felt in a long time.

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Dose of Awesome # 273

At the beginning of this weekend, I found myself overwhelmed by a lot of different emotions as I tried to begin processing the loss of another community member and student. This is the sixth suicide since Christmas – the second this week. Though I didn’t know this person personally, I’m faced with this constant worry that grows each time, and my heart hurts for the people of Kuujjuaq who are effected, as well as all the people working so hard to provide any support possible in this seemingly unrelenting time of sadness, confusion, and pain.

But now is an especially important time to focus on the awesome things in life, because, as hard as it may be to see, they still do exist during tough times. One of them might be the only thing getting a person through a day. I know I would have struggled a lot more this weekend if it weren’t for these awesome things:

1. Awesome is a discovering a new outdoor activity. This sunny afternoon, a friend and I went cross country skiing in Nuuvuk Bay. It was my first time. Though I like to think I did quite well for my first time, it did take me awhile to catch on to the technique, and required a lot of concentration. Not only was it a good 2.5 hours of exercise, sunshine and fun, it was a much-needed distraction from all the stresses life has thrown my way as of late.

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Older photo, but same place. 

2. Awesome are adventurous meals with friends. Yesterday evening, I went to a 6-course gourmet Scottish dinner party, where I tried both haggis and black pudding for the first time. On the menu were scotch broth to start, cod fish cakes with home made tartar sauce, black pudding with caramelized apples and whisky sauce, haggis with turnips and potatoes, rabbit kidney and steak pie, and raspberry custard and short bread for dessert. I’m still full.

But that wasn’t my only social meal of the weekend. I’d also joined some friends at the restaurant for dinner on Friday evening, and some other friends for brunch this morning. Again, there’s nothing like coming together with friends for some laughs and relaxation over delicious food during a difficult time.

3. Awesome is massage therapy, and starting an amazing Sunday with an hour-long deep tissue massage. If I were rich, I’d start every day like that.

Dose of Awesome # 272

Since September, I’d been working on the weekends as a waitress in the restaurant in town. Waiting tables is something that I enjoy. I enjoy the social aspect of it. I enjoy the way it feels at the end of a very busy night, when you can sit down and bask in the satisfaction of getting through a demanding night of nonstop running, with few-to-no mistakes. And, of course, I enjoy the tips.

But at a time in my life when self-care is a little extra important, a part-time job on top of a full-time teaching job is just a little too much. A few weeks ago, I decided to give up my waitressing job for the sake of having just that much more time to focus on resting and doing the things I love. I made sure to do tons of that this weekend

1. Awesome is having an entire weekend – yes, two whole days – to play my violin, make art, be with friends (for a dinner on Friday, and a brunch this morning), and go snowshoeing. I also took a wonderful nap.

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A sunny Saturday afternoon of snowshoeing.

2. Awesome is having completed another class collection of 100 awesome things before the 100th day of school. Each year since moving to Kuujjuaq, I began a collection of 100 awesome things with my students on the 90th day of school. On the 100th, we put them up and celebrate being 100 days smarter with a pizza party and games. This is our collection this year:

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3. Awesome is finding drawing inspiration after months of artist block. This one might take awhile, but so will everything it stands for. I am excited by the symbolism that this project holds.

Dose of Awesome # 271

Life has entailed a lot of change and loss as of late. From a break up, to loss of community members and co-workers, life has brought its fair share of challenges – some unlike any I’ve experienced before. But, in the process of grieving, I’ve found myself dealing with things with a surprising amount of grace. I’ve also found a lot of positive and some wonderful awesomes.

1. Awesome are the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve had the opportunity to do over the past two months. I’ve had the opportunity to experience a whole new social side of Kuujjuaq. I’ve met new people and tried new things. I’ve found support from some amazing people, created boundaries where necessary, and I’ve learned tons about myself and what I need and want for myself. I’ve also reconnected with parts of my life I’ve lost touch with over the past couple of years. Awesome is feeling healthier, happier and stronger.

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Snowshoeing in Nuvik Bay. 

2. Awesome is showing someone the north for their first time.

After six years of trying to convince her to come, my mother came to visit at the end of January. While she was here, we went dogsledding, saw the northern lights, made bannock with my students, saw the land, experienced a Kuujjuaq Christmas party, and a low-key games night, among other things.

Whenever I go on vacation and tell people about my life in the north, I always experience a re-kindled love of all the things my life has come to be over the past several years. But, showing someone the north for the first time is even greater. And for such a reminder of why I am where I love to be, I couldn’t have asked for better timing.

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Dogsledding with George Kauki.

3. Awesome is learning something new. During my Christmas holiday, I gave in and bought myself a violin. The violin is right up there with the harmonica as the world’s most beautiful sound, and for years, I’ve dreamed of being able to play. Upon returning to Kuujjuaq after my holiday, I started taking lessons and, though it’s slow-going, I’m making progress and can actually produce sounds that resemble something other than a dying cat. I can even play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (on a good day). Perhaps I will be ready to perform at Kuujjuaq’s next Aqpik Jam?

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I realize I’m holding it wrong, but it was my first time trying my violin:)

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