Dose of Awesome # 281

I’ve been on summer vacation for two weeks. Like previous years, I decided to stay in Kuujjuaq to enjoy the beautiful (relatively bug-free) weather, finish up some projects, and relax before I travel to California and hike the John Muir Trail. My days have been full of playing violin, reading, drawing, biking, hiking, and just enjoying the land both alone and with friends. I could not have asked for a more rejuvenating and fulfilling time.

1. Awesome was finishing not one, but two new drawings.

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Amaruq – Wolf

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Kayuqtuq – Red Fox

2. Awesome was the opportunity to enjoy 7…yes 7…hikes on the land?

3. Awesome were picnics, and road trips and little walks past the end of the Road to Nowhere, where we found one of the most beautiful spots around Kuujjuaq, had a healing ceremony, and saw muskoxen. Further awesome are muskoxen – a symbol of strength and endurance, and their timely appearance.

 

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Dose of Awesome # 280

Another school year is rapidly drawing to a close. My days have been full of marking, paperwork, report cards, slowly packing up my classroom, and various end-of-year events. One and a half weekends, eight teaching days, and two pedagogical days stand between now and summer vacation!

1. Awesome is completing a new drawing – Ookpik.

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2. Awesome was receiving a new custom-made parka. It’s for the fall, but we’ve been blessed with weather cold enough to allow me to wear it (even though it’s June).

3. Awesome was receiving letters and chocolate from our pen pals in Switzerland. I’m sad that I won’t be able to continue this project with the same students, but am hoping to do so with my new ones in the new school year. In the meantime, we wrote post cards (which I’d printed on card stock with photos I’d either take myself, for found on the internet).

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Dose of Awesome # 279

As many of you know already, Nunavik has been suffering from a heartbreaking suicide epidemic for a few months now. Recently, we lost two teens I’d known well from my time in Tasiujaq. During the three years I’d lived there, they were like my own students, and were very close to the six kids that I’d taught.

Though I’ll be unable to make it to Tasiujaq for the funeral, I spent the better part of my morning writing letters to each of my old students, to tell them that I’m thinking of them, that I’m proud of them, and to share some memories of our time together. I will send them to Tasiujaq on Monday with a colleague.

As I wrote the letters, I realized how many good memories I do have of each of them. Though I’ve taught many more kids since them, and have lots of memories of those kids, too, Mosesiapik, Noah, Annie, Harriet, George and Jaiku will always be my very first students, and I’m thankful for the three years we got to spend together as a class.

I thought, in particular, of one specific day a few years ago, and a short story I’d written about it. In honour of all the kind, loving, beautiful kids of Nunavik, I wanted to share it.

Love and Ptarmigans

Harriet and Anautak crept on all fours over the frosty tundra. The air was still and thick with silence. The land uttered not a sound – not even the slightest whisper of a crunch as they crawled, slow and calculating, over the brittle foliage. Harriet was first; Anautak followed closely behind like a little hunter in training. Even Elisapee, who had fallen behind and was crying because the shrubs were just a little too big for her tiny five-year-old legs to maneuver, had quieted. Like cats, they were stalking a lone ptarmigan dawdling nonchalant along the side of the hill.

We were just far enough onto the land that we’d lost sight of the village. It was a Saturday afternoon, early Fall. I could smell a hint of winter – that smell of crisp land that happens just before it snows. Winter was soon to come, yet the land radiated orange and red so vibrant and alive. I could see my breath but still feel the strong heat of the sun.

A friend and I were hiking toward Mairaaluk in an intentionally roundabout way that took us up and down one hill after another and along the Leaf River. The girls had seen us as we walked through the village. They ditched their bikes by the daycare, and followed us onto the land. They wanted to come with us, even though we told them we’d be hiking for hours and they’d get tired. They insisted that they knew the way, and they probably did know it better than we did. And though we didn’t want to be responsible for three little people on our little adventure, we let them follow for a while.

I, captivated, stopped to watch Harriet and Anautak as they crawled. As I held my breath, waiting, I wondered not whether Harriet would actually kill it. Ptarmigans do strike me as a tad dimwitted. Rifle or not, they seem to be an easy target, and ever since Jashua killed one with a pebble and plucked it clean on the playground at recess one day last year (he kept it in his desk until school was over), I’ve never once questioned these kids’ ability to hunt. Plus, Harriet, who’d been a student of mine since I came to Nunavik, frequently goes hunting with her grandfather, so perhaps this wouldn’t have been her first ptarmigan kill.

Rather, I wondered how many times she’d done this before and how many times she’d succeeded. I admired the mix of childhood fun, and tradition, and I imagined her carrying it home proudly, and sharing it with her family later on, eating it for dinner.

The world stopped as Harriet prepared to pounce on the seemingly oblivious bird, and there was a split second when I was certain that it was a goner. But sometime within the split second between lunge and trap, there was a sudden and frantic fluttering of wings from the foliage that had, up to that moment, created the facade of solitude. Simultaneously, forty or so wings sprung from the land like camouflaged Jack In The Boxes. The once-lone ptarmigan evaded doom as Harriet jumped back. She giggled, part startled, but also maybe part disappointed, part embarrassed.

It was for you” she said shyly, but full of love.

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 # 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# 270

Happy New Year!

It is my last day of a two-week vacation in Toronto. After a difficult couple of months and a sudden, last-minute change of holiday plans, I came to Toronto for what turned into a fantastic two weeks of fun, healing and relaxation both by myself, and with a variety of friends from some of my favourite stages of my life.

As I sit here digesting an excessive Chinese hot pot lunch, and fight the urge to take an early-evening nap, I thought, what better way to begin a new year than re-visit my blog of awesome. Here are some of the things I’m thankful for as of late:

  1. Awesome was the opportunity to spend time with so many friends from various parts of my life. I had dinner with Ashley (a friend from my first year in Tasiujaq), Melissa (a friend with whom I worked in the Yukon), Alex and Anthony (my close friends from my undergrad), Tresa (a friend from Kangirsuk), and Jenny (a friend from Kuujjuaq). Some of them I hadn’t seen in a really long time (it’d been 8 years since I’d last seen Melissa!
  2. Awesome was the opportunity to not only meet Amelia and Katherine – Alex and Anthony’s wonderful twin babies – but to spend 3 entire days with them during my time here.
  3. Awesome was lots of time and space to enjoy many of the things that make me feel good – working out, massage therapy, journaling and reading. I am thankful for time in nice cafés with a cup of great coffee and time to write or read a good book. I also went to see 3 movies in the little theatre beside my hotel.
  4. Awesome was being welcome with open arms for Christmas dinner at Anthony’s parents’ house. Even though it’s been 10 years since they’d met me (and last seen me), they were happy to include me in their family gathering, and for that, I am thankful. And…
  5. Awesome were relaxing evenings with a glass of wine and much-needed conversation to help me understand better some heavy things.