Sunday, November 9, 2008

Back to Normal: Arctic Cold!

After pestering from family and friends, I'm breaking down and updating the blog again.

Life here is back to 'normal' -- i.e. pretty cold with nice dry crunchy snow. Most days are around -15 now, which is usually in the mid -20s with the windchill. Everything seems very crisp and beautiful. The bay is beginning to freeze over, and I think the last sealift ship with community supplies has left (there may be one or two adventurous last ones).

John took this picture from close to his office, at his new job (he's working as a reporter for Nunatsiaq News:

The other exciting news is that John's new book has come back from the publisher, and it looks beautiful.

Check it out on John's own blog: (If you decide you want a copy, order through John by emailing him at johnbird(at)sympatico(dot)ca (That way John receives a larger share of the sale price) They are $28 + shipping from John (compared to $35 in bookstores and on Amazon, etc.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Seal Hunting and Clam Digging ...

For a landlubber like me (Lorraine), it has been fun living in a sea port and getting used to how that affects life. A lot of life in Iqaluit revolves around the sea -- skidooing on the ice in winter, boating in summer, hunting on the water or ice all year round, and paying attention to the incredible tides (second highest in Canada, after Bay of Fundy).

This past week I had a chance to get out and enjoy the sea, going on a seal hunt and clam digging. My friend Juan and I tagged along for the day with a local hunter, Nujalia, and his wife, Diane. We spent 12 hours out on the bay (having to time our outing according to the tides), most of the time on the ocean hunting for seals. We stopped for a while to dig for nice big clams, and later pulled onto shore for a seal feast. It was a fantastic day. And who knew that seal intestines tasted like calamari!

Here are some pictures from that day:

Getting ready to leave

Our boat captain, Nujalia the seal hunter


Clam digging

The fruits of our clam digging labours

Ring Seal Feast! Yummy!

More feasting and hanging out...

Juan and stoney faced friend...

Coming home through the ice

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ice Ice Ice Ice (and a little heat)

One of the things I love about living here is how the sea-scape changes every day (and during every day). The ice looks subtly different every time you see it in winter. Now in the summer, the open ocean in the bay looks different every day.

And what is different the last couple days is the amount of ice in the harbour - big chunks of icebergs, often stranded on the tidal flats. It is an amazing sight.

Ice ice ice ice. In July. And right on the heels of record-breaking hot arctic weather (see Iqaluit Sizzles Through Hottest Day on Record )

A month ago, around July 1, the ice finally all broke up and left the bay in June. And the annual sea lift ships slowly began to arrive.

But channels that should have opened up more further down the bay remained full of ice. A lot of that ice is multi-year ice coming down the Cumberland Sound (apparently) and even from the Davis Strait, and being blown (by changing wind patterns) into Frobisher Bay. Sometimes winds and tides will bring the iceberg chunks all the way into town. Nice big chunks of ancient glacial green ice.

Last weekend, this is what one iceberg in the harbour looked like (this picture was taken by my friend Danielle Lepage):

Two weeks ago, friends of our were part of a group that was supposed to travel to Greenland on the Aurora Magnetica (see, a french research ship that overwintered in the ice in the harbour here, testing its special hull built to withstand arctic ice. They couldn't make it through the band of ice across the top of Frobisher Bay. Things even got a little scary when their boat was pushed out of the water by the ice. Here are pictures taken by my friend Andre Samson, who was on the boat:

Apparently the Aurora Magnetica has now safely made it to Greenland, though. And though some of the sea lift ships are coming into port with heavy ice damage (those ancient pieces of glacial ice are like rocks), they're still getting through with ice breakers.

I'm finding the ice fascinating (and a little sobering, knowing that soon winter will back ...)

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Ship Comes In! ... and more Alianait ....

Its been a beautiful couple days, and its really starting to feel like summer in the arctic. Last week, the ice went out of the harbour, though you can still see it in the distance. And yesterday, the first sealift ship of the year arrived! Here it is:

Its been a really busy time, with work plus coordinating all the volunteers for the Alianait music festival. To tell you the truth, I'm at the end of my energy reserve, tapped out after a solid week of volunteer-rustling for musical concerts pretty well every day. So this afternoon, I shut off my cell phone and escaped my email for an hour, and went down to the harbour to check out that ship and look at the sea. Here are photos I took looking back into town from the pier:

After that brief sojourn, it was back to the big top tent at Alianait, to check in with John, who I'd roped into doing last minute security this afternoon. Here is a picture of three faithful Alianait volunteers: PolarMan (Iqaluit's own genuine superhero), Joshua (my 'wildest' volunteer), and John, Alianait pinch-hitting-volunteer extraordinaire:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

John gets to eat polar bear meat....

[Lorraine writes]: Well, John, lucky guy, got to try out polar bear meat yesterday. A polar bear wandered into the outskirts of town, and was shot. Some of the meat was brought to the shelter where John is working, so he got to eat his first polar bear meat.

Here is the CBC story, and a picture of the meat being carted away:

Children run for cover before polar bear shot near Iqaluit
Elementary students were on scavenger hunt when wandering bear spotted

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | 6:12 PM CT Comments45Recommend32
CBC News

A polar bear sent dozens of elementary school students racing for safety before the animal was shot and killed Wednesday morning in a park just outside of Iqaluit.

The bear died only a few hundred metres from the pavilion at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park, which is about a kilometre from Iqaluit.

At the time, 37 kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 students from Nakasuk School were at the park for a year-end picnic.

"The students were up running on the hill here, and I was at the bottom watching them, and they were on a scavenger hunt," teacher Jason Rochon told CBC News on Wednesday.

"Two men started running down and waving their arms. And they were like, 'Get out of here, get back to the cabin!' So I was kind of wondering why they were upsetting the kids so much. And they were like, 'There's a polar bear! There's a polar bear!'"

Lazarus Awa and another summer student working with Nunavut Parks raised the alarm after Awa spotted the bear rooting through the contents of a garbage can near the Sylvia Grinnell River.

"This is my first time seeing [one] here in the park," Awa said. "I was so amazed, and it's a huge, old male polar bear."

Conservation officers and the RCMP arrived on the scene and decided that given so many people were in the vicinity of the polar bear, that there was no choice but to kill the animal.

Speaking in Inuktitut, conservation officer Johnny Nowdlak said attempts were made to scare the bear away with a warning shot, but it didn't work.

Nowdlak cited safety as the reason why they shot the bear, saying there were children nearby and summer visitors had set up about a dozen tents near the river.

The bear was shot in an area popular with tourists and residents. It then fell onto a ridge above the end of the park's road, overlooking the tents.

Nowdlak, who skinned the polar bear after it was killed, estimated that it was male, about 10 years old and approximately 2½ metres long. It appeared to be healthy and was likely looking for food in the park, he said.

The bear's meat and skin were delivered Wednesday afternoon to the office of the Iqaluit hunters and trappers association, where the meat was doled out to some lucky bystanders.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Signs of summer ...

[Lorraine writes] Summer is starting to burst out even here in the arctic.

Today, after weeks of average temperatures of about +5, it was +17. This week's paper had a profile picture of an unusual arctic visitor: a robin -- probably the most photographed robin in a long time.

John tells me that the "news on the street" is that the icebreaker is within a week away, ploughing the way open for the first sealift ship of the year bringing community supplies. (John has finished the book, hoorah! and has been working at the local men's shelter, which is an excellent source of 'news on the street" info about everything you could possibly imagine ....)

And the big exciting thing today is that the Alianait tent went up. The Alianait Festival is a music and arts festival that runs for a week and a half starting this Saturday. Somehow I was rustled into the position of 'volunteer coordinator' and now I am happily trying to sort out about 200 volunteers (and counting) for the festival. Here is a picture of the tent going up (picture taken by Ed Maruyama, the official photographer for the festival; that crazy looking space-age building in the background is Nakasuk elementary school, by the way), and a link to the festival site:

My "honourary mother" Jack has been complaining that there is no 'real news' on our blog about what we are doing in our lives right now, so there you have it. I'm up to my eyeballs in music festival volunteers. John is finished the book and busy sussing out important 'news on the street'... and the worms are doing fine (no more crazy escape attempts)... all is well ...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

1,000 Household Helpers Move In

One of the conundrums about living up here is what to do with compost. There are no community-wide composting programs here (there is one small test one for a few households, but nothing we could participate in). It was a shock to start throwing everything in the garbage again after years of getting used to more and more recycling and composting. (It was also sooooo easy to start doing ....) It also seemed crazy not to compost, because the outdoor soil here is almost all rock and gravel (with patches of moss etc on the tundra, but nothing you could garden with).

So, I began to dream of worms. Compost worms. To chew up our compost and give us nice soil in return. I have friends who have used compost worms in apartments, etc. for years, and swear by them. So I became obsessed with getting compost worms. I blogged about this before: I was plotting how to ship up compost worms - send them by air cargo? take them on the plane as 'pets'?

Then some friends up here phoned us to tell us they were moving and wanted their compost worms to go to a good home. So, about 1,000 little household helpers moved in on Saturday. They were a little spooked by the move, so there were a couple wild escape attempts at first, but as soon as we kept the lid off the bin and shone light in, they all burrowed back down into their dark wonderland. It amazes me that they are so efficient, and industrious, and don't even smell! And you can actually HEAR them if you get up close to the box. I'm very excited about their arrival. Go worms go!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

So, it's 1 am, and I'm looking out the window at two odd realities.

1. Its light out there.
2. There are a LOT of kids wandering around out there.

Welcome to the world of 24 hour sunlight. Official sunset is something like 11:30 and sunrise is something like 2:00 right now (OK, scurry off now and look it up on your search engines), but lengthy twilightson either end mean no darkness. And if adults' bodyclocks get whacked out by this (mine certainly is), then imagine what it must be like for kids.

By 2:30 or 3:00 each morning now, our east facing bedroom window has strong arctic spring sunlight beating down on it. So I've resorted to doing something I swore I'd never do: I put tinfoil over the windows as this seems to be the best way to block the light and actually get some sleep.

And I'm wearing my sunglasses pretty much all times of the day now, when I'm outside. Sometimes it is because of intense sunlight during the day (which comes and go with intermittent greyness and fogginess), and often it is because of the dust. Because it is almost always windy here, and (with few paved roads) VERY dusty, the sunglasses keep the grit from flying into my eyes. So between 24 hour light and 24 hour dust storms, I'm all about wearing my sunglasses at night ....

Time to go back to the dark tin-foiled bedroom cave and try to get some sleep .... (John is fast asleep after tiring himself out by going dog sledding today -- but that's another post ....)

p.s. thanks to Peggy who brought up the issue of sunglasses at night ...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gardening in the Snow

We woke up this morning to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. The hot arctic sun had burned it off by noon, but it was still discouraging. I am so ready for spring.

The skidoos are still getting out on the bay, but its getting harder and this is probably the last weekend. One of my work colleagues said that the other day she was coming back from a trip out to her cabin down Frobisher Bay from Iqaluit and she was waist deep in water for big chunks of the trip. Yikes. I asked her if that wasn't incredibly cold and she said, 'nah. you don't notice it with the adreline when you're skidooing through water.'

Another woman who works in my department was just stranded on a skidoo trip up to Arctic Bay (a trip of a couple thousand kilometres, by the way) and she and her husband had to call a charter in to pick them up at one of the DEW line stations. Inuit colleagues are saying that the snow and ice melt is three weeks early this year.

But I'm ready for srping (especially after a trip to Halifax last week, for work -- I couldn't believe how green it was and how nice it was to see trees and grass and great stretches of spring flowers again).

So, what do you do when the spring gardening bug hits and there is no topsoil outside (only gravel and sand in most places, with some bunches of moss etc)? You join the community greenhouse!

We joined the Iqaluit community greenhouse, so this morning we trekked over the melting snow to participate in the big tomato plant-off. John and I are floaters, so we don't have our own plot -- we help to take care of the plots for a couple local shelters and community organizations.

It was so nice to go out of the snowy cold outdoors into the hot humid greenhouse. Plants which were started last week are already sprouted -- and up an inch, in some cases (yeah radishes). Today we were planting the tomatoes and zucchini that hang from the ceiling.

Here is a picture from last year, of the hanging tomatoes being watered by Peter Workman (Peter also conducts the community choir that John and I are part of, by the way).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pictures from the trip to the flow edge (open sea)

As promised in my last posting, here are pictures from our trip two weeks ago to the flow edge (where the open sea is).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Time to Store the Sealskin Mittens

I'm in Ottawa, en route back to Iqaluit after a work trip to Halifax. Everything in Halifax and Ottawa has been sooooo green this past week - almost neon-glowing-late-spring green.
While we are not as far as that in Iqaluit (and don't have the trees that will make the horizon green, of course), spring has sprung. Most of the snow in town has melted, although the snow is still there on the hills outside of town (particularly as you get further away from the bay).  The ice won't completely leave the harbour until July, though.
A week and a half ago, we were lucky enough to get out onto the land while it was still possible to skidoo out. We went to the flow edge (where the open ocean water is) about a two hour skidoo trip each way from town, as part of a group of about 40 people (mostly Inuit) who work in the government department I work in.  It ended up being a glorious sunny day and so much fun. We were about 20 ski doos and 10 kamotiks (the big traditional sleds which are pulled behind skidoos), and I rode most of the way in one of the kamotiks (which made for some very sore joints and bones the next couple days!) John and I really enjoyed the day. Part of the purpose of the trip was hunting, and pretty well every ski doo had a gun. We weren't that successful - one seal and one Canada goose. Pictures to follow.  But coming and going we were going through big pools of standing water on top of the sea ice close to town (particularly at high tide), so you could tell that it was going to get harder for the ski doos to get out on the sea ice. 
Pictures to follow!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Lorraine Converts John ... to Bollywood Movies

We don't have cable right now. We have a Zip membership (where you rent DVD's through the mail) but it takes forever for the DVD's to go back and forth by mail. So we were desperate last night to watch a video or DVD.

Which is how I finally convinced John to watch a Bollywood movie I have.

And I am proud to report that I have converted John into a Bollywood fan.

We watched Bunty and Bibli, an Indian Bonnie-and-Clyde-type con movie. Except unlike Hollywood, there are those crazy 10 minute long Indian song and dance numbers which pop up throughout the movie. It was SO much fun to watch. And much to his surprise, John was hooked (he even had to go off and download some of the key musical numbers from I-Tunes afterwards...)

Here's info about the Bollywood hit we just watched:

Life's Little Mysteries and Suprises

[Lorraine writes] After a good break in southern Ontario, we're back in Iqaluit and settling back (after a restless period) into the rhythm of life here in Iqaluit again.

Its funny how, being back, you see things with 'fresh' eyes again. Sometimes it is the little things here that surprise me. Here are some of the everyday surprises I'm noticing again, here in Iqaluit:

1. Blue Bathroom Stains: I grew up on the prairies, and my mother battled valiantly (though mostly unsuccessfully) against the rust from the high iron content in our well water, so we lived with orange stains in sinks and tubs. So I am conditioned to think that bathroom stains are NATURALLY orange or red.

Not here. We get blue stains. Every time I scrub down the tub I marvel at how it builds up. Its from the high levels of copper sulfate in the water (or so I am told). Its very cool.

2. Kids Kids Everywhere: We have the youngest population in Canada here, with a high birth rate and big families. Everywhere you turn there are kids kids kids. Which gives a wonderful energy to a lot of life (and creates havoc in terms of scarce daycare and thus many parents forced to miss work days when childcare crises come up). Because the weather has warmed up, the back lot behind our apartment building is one constant melee of serious-looking hockey games, adolescent-girl dramas, and lots of kids and dogs milling around. A nice and entertaining harbinger of spring.

3. Snow that Melts even if the Outdoor Temperature is Below Freezing: When John and I first noticed this, we were flummoxed. It was -10, and the snow was melting like mad. What the ...... The spring sun is REALLY intense now (sunrise at 4 am, sunset at 9 PM with a couple extra hours of light on either end now). It hits the snow and melts it even when the air temperature is below freezing. Right now getting around is a bit messy, as your choice is to either walk through goopy mud (there is only one paved road through town) or melting snowbanks hiding big pools of water beneath. Who knew we would need not our trusty arctic Sorrels OR the good old rubber boots we schlepped up here with us, but INSULATED rubber boots (particularly if you do any ski-dooing, which we plan to do over the next couple weeks).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

They Are Not "Northern", They Are 360 Degree Lights

Last night we went to a FANTASTIC concert. Nathan Rodgers was in town, doing a fundraiser for the Alainait (music and art) festival that will happen this summer.

Rodgers is a terrific young folk singer. He's a son of Stan and nephew of Garnet, but I would say he has no need to rest on the family laurels - he is an amazing musician in his right. Check out his website:

We had a chance, along with some other local musicians, to jam with him on Friday night. At one point, Nathan revealed that he has studied, and knows some, Tuvan and Mongolian throat singing, and proceeded to throat sing with a couple local Inuit throat singers who were there. It was a transcendent moment. As was the moment last night at the concert when one of those same Inuit singers (Celina Kalluk), got up and sang along when Nathan performed his father's (Stan Rodgers') classic folk ballad, the Northwest Passage, having translated the lyrics into Inuktitut.

We walked home, across town, after the concert. We took a route down the steep hills along Frobisher Bay, along a snowbmobile path a little away from the houses. The northern lights, which are often going at night now and often located in the skies to the south of us, were absolutely spectacular. They lit up the sky in a 360 degree circle, vast undulating waves of skipping and dancing, sparkling light. We stopped, awe struck, in the middle of the darkness, with our heads back and mouths open, hardly able to move it was so incredible. We would slowly rotate around, oohing and aahing as the lights moved like waves over our heads.

Music and light. Spring in Iqaluit is good.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

True Confession: I've Joined the Legion

[Lorraine writes] One thing about living up here is that sometimes you do things you never thought you'd ever do. Like eat raw seal and whale meat. Or get a gun license so you can go into the parks. Or have long discussions about the mechanics of running snowmobiles.

Or join the Legion.

Which I've done, to my own mild shock. When I was growing up, I associated the Legion with boozy, smokey buildings where old people drank and played darts. And poppies, of course.

The Legion here in Iqaluit is in a league all its own. It is "the" social hub of the community. It is one of the only places in the community where you can buy liquor (there are no liquor stores, and just a couple bars in town,and strict controls on bringing in liquor), and one of the few cheap eateries in town. Everyone belongs. (OK, just about everyone). Its the richest Legion in the country, supposedly posting seven figure profits every year (which may or may not be an Iqaluit myth -- I guess as a LEGION MEMBER, I'll find out....).

I've been there playing music a couple times (Christmas carols, Robbie Burns night) and go there sometimes with the guys I work with, for lunch or after work drinks. Its a happening place: three different bar areas (a 'quiet' lounge, a big pool hall area, and a big open bar area with stage). But everytime I go I have to be "signed in" by a member.

So I decided to bite the bullet and join, as a "social member". Me, with a pacifist background, joining the Legion. Life has its odd twists and turns. Next item on my 'to do' list: get my gun license. (In my Alberta youth I was a crack shot, but life in Toronto and southern Ontario for many years meant disavowing my gun skills if I didn't want to be considered a wingnut by my progressive lefty friends. But now it is time to crack out and hone those rifle skills again).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Celebrating sledding and seals

[Lorraine writes] Saturday was a full, fun day for both of us.

The day started out with John heading out to the sea ice, to watch as the dog teams took off on the annual race from Iqaluit to Kimmirut and back (7 days, 320 km). We know some of the racers. By all accounts it was the usual madness, dogs tangled in harnesses, teams taking off with almost all the dogs pulling forward but one or two resolutely pulling backward because they just didn't want to go, dogs fighting vigorously, or deciding to curl up and go to sleep right as the race was supposed to start. But all the teams made it out of town, and we'll go back next weekend to watch them return. Here are blogs of two of the racers:

Meanwhile, I went off to a seal celebration. There were anti-seal hunting rallies in Europe yesterday, so we had a community celebration to celebrate hunting seals. Hunters went out in the morning, and brought back fresh seals, which were skinned and carved up and eaten at the celebration (mostly raw). There was a feast of caribou and char, as well. People came in their seal skin clothes - parkas, coats, boots, pants, mittens, hats, you name it. There were some gorgeous seal skin clothes there, and a great community buzz. It was a great time and a reminder of just how critical seal hunting is to the local diet, economy and culture here. Here are some of my photos:

Carving up one of the seals:

Local throat singers:

Qulliq burning seal oil:

Sealskin clothes:

All that is left after the feast (head of a char in the left box; hoof of a caribou on the right):

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Article on Iqaluit Taxis

I really enjoyed this article in Walrus Magazine, and thought it
nicely captured the crazy world of Iqaluit taxis, which are the
"public transportation" system here. Enjoy

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Invincible Summer

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an
invincible summer." Albert Camus

After three months of pretty well solidly -30 to -50 temperatures(with the windchill), we are FINALLY getting into balmy spring -20's. And up here, that really is lovely weather -- dry, cold, sunny, very bearable. It's so wonderful to be outdoors these days. On the weekend, I went for long walks, checking out the sea ice, checking out the sled dog teams, and watching children, dogs and ravens play around(sometimes even across species boundaries!)

I'm feeling pretty light hearted. Its not just the added sunlight (light in the sky from 6 am to 7:30 pm). I'm also feeling dandy because I've FINALLY kicked my parasite in the ***. I was pretty sick for six solid weeks, had trouble getting medical care up here, and was finally properly treated when I was down in Toronto last week. Turns out I had picked up a parasite, probably from eating raw meat (as is the custom up here). No more raw caribou, whale, seal or fish for me for a while. I love country food up here, including raw meat, so that is unfortunate. On the plus side, I've lost 10 pounds in the last six weeks, thanks to Mr. Parasite. Hah.

John's book continues apace. We are taking a vacation in three weeks. Its a beautiful sunny snowy world up here. And Mr. Parasite is on his last little macrobial legs. So, all in all life is good.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thinking About "Stuff"

I'm back in Iqaluit after a trip south to Toronto for work for a few days. Frankly, its a relief to be back to the quiet pace of Iqaluit, and away from the barrage of stores and ads and malls and cars and crazy busyness.

One of the things in life that I wrestle with is how to detach myself from "stuff". I love gadgets, can spend hours mulling over catalogues, and have the occasional shop-a-holic fit. This, despite the fact that I even lived for a while in an intentional community dedicated to voluntary poverty -- I admit I was never much good at 'voluntary poverty'. Its actually been a relief to live in a place where malls and ads and prompts to shop shop shop are not in your face all the time. It was also good to go through the purging process before we came up here, and to realize how much 'junk' we had in our lives, and how much we could get rid of. (Mind you, we still brought up too much junk with us.)

At this point in my life, I want to strip back to the basics. Life is just easier that way, and it frees up my mind for what I really value: relationships, music, good work. (And skiing, says John from the sidelines). Too much stuff clutters up my mind not just my closets, I find. On the other hand, I do yearn for good espresso, listen to podcasts on my my i-pod every night before I fall asleep, and am sitting here blogging on my dandy laptop. So yes, I am full of contraditions. But I'm working on it...

Here is an interesting video on "stuff":

Friday, February 29, 2008

Strange Black Dots on Landscape

I'm sitting in the Ottawa airport, stranded by weather, en route to Toronto to meetings next week, and a chance to see "the kids" (or should I say, "those handsome, charming young men who are my stepsons") this weekend.

On the way down from Iqaluit, I was casually looking out the window every once in while, at the landscape. About an hour into the flight, I thought to myself, "what ARE all those funny black dots on the ice and snow?" It actually took me about 10 seconds to realize, wait a minute, those are TREES. TREES!!!! I miss trees ALMOST as much as I miss those charming, handsome stepsons. Trees and stepsons, here I come ....

Friday, February 22, 2008

Arctic Night Owl ...

[Lorraine writes] Its 11 pm on Friday night, and I'm getting ready for bed. Which means the Bird is about to get up and start his next shift.

As John has become more and more immersed in finishing off his book, his working hours have migrated deeper and deeper into the night. Now, he's usually at the computer tapping up a storm between midnight and 7 am. He comes to bed, I get up. And on days like today, he has a late evening nap to recharge his batteries for the overnight shift. So I'm creeping around quiet as a mouse, while he recharges the muse.

The book project is coming along. One great side effect that I get to enjoy (in addition to John being happy as a clam because he's 'researching' music all the time) is the constantly new and amazing music repertoire wafting through the apartment all the time because of the daily 'discoveries'.

I'll be kinda sad when this book project is done. Its been fun to reap the benefits (without having to do the crazy-making work of the writing).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wow, great comments on the north...

Check out the Nunavut Nonsense blog for the great comments by people reflecting on why they love living in the north:

Court weighs in cost of living up here ....

Well, now even the courts have weighed in on the ridiculously high
cost of living up here.

This was in a CBC north news story yesterday:

Judge determines cost of living in Iqaluit is 50 per cent higher than Yellowknife

A Nunavut Court judge has determined that the cost of living in Iqaluit is 50 per cent higher than it is in Yellowknife. Justice Earl Johnson made the ruling last week in a bankruptcy case. An Iqaluit family forced to declare bankruptcy disputed the calculations of their trustee, Brown and Crocker (sp). The trustee had determined that they could keep the basic household exemption as calculated for Yellowknife plus 25 per cent to reflect higher costs in Iqaluit. The Iqaluit family argued it wasn't enough and suggested they should be allowed to keep the Yellowknife amount plus 100 per cent. The judge came up with the Yellowknife exemption plus 50 per cent after reviewing some of the costs in Iqaluit. Among other things, Judge Johnson noted that Nunavut households spend 84 per cent more on household supplies than people in southern Canada and 31 per cent more on housing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mystery tube arrives by post

One fun thing about living up here is getting the occasional care
package from family or friends. Its always interesting to see what what "essentials" they think we are missing.

My mom has been using her care pkg skills in an ongoing effort to see
what she can send cheaply by post, how to best surprise us, etc. Being
very practical, she often sends things like cough drops and Cold FX
tablets, which is much appreciated. But today, a FANTASTIC care package arrived. IT was a small,
long poster tube filled with ....... salted black dutch licorice!!!!!
Yeah!!!!! (Ana and Jeff get big cudos for sending us some at Christmas, too :-) Thank you Dutch Toko store in Guelph ...)

I'm off to eat a bunch along with some pickled herring I
splurged on at the store this week. I better be careful or John won't come near me for days.....

Monday, February 11, 2008

5 Things I Like Best About Living in the North

[Lorraine writes] Nunavut Nonsense has a blog thread going on this topic. Here is my contribution:

Five Things I Like Best About Living in the North:

1. I went from commuting 2500 km a month for work a year ago, to 10 km a month now.

2. A bad traffic jam here is cars stacked five deep at the four-way
stop at lunch.

3. The crazy taxi drivers have "shortcuts" to avoid those "bad traffic jams".

4. My community has a genuine superhero (PolarMan) devoted to good works.

5. When I went shopping for a valentines gift for my sweetheart, I could pick up a snowmobile, or walk two paces over for chocolates.

Lorraine (Northern Chirp)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

In praise of traditional arctic clothing

[Lorraine says] Today was brutally cold: -55 with the windchill. I went out midday to go the library and to pick up a few groceries. I was reminded of just how grateful I am for the sealskin mittens John gave me at Christmas -- my hands have never been cold in them. (Here is a picture of John modelling them). It also makes me realize, again, not only how beautiful the traditional clothing is up here, but how functional.

This past week, I slipped out for a late lunch one day, and went over to the courthouse where a local fiddler and I had been asked to play music for a wedding. The bride (in her 50's) wore a stunningly beautiful handmade amauti made of raw green silk, with intricate beading, and trimmed with fox fur. Her daughters and granddaughters also all wore amautis with gorgeous detailing, and trimmed with fur. One of the granddaughters carried a pet stuffed rabbit in the baby holder of her amauti as she proudly walked up the aisle with her grandmother.

Amautis are a great example of traditional clothing that is both functional and beautiful. Most young women carry around their babies in amautis. Occasionally, you'll even see a man wearing one, if he's carrying around a baby. There is a good reason why amautis and other traditional clothes (sealskin mittens and kamiks (boots), caribou and sealskin coats, and particular types of fur trim) are so prevalent up here: they work well in this climate, and they are beautiful to boot (no pun intended).

Maybe one of my next projects will be sewing lessons for traditional clothing ...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sticker Shock

[Lorraine writes] Well, the end of month tally is in, and the word is official. We are officially spending an OUTRAGEOUS amount of our salary on food. I knew food costs up here were expensive but this is ridiculous.

Total groceries for January for the two of us: $1215. (This is the point at which my 'real' mom Ella in Alberta and my 'honourary' mom Jack in Toronto gasp in horror while reading our blog and begin to compile the long lists of ideas for us to save $$.)

That included our one meal out all month (Chinese at the Navigator, yeah).

For all you frugal shoppers out there in the south, print off this list and see how it compares to what you are paying in your next grocery shop:

Milk: $7.35 for 2L carton
Butter: $6.99/lb
Flour: $10.49 for 2.5 kg (yes, mom #1 and mom #2, we ARE making our own bread)
Coffee: $11.99/kg
Shredded Wheat: $7.99/box
No Name Kleenex: $2.39.

We usually shop at the North Mart (the 'buy everything' store up here, where the skidoo aisle is five steps from the bread aisle). Here is our North Mart:

Sometimes we go to the other store in town, Arctic Ventures (see my Dec 19 post).

Occasionally, we bring in food by cargo or 'foodmail' (subsidized postal cargo rates for food basics). Last week, I faxed a food mail order to La Marche du Nord in Quebec, and they sent us $100 of food, which cost $89 to ship plus $6 for a taxi to carry it all). So, your basic grocery bill, doubled.

Any which way you cut it, our grocery bill is one big 'ouch'. Later this year, we'll go down to Ottawa and do a big shop for basics and have it shipped up on the annual sea lift, which will hopefully help cut costs somewhat.

But we'll still end up buying our tomatoes at $8.88/kg and apples at $8.99 for a 3 lb bag -- you can only live on dried veg and fruit so long ....

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Strange Substance Sighted

[Lorraine writes] Yesterday, we had a small blizzard, lots of wind, some snow, and over 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday, the temperature rose from -35 to -4. It made for a nice cosy day working at home, though it wasn't that severe and I probably COULD have gone into my office (all the govt offices in Iqaluit were officially closed, though).

Last night when it warmed up to -4, we were positively giddy. We hadn't seen such warm temperatures in three months. We ditched our big parkas, put on light jackets, and made an 11 pm run to a gas bar to pick up some very expensive junk food, just for the thrill of going out in the 'warm' weather.

Today the temperature was up to 0 degrees. Very strange. I walked into work, revelling in the warmth, and when I arrived and began to take off my big boots, it noticed something VERY STRANGE. An odd substance clung to my boots, something I have not seen since LAST winter in Ontario. It was translucent, a little chunky, and drippy ..... I was shocked to find SLUSH on my boots.

I realized just how unaccustomed I've become to the notion of winter slush -- its so dry and cold up here that the snow is more like styrofoam and makes crunch crunch crunch noises when you walk on it. And on really cold days, it echoes under your feet, and you can get a sense of the temperature from the type of snow echo.

Tomorrow we go back to "normal" -20's weather. No more slush. More crunch. Can't wait til spring....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nunie Award Nomination

[Lorraine says] So, we've been nominated for a "Nunie". There are quite a few bloggers in Nunavut, and someone has started an annual award for different blog categories.

We've been nominated for Best New Blog of 2007. Now, before our faithful southern readers get yer knickers in a knot over this good news, please note that we've garnered a modest 1.6% of the vote so far. LOL. So, you can go to and vote for us. Even better, you can go to that website, and check out some of the other nominated blogs - there are some interesting bloggers up here. Some of my favourites are Townie B'stard, The North is my Snowcone, and Jen of Nunavut. The Townie B'stard has a hysterically funny animated cartoon of a writer going crazy, which makes me laugh every time I see it because it reminds me of John.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Seeking an Owl's Wisdom

[Lorraine writes] Life has been busy but good. The pace quickened over the past weeks as I got ready to argue a big legal case this past Friday.

In order to make an appearance in the Nunavut Courts, I had to be called to the bar here. Which I was, a week ago, in a lovely, intimate ceremony. Another lawyer and I appeared before the Chief Justice, in her sealskin sash, in one of the courtrooms which have kamotik (sled type) railings, and a court clerk whose uniform also had sealskin edging, swore us in. A number of lawyers from the local legal bar showed up, which is a nice tradition here. Here's a photo of me taking the oath.

I was thinking it would be nice to commemorate the occasion, but how? The more I thought about, the more I thought it would be good to honour my call to the bar up here with a traditional Inuit carving, related to my understanding of practicing law up here.

Then on Wednesday, I had to go to Kimmirut for work. Kimmirut is the nearest community to Iqaluit, on Baffin Island. There are no roads between any communities in this territory, so you can either fly or snowmobile. Its a one day snowmobile trip or 40 minute flight. I flew, although I swear the small plane I was on was just as cold as being out on a snowmobile!

Kimmirut is a beautiful community, with houses perched on steep cliffs coming down to the seashore. You can see the 30 foot ice walls where the tide goes up and down. It is the jumping-off point for travelling to beautiful Katannilik Park, which has a microclimate along the Soper River, and thus has the only (?) trees in Nunavut. (Nunavut bloggers can correct me if I'm wrong on that). Its a popular canoeing and rafting river in the summer, and the general area is gorgeous. There are interesting geological formations, including large outcrops of white marble (and including the big white marble hump in the village that looks like the heel of a foot -- Kimmirut means 'heel'). (Check out for more info).

While there, I had a chance to talk to the Park Manager, who showed us the interpretive centre and gallery which are usually open only in summer. There in the gallery were many gorgeous carvings (there are a lot of talented carvers in Kimmirut), including a beautiful 8 inch high snowy owl in green marble. Ahhh, I thought, owl. As in wisdom. That is a nice metaphor for how I hope to practice law here. The carving was done by a young carver in his late teens, named Johnnysa Mathewsie. Its now in my living room: here's a picture.

So here's to hoping that I live up to the example of my carved animal friend, and find some arctic wisdom up here...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Learning to Adapt To "Parka" Time

[Lorraine writes]: Well, Christmas and New Years are over and its back to the regular day to day schedule.

But with one scheduling challenge: right now it seems like about 2 hours of each day are taken up with just getting in and our of outdoor clothing. In the past six days, we haven't had a day warmer than -45 with the wind chill (mostly the temperature has been hovering around -35 with about 30 to 40 km/hr winds, which equals around -50 with the windchill. We also had a mini-blizzard last Friday). On Monday morning, I got up early and it was -59 with the windchill (it "warmed up" to -53).

We just sent out our "Epiphany" letter (having been too tardy to make Christmas), and we were gloating in our annual Bird-Land index that we'd cut our average monthly commute from 4500 km/month between the two of us, to 12 km/month. Think of all the time and energy we are saving, I thought! But now of course, we have "parka" time to factor in...

Here is a picture of my butt-ugly warmest parka (I have two other 'prettier' parkas -- who knew that one could have a fashion selection of parkas, for pete's sake). I'm suited up in t-shirt + wool sweater + over sweater + parka + long johns + pants + wind pants + three layers of socks + wind goggles + neck warmer + Pangnirtung hat which we can't even see under my parka hood + trusty sorrel boots + lovely sealskin mittens (my Christmas gift from John, natch). If I don't get out the door soon, I'll smother ....

Tomorrow it warms up to a balmy -28. Can't wait ....