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":