Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Firefighter

Noah was a firefighter for Hallowe'en.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Success!!! After weeks of trouble with YouTube, I figured out a new way to upload videos.

Here's Noah's first time on skates.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Noah is very cute in this video, but for those of you who have never been treated to my wonderful/tone deaf singing voice, here's a little taste.

Noah's First Temper Tantrum

I realize that this is a bit mean. Noah had his first big temper tantrum a couple of weeks ago, and Sophie made a video of it. This is about 15 minutes into the tantrum. It lasted about ten minutes more. You may notice the smirk on my face. However, you may also notice that the camera is shaking because Sophie is giggling.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Bus from Pompeii to Brindisi

It's a long way from Pompeii to Brindisi. Hours and hours and hours. A bus ride this long with fifty-odd teenagers is bound to sprout a few problems. Especially if the teenagers come from different cultures.

We had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to part from our hotel in Rome (actually a two-hour bus ride from Rome, stupid EF Tours) and we were off to Pompeii. After spending a few hours at the archaeological site, one of the most important in the whole world, we were off on a six-hour bus ride to Brindisi, from where we caught an overnight ferry to Greece.

Our group of four students and two teachers had piggy-backed on a much larger tour. In the group were four people from North Carolina, and forty-odd grade 10 students from North Vancouver. Originally, I had thought that this would be one of the best parts of the trip. The students from Kangiqsujuaq would be able to meet people from other parts of North America. As it turned out, the two smaller groups found themselves swallowed up in the vast sea of North Vancouverites. At times, it led to some friction.

Near the end of the ride, I went to the back of the bus to tell my students to get their gear together, and one of them was almost in tears. I asked her what had happened, but she just looked at the floor and shrugged her shoulders. Another of my students complained, "Why do they have to talk so much? It's so annoying!" The students immediately surrounding her went quiet and looked away.

I pressed further and eventually one of them coughed up the apparent source of tension. "When [my student] was sleeping, that boy put an orange peel on her and took a picture." I felt confusion, shock and even a bit of rage building up inside me.

"This boy?" I pointed to a guilty-looking lad who sat on the seat in front of her.

"And his friend." she replied, gesturing with her eyebrows to the boy seated across the aisle.

I went back up to the front of the bus and spoke to the teacher who seemed to be in charge of the group. "I think we have a problem with some students."

The bus came to a stop. We had arrived at the port at Brindisi and were about to get off the bus and on to a boat. "Can we deal with this once we're aboard?" he asked.

"Certainly, I'll come see you at supper."

I joined the students to get a more complete picture of what was happening. They were all standing in a group, a few metres away from the bus, having a cigarette. One of the North Van students remarked, "do you have to smoke every time we stop? Sheesh."

I stared at the girl until she left, and then turned to the students. "I wonder what's up with her," I said.

One of the boys piped up, "they say something everytime we smoke."

* *

In our school, I can think of only a handful of secondary students who do not smoke. I've heard stories from other teachers who have seen pre-school aged children crawling around underneath the school looking for butts. At recess in the morning and afternoon, I often see children younger than ten come up to the smoking secondary students softly asking, "after you?"

Although I find it very sad, I don't try to fight this battle. No matter how many times a teacher tries to "catch" a student smoking and goes through the motions of calling the parents and notifying the school counselor, it is a losing battle.

I used to teach grade 7; the last year of primary. At the end of each year, I would have the students write in their journals what the most exciting thing would be about going from the primary side of the school to the secondary side. The most popular response was always that they could smoke at recess. It's like a rite of passage for these kids.

I also grew up in a small town in a different time and place. As junior high students in Northern Alberta, we all admired our older siblings who would stand in the church parking lot across the street from the school, smoking at recess while we played soccer. We wanted nothing more than to fast-forward life a few years and be them. We too waited our turn and then claimed top spot on the totem pole.

Not only are anti-smoking crusaders fighting peer-pressure, but addiction. Smoking is a self-destructive behaviour. Although the literature and knowledge that smoking is unhealthy took more time to get to Nunavik, everyone knows that it's bad for you. But to a smoker, that doesn't matter. I smoked from when I was in grade ten until Sophie became pregnant with Noah. There was a time when I had quit for three-and-a-half years, and thought I had kicked it. I was at a party where someone was smoking, and I thought, "that smells good. I can have one." I bought a pack the next day. Even now, when not faced with the absurdity of pre-teens puffing du Mauriers, which is to say whenever I go to Montreal, I struggle. Even if it's only a couple puffs, or for a couple of days, without fail I smoke.

* *
I had supper with the teacher that night. I explained what had happened with the orange peel and what was continually going on with the smoking situation.

"When we found out we would be traveling with first nations, James," he said to me, "we had a cultural sensitivity workshop for our students, where some of these things were explained to them. But you have to remember that these kids have been bombarded with anti-smoking literature since they were babies." There we were at a cultural crossroads. Juxtaposed with the four Inuit students who smoke were forty teens from possibly the least smoke friendly place on the planet.

To me, this was not the biggest gulf between the students. The smoking issue was just a manifestation of deeper differences. When I first asked my students what was going on, they did not object strongly to the orange peel nor the anti-smoking comments, or even the self-righteous attitude. "Why do they have to talk so much?" was the way one student chose to voice her concerns.

I thought at first that it was just by their simple presence that the forty kids from North Van were overpowering the four quiet Inuit. However, I came to discover that the more profound cultural difference lied in the fact that the kids from North Van felt a sense of entitlement. They didn't see the problem with telling people they didn't know what they should and shouldn't do. Inuit don't do should.

* *

"As far as the orange peel, James, What should I do? What would be a culturally appropriate response? Should he make an apology to her? Should he approach her at all?" It was clear that this teacher wanted his student to make up for what he had done.

I was dumbstruck. I had no idea what would make things right. In fact I knew nothing would.
"First, give me your word that your student will erase the photograph. Do not make him apologize. That would make her even more uncomfortable." I was grasping at straws. I came up with an idea and pretended I knew what I was talking about. "Every time he's in her presence, he should appear submissive. He shouldn't make eye contact. Perhaps he could stare at the floor."

"Consider it done."

The teacher came through. I sat down for a game of cards with my students a couple of hours later. The student who had taken my student's picture was in the lobby as well. "Are things allright? With the boy, I mean?" I asked.

"Well, I think he's a jerk. But it's pretty funny, he won't even look over here. Look at him," one replied.

We looked over and there he was, emasculated of his entitlement, staring at the floor. I felt bad for him. My students laughed. I scolded them, holding back a smile.

Friday, September 25, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, Noah started to watch TV. Well, more specifically, Kirikou. It's a Belgian cartoon based on African legends. It's cute, and apparently, Noah loves it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


My mother sent us 12 jars of Rhubarb-strawberry jam. Noah likes it.

On another note, I must eat a crow. Last week, I mentioned that I was at a loss as to how the village would keep its shiny new black-top clean. This week, two young men came up our street on their rollerblades carrying shop brooms. They proceeded to sweep the entire street. Now Noah has a fantastic place to use his new tricycle. I love public works.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sunday, September 06, 2009


This fall, the villagers decided to pave their streets. While I have some questions about why they didn't use the money on a new swimming pool, or at least to fix the old one, and more about how they will maintain the roads (street sweeper, potholes, etc.) with no equipment or operators, Sophie and I decided to profit from the new asphalt nonetheless. The day that they paved our street, Sophie asked her mother to find Noah a tricycle.

Here he is, just seconds after I assembled it,

and a few minutes later, outside.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


In March, another teacher and I took our four graduating students to Europe. In order to do so, we had to do two things: find some sort of link to Inuit culture; and raise loads of money.

We were in search of a European destination with a great deal of the "wow!" factor. Sayard, the other teacher, came across an itinerary for Rome and Athens. Perfect: the Acropolis and the Colosseum. Wow.

So, I googled "Inuit Rome", and found out that there is a large collection of Inuit artifacts in the Vatican vaults in Rome. Virtually no one had seen any of it for eighty years. It had come to Rome for two separate exhibitions, one in 1909, and one in 1926. Since then, it had been put back in the basement and basically lost until a real estate developer from Toronto heard about it at a dinner party. Since then, Ken Listera curator at the ROM has gone to see it, and the Vatican archaeological staff has begun to restore and document some of it.

We tried several different ways of asking about seeing this collection, and we were put into contact with Dr. Gabriella Massa, an Italo-Quebecoise archaeologist who had put together an exhibition of Inuit artifacts for the Torino Olympics. She asked the Vatican on our behalf, and, low and behold, they said yes. Dr. Massa then arranged for us to visit both her collection, now located at the Pigorini Muesum and the Vatican, who were actually in the process of cataloguing and restoring part of the Inuit collection we wanted to see.

After actually getting access to these artifacts, raising the money was simply a matter of asking the right organizations. The money began to flow more or less freely. On March 18th, were were on our way to Rome.

We arrived at about noon. We had decided to use EF Tours, an educational tour company, to organise our itinerary. In retrospect, I wish we hadn't. I spent much of the trip wishing we had more freedom to proceed at our own pace, but that's another story. Our tour director, Michael, took us to our first rendez-vous with Dr. Massa, at the Pigorini museum. We arrived, an the whole museum was dark. "I neglected to tell you," said Michael, "all of the museums in Rome are closed to the public on Mondays." Uhh, what?

We approached the front door of the museum nonetheless. After Michael spoke with the security guard for a few seconds, a woman came to the door. She was the curator. I spoke with her in English, the French, then finally, Spanish. She replied in Italian. We understood each other. A quick mention of Dr. Massa's name was all it took to open the doors. There were welcomes and introductions all around. We went upstairs and sat in a room, to which the curator brought pieces for us to peruse.

Dr. Massa shows us a few pieces, as well as the catalogue of pieces that she showed at the 2006 Olympics in Torino.

The archaeologists started to bombard the students by asking them what each piece was for. I don't know what they were expecting, but the students, who had spent the previous night on an airplane, most of them leaving Canada for the first time, were less than enthusiastic. I'm not sure that they would have been able to identify the pieces even at the best of times. To me, is seemed that the archaeologist from Pigorini, who had never met an inuk, did not understand, or at least not expect, the cultural disconnect between the youth of today and their grandparents.

Traditionally, much of Inuit children's leisure time would have been spent listening to the stories from their grandparents in a tent or igloo. Now, the children rarely speak with their grandparents. Much like in the South, Inuit youth enjoy modern forms of entertainment, like killing zombies or terrorists in some first-person shooter game.

The next day, we went to the vatican museums to look at the artifacts that we had planned to see all along. We arrived as it museum was opening; there were already thousands queuing up. We met Dr. Massa and jumped the queue.

We were ushered in to the museum complex, behind ropes, and through a maze of unopened and unfinished exhibits featuring artifacts from all over the world. Eventually, we arrived at a laboratory, where the spoils of a century-old pillage by Oblate priests throughout the Canadian Arctic were laid out on a table, just for us.

Our students were well-rested and ready. The Vatican staff was much more relaxed in their approach. However, eventually, the questions started to come out. At one point, an archeaologist showed our students a pile of polar bear teeth and asked them how to play this game. One of the students, who iis not themost traditional of the group, but certainly knows her accessories quickly rearranged the pieces and explained, "It's not a game. It's a neckalce."

As we pored over the artifacts, discussion led to to the reasons that so many things from all over the world are in the Vatican. Eventually, one of the students asked if the things could eventually be given back to the Inuit. I suggested to the archaeologists that first-peoples all over the world have been given the short end of the stick. There has been a one-way cultural exchange. As they say, all roads lead to Rome. In one of my proudest moments as a teacher, one of the students suggested that the Vatican give us something from Ancient Rome to put in our local museum. Unfortunately, they declined.

After an hour or so, we had exhausted the collection that they had prepared for us. We had read that the Vatican had a kayak in its vaults. I asked, "Can we see the kayak?"

After a short discussion in italian and some nodding heads, we were led once again through a maze of artifacts, and down a set of stairs where we came upon a thick set of stainless-steel doors. One of the archaeologists opened the doors, revelaing a room filled with rows of countless shelves filled with treasures from all over the globe. It was truly amazing. We walked to the back of the vault, where we were shown this:

The kayak is so old and deteriorted, they have had a hard time dating it, or even figuring out where it came from.

From there, Dr. Massa took us through the halls of the Vatican, leading us to the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's. and out to the Piazza.

I cannot believe that visiting the Sistine Chapel was the second coolest thing we did at the vatican.

These pictures have been provided courtesy of Sayard Chartrand, my colleague on the trip. On the overnight flight, I decided to recharge the battery pack on Sophie's brand-new Canon Powershot. When I stuck the battery back in, the camera read "Internal problem" and shut down, leaving the zoom half out and the lens half-opened. It remained like that until we returned to Montreal to have it repaired.

A few minutes after taking this photo, we went to eat lunch at a restaurant, where Sayard promptly left her camera. It was the last photo she took in Rome. Luckily, very luckily, the staff at the restaurant later returned it to our hotel.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back up

So, two things are back up. We're back up North, and Hudson Strait is back up and running. Well, at least the videos of Noah. Last year we had a couple of rough patches at the school and I haven't yet been able to wrap a narrative around them.

In the meantime, here's Noah on our first day back in Nunavik. Our flight overshot Wakeham due to fog. We spent the night in Salluit, the next village. It's gorgeous.



Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Malecon in Havana

We went cycling for a month in Cuba with Noah and his trusty trailer. He loved it, so did we. Here he is walking along the Malecon in Havana at sunset. What a city.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Congratulations to Chris and Erin Hartley, who will be married on the beach in Guardalavaca, Cuba today.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Greetings from Remedios, Cuba. Where every single citizen, young and old, can read the sign in the government shop that says that they can only get one bread roll each everyday.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In Which Noah Discovers his love of Potato and Rosemary Bread

Now, where could he have possibly learned such behaviour?

Greetings from Havana. The weather is here. Wish you were beautiful.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Police Bear and the Day Care

We leave for Cuba in three days. We'll be on our Bike Fridays.

Noah looks petrified. I'm afraid of polar bears (and pigs) too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In which Noah shows us what he learned at day care

He got better, so he went back to day care, where he learned a few tricks.

"Alla loo!" Means shut up. That's what he said. I felt like a paparazzo taking pictures of Alberto Tomba.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009


Once in a while, I have a bright idea. Well, at least I like to think so.

A few years ago I invented something brilliant. I was on hold with some company, and I thought, "why in the hell do I have to sit here on hold? I should be able to hang up the telephone, and when the line is no longer busy, the company should call me back! I am their customer, damn it!"

I really thought I was on to something. I thought about how to market this system to telephone companies, I thought about how it should be set up. It was to be a service that companies could subscribe to, much like call waiting or call display, that their clients could enjoy. It would have been an innovation which would help to undo much of the customer disservice that seems to go on in modern-day life. Damn it, I would become a consumer champion. All I needed was someone who knew how to actually make it happen practically, and someone else to invest all of the time, money, and effort into making it a reality... because I was broke and had no idea what I was doing.

Of course, the technology already existed before I had thought of it. I was being sincere. I had thought of it independently, having never experienced it. What's up with that? Why hasn't this caught on?

Anyway, so, I've been spouting out the word "selfleshness" for months now. A mixture of selfishness and selflessness, it infects many of us who come up North.

In my first year, someone said to me that people go up North for three reasons: the 3 Ms: Money, Missionary, or Socially Maladjusted.

For the most part (with some notable exceptions) I think people who head up North have all of their marbles in a row, and are in the North following a combination of the first two Ms. I certainly have my issues with being a qalunaat imperialist sometimes, and think I can at least not do any more damage to the culture in which I am immersed, and I also realize that my job affords me a certain standard of living that would not be possible if I taught in the South.

The thing is, that our jobs are really hard. This year, teaching secondary, I had almost forgotten that. However, over the last few months, Sophie has been replacing a teacher who left in December, herself consumed by the heartbreak and isolation of the job. Each day, as I walked through the door of the house, Sophie would already be in mid-sentence releasing the incredible stress of taking care of truly tragic children for five hours a day. I did the same thing to her for two years, and I cavalierly used my blog as a catharsis one too many times.

Some teachers lose the mission and focus on the money. They begin to forget about what they are doing day to day and focus on a future goal: a house, a retirement, something. They stop living their lives and start postponing it. They start talking about what they are going to do after the North.

Others who end up trying to do this for too long seem to lose perspective about what they are doing. They tend to forget about the money and begin to focus on the mission. Their work becomes all consuming and they find themselves at the school until all hours of the night, taking students into their homes, trying to save somebody. In a way, it's truly admirable, but in other ways it's naive to think that they are doing more than providing band-aids for wounds that run deep through the society.

Regardless, even if teachers who become consumed by the mission put in all of the extra effort, it at least doesn't do any harm. Well, it doesn't until said teachers start to feel entitled because they put in all of the extras. I've heard teachers say things like, "I'm just so tired of giving," without remembering just how much they are taking too. Once the giving ceases to feel good (and even this is just as often assuaging one's own guilt) and becomes a chore, they can begin to feel like they should be entitled to more. Hence, selfleshness. They give because they want to feel entitled to more, and to assuage their own guilt and complicity in the system that continues its colonialism in the North.

Alas, before composing this, I googled "selfeshness" and got a billion hits. The first few were interesting and made me hopeful. They focussed more on the "flesh" of the matter. However, when it came down to it, I found a plethora of sites which more or less used my new word in the same way.

Nevertheless, I've made it my goal to not become infected by selfleshness and to remain completely cognizant of the fact that I get a lot out of teaching up North. For instance, this year I chose a job that ended in March so Sophie, Noah and I could go spend a month in Cuba. I also feel extremely lucky that we were able to organize a trip to Rome and Athens with really little difficulty and a fraction of the work it would have taken in the South. I also feel fortunate to be able to go back up for six weeks at then end of this year to replace someone who will go on maternity leave.

Ultimately, however, I, and especially Sophie, have been very nearly consumed by the guilt of leaving vacant the position for which Sophie had been replacing for the last two months. We had said at the end of last year that we were coming back to Wakeham because we would be able to leave after six months. Sophie didn't take a full-time job this year primarily to take care of Noah, but also because we were going to leave early.

We try to remember that Sophie did the school a favour, by replacing a teacher who was too sick to come back, and giving the kids the benefit of her presence and expertise for two months while the school waited for the news about the teacher's leave, and then while they searched for someone to replace her long-term. It nearly tore Sophie apart.

In the end, we have left. We'll be back up for the months of May and June. After that we don't know.

So far, we haven't been consumed by the mission, and we have yet to focus entirely on the money. In fact, it still feels good to teach the kids. A few weeks ago, Sophie was speaking to an older woman in the village about a nurse who was leaving after ten years. The woman said that "qalunnaat leave when they've taken enough."

I think I'm comfortable with that perspective. I hope I am. It's better than leaving when I become "tired of giving".

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

When Noah Was Sick

Over the next few weeks, some videos will post themselves. Featured in them is Noah's increasingly fluent Inuktitut.

A couple of weeks ago, Noah was very ill. We had to stay home with him and all he did was sleep all day... and do heartbreaking stuff like this:

"Auka" means no.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anyone Interested?

Our fourth/fifth grade French second language teacher has gone on a medical leave. Anyone need a job for the next four months?

Leave a comment with your contact information.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Vatican Vaults

Sophie calls me lucky. I call it intelligent, hard work.

One of my colleagues approached me in September to see if I could help her organise a graduation trip for our Secondary V students. She has done the bulk of the work, but I agreed to help them raise funds. Organizing a graduation trip in Nunavik is (at least I think) a great deal different than doing the same thing in the South. First of all, we have only four graduates. Second, the parents here are, as a rule, not affluent enough to afford to fork over the three grand it takes to send a kid even as far as Montreal. So, we have had to raise funds to get these kids to Europe.

Raising funds is not exactly the same thing as it is in the South either. When I was a kid in High Prairie, AB, the best way to raise funds was to work a bingo. Everyday there would be hundreds of people who would go to the "Bingo Barn" to gamble away their day's earnings. The Bingo Barn was disgusting. The air inside was always blue and smelled of foul, stale, Number 7s. It was (is?) the biggest regular social event in town. I remember working one such bingo for our local bantams hockey team. I must have been 15 or 16. I was walking around with a cart selling coffees, and a man asked me for a light.

At the time I didn't smoke, or at least I didn't have a light, so I asked Kelly, my friend and coffee cart partner, if he had one. He handed me the lighter and I insisted on holding it while the man leaned over to light his smoke. I flicked the lighter a few times. Sparks, nothing more. Determined, the man leaned in closer, and just as determined, I struck the flint again. The flame roared to life, eight inches high, singeing the poor man's eyelashes and eyebrows and leaving little but the smell of confusion and burned hair all around.

"Uhh, I'm sorry." I squeaked out.
"No problem," the man replied, "wasn't the first time, won't be the last." I shit you not. That's what he said.

I digress. We don't have a Bingo Barn in Kangirsujuaq, but we do have motivated students. Because of the exorbitant cost of airfare, we have had to raise a great deal more than a school in the South would have to do. Before Christmas, we held several fundraisers from which we raised close to $9000, a mere $20,000 short of our goal. To make up the difference, we have solicited numerous governmental programs and industrial organizations. With less than three weeks left to go, we have promises of funding, but very few cheques have actually arrived. It's beginning to become a point of stress.

Coupled with the stresses over the money is the excitement of actually going on the trip. I have traveled substantially in the Americas over the past 15 years, but I haven't been to the other side of the pond since I was myself in high school. Our itinerary includes leaving March 6th to Montreal, where we will spend two days before flying out to Rome. After a couple days in Rome, we will head out to Pompeii and on to Greece via an overnight ferry. In Greece, we will spend some time traveling around before ending in Athens and flying back to Montreal on the 16th, where I will take my leave of the students. They will come back up, and I will not, having no position to return to (more on this another time).

In order to justify the expensive price-tag, and extended absence of our graduating students from school, we had to make the trip a cultural as well as educational and recreational trip. Months ago, I came across this story from a few years ago about a great collection of Inuit artifacts in the Vatican vaults. They had been brought to Vatican City by missionaries at the turn of the 20th century for a large exhibition. They have been sitting in the vaults in crates and boxes ever since. Despite the fact that the only non-Vatican staff to have seen these artifacts for decades was an ROM curator, we decided to ask if we could go see it. After all, how often do Inuit go to Rome?

Not expecting anyone to take us seriously, I had each of the students email someone who might be able to help: the curator at the Vatican, the curator at ROM who has seen the collection, and Avataq, the cultural arm of the regional government. The latter put us in touch with an Italian archaeologist who enthusiastically took up our cause. Dr. Gabriella Massa, it turns out, put on an exhibition of ancient Inuit artifacts for the Turino Olympics. Her collection lies in the Museo Pigorini in Rome, and she has invited us to see it. On top of that, she asked the curator of the Musei Vaticani for special pemission to let us go into the vaults and see the collection that only one other Canadian has ever laid eyes on.

Unbelievably, they said yes. It turns out that part of the collection is being restored, and we will get to see it.

Sophie says I'm lucky. Sarcastically, she asks me, "Why did you set your sights so low? Why don't you try to meet the pope?"

Maybe I'll get the kids to write more emails this week.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Noah Feeds Himself

Every time I post something to YouTube, I have to give a description and category and the like, so people searching YouTube can find it. There are plenty of videos entitled "Noah Feeds Himself". This one is a little different than most of the babies feeding themselves.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Heart Attack

When Noah was a newborn, I would always think he was dead. No shit.

He would be napping away, and I'd have to check if he was breathing. Not all the time, you understand, just every thirty seconds or so. He was just so tiny and fragile. I'm sure all parents out there can understand. Of course, you get used to everything, and start to understand that it doesn't work like that, no matter what the baby safety/parent paranoia industrial complex would like you to believe.

Every once in a while however, Noah will give me a heart attack. One of those things happened a little more than a week ago. Moms and dads out there, especially with little ones, you might want to stop reading here, lest you go into cardiac arrest.

Noah went for his first snowmobile ride outside of the amautik. It occurred without incident. He got all dressed up in his winter gear and sat on the seat between Sophie and I while we putted around in the tundra. We went down to the co-op to pay for the gas which we then went to the gas plant to get.

After Sophie took her turn driving excruciatingly slowly down to the bay and back, we returned home, much to the chagrin of our little boy. He was some kind of upset when we got off the snowmobile. He writhed and screamed and kicked, and we brought him in the house just the same. After undressing his many layers, we left him by the door screaming, and trying to pry the door open by stuffing his fingers into the space between the door and the frame. Alas, he couldn't wrench the door free, and finally he gave up. It was about 11:30 a.m., so I thought about making lunch, but Noah sat down with his mom and promptly fell asleep without eating.

He took a three hour nap and awoke as fresh as ever. He was happy, laughing and energetic, but we noticed that he had a bit of a temperature. "Maybe it was a little cold for him," Sophie thought out loud. After living through weeks of sub -25C weather, a crisp -18C with a lot of sun and no wind feels wonderful on the face.

After supper, he began to look tired and feel warmer. Sophie gave him a bath. Normally, it is his favourite playground, but he just sat there shivering. At around seven o'clock, he fell asleep again. We thought that to be early, so we put him in his stroller, where he usually naps, instead of bringing him to his bed.

We could hear him fussing in the stroller, which is normal for a feverish, tired baby, but then his fussing became erratic, and he stopped whining. Sophie and I looked at each other and I bolted for the stroller. I came around the corner and saw Noah's eyes rolled in the back of his head. He was convulsing uncontrollably and foaming at the mouth. "He's having a seizure! He's not breathing! Call Nursing!" I yelled as I pulled him out of the stroller, his arms and legs flailing away.

Sophie called the emergency number for the nursing station. Our friend picked up the phone, and Sophie explained what was going on. A million scenarios raced through my head, most of them including either permanent brain damage or burying my baby in the graveyard at the foot of the mountain. Sophie, for her part, was languishing in guilt over having sent Noah to daycare full time for what imminently appeared to be the last week of his life. After what seemed like a month, Noah took one deep breath and started crying.

"That's better." I said, relieved, as a tear rolled down my own cheek.

Apparently, such febrile convulsions are totally normal.

"These seizures are brief, self-limiting, and rarely harm baby, but may leave parents trembling."

So writes Dr. William Sears. Indeed Bill, indeed. Just recalling the incident makes my heart skip a beat.

Sunday, January 11, 2009



In the South, You don't say hello or lift your eyebrows or somehow otherwise acknowledge the existence of everyone you see. It would be crazy, overwhelming, impossible.

Michael Pollan argues that what humans do all day is forget. That is our primary cognitive function. To prove his point in A Botany of Desire, he describes all of the sensory stimulation he experiences while sitting at his desk. His description of everything he sees, hears, smells, feels, and tastes is truly overwhelming and poignant.

One of the things I liked immediately when moving up here was that things were seemingly a lot less busy. There wasn't all of the hustle and bustle of the big and small cities that I had lived in for the past decade. There was no advertising (I didn't have TV), no traffic, no crowds. It appeared that there was less visual stimulation.

Over the past two and a half years, I've started to notice more nuances in the way the wind makes the power lines which are connected to my house sway back and forth. I can more or less accurately judge the windspeed by looking at them swing or at the municipal flag pole waving away. The sky and the clouds have begun to reveal their many patterns and layers and sophistications, and I am coming to intimately know each of the three-hundred sixty degrees of horizon surrounding me. It appears that I have begun to focus more on the natural beauty that surrounds me, and I'm making it up by ignoring the podcasts infiltrating my consciousness through my always connected, if somewhat isolated, iLife.

I have begun to think that there is not less stimulation up here, just less of it is man made.


Up here, Noah is like a rock star. Everyone knows his name and calls it out emphatically virtually every time they see him. I love the way the Inuit gravitate towards babies. It doesn't matter if it is a five-year-old girl, or a macho forty-year-old hunter. When someone drives by us on a Honda, it's routine to hear them yell out, "Noah Noah!" and wave. Noah has become accustomed to the attention. He smiles and waves back either from inside his stroller or from on his mom's back. Lately, he has gotten used to random people running up to him, full speed, and scooping him up off the ground, dousing him with kisses and love.

The South is a less personal place. At Christmas it almost seemed as if Noah was waiting for a show of public affection towards him. Sure, some people may give a "beau bébé" here and there, but it pales in comparison to his deification up here, where babies are gods.

Oh, I've been out on the town in Montreal and had people stop to comment on the beauty of something that was walking next to me. But it was not Noah. A man has actually made an illegal u-turn in the street just to stop me and say, "Il est beau en tabernacle!" But the man referred not to my son.

Just this past Christmas, I was waiting outside a shop on Ave. Mont Royal. A man walked past me, turned around, bent over, reached out his hand and said, "Il est vraiment beau". Of course, Noah was not the focus of the man's affection. The man was infatuated with Iggaak.

In Montreal, it's Iggaak, who is the rock star.