Sunday, August 22, 2010


The truth has been slowly whispering its way into my heart: I'm not one of them.

I might not be a northerner. Not a thirty-years in lifer, and probably not going to be one. Although I always wished I might be. You know those people with their romantic and rugged austerity in the face of those two mighty arctic elements: nature and time. For me, the words "polar night" are a bit scary.

At the root of the matter is the fact that I'm a farmer at heart (in whatever context the word could apply: I am a naturally-inclined homesteader, I am interested in planting seeds and gathering harvest and the husbandry of many good things), and this is a place with no farms.

That said, I'm not ready to retreat south of 60 yet. I've enjoyed many experiences and gifts in my arctic sojourn so far, and here are a few things I've learned:

  • I'm living in a town with a population of 200. This has taught me the safety of being known and knowing. The joy of acknowledging casual acquaintanceship. The excitement of being welcomed back.

  • the pleasures of living without a lot of stuff are many. I'm currently living out of two suitcases' worth of books, craft supplies and clothing, and doing just fine.

  • the pleasures of living without a lot of stuff to buy are also many. The only store in Resolute is about the size of my apartment's living room. This is not a downside.

  • learning to read and enjoy the sky just as much as the land.

  • Just a few telephone lines and the sunset and the horizon for miles. I don't even believe there's such a thing as a silhouette below the treeline anymore.

  • if you dress properly (as opposed to fashionably), winter is really fun.

  • wild and local food sources need to be protected as vital sources not just of nutrition, but of culture and community-building.

Now that I've had some time to think about it, I might just stay.

Photo of the Louis Saint Laurent, a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker that is currently breaking ice on its way here. By Yann Arthus-Bertran

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