Archive for August, 2007

Last week friends we haven’t seen in almost 20 year came to visit.  We met Al & Mary in Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories in 1987.  Mary was the head nurse & Al worked at the weather station.  A quick primer about Resolute Bay.  http://www.arcticcircle.ca/Baffin/Res/index.htm  In 1987 the population was about 110 and there was one road from the village to the airport.  We lived in one of the only 2 buildings with more than one floor and we ordered a year’s worth of canned and dried goods at a time.  We had an ocean view – the Arctic ocean that was frozen most of the year and instead of black bears wandering the beach we saw polar bears.  Seeing Mary & Al again brought back all kinds of memories including this story I wrote years ago and now share in memory of Chris’s mother Beryl “Buddy” Stewart.  


My list of things to accomplish includes learning to play the drums and traveling through Europe on a Harley.  Never did that list include spending the night in an igloo. 

Surprising to some maybe but spending two years in the tiny high arctic community of Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories never hindered our social life.  There was always a party to attend or host.  When the sun came up in February we celebrated.  If it was laundry day we celebrated.  So of course a month long visit from my husband Chris’s parents and his grandmother prompted huge festivities. 

At one of many gatherings held in their honour my mother-in-law Buddy met our Inuit neighbour David who happily explained that the igloo in his front yard was really just a playhouse for his young sons.  My antennae ears picked up Buddy’s earnest tone and I heard David agree that yes two adults could probably fit in the igloo.  When Buddy wistfully commented, “I’d love to be able to tell that story at home,” without using much gray matter I blurted out, “I’ll sleep in the igloo with you Mom.”

As he has done many times before and since when I momentarily lose my mind my husband just shook his head and commented, “uh girls…it’s damn cold outside.”  Before Buddy’s hair turned white she was a redhead and always maintained the temperament to match.  You just didn’t tell Buddy there was something she shouldn’t do.  That’s why a few nights later instead of sleeping indoors where I belonged I was donning arctic gear to walk across the road to a bed made of ice. 

Buddy and I watched as David lay down two layers of caribou fur on the solid sleeping ledge and then demonstrated the use of a machete so we could slice our way out of the small domed doorway in the morning.  

Stripping down to sweat suits and thick woolen socks we dove into down filled sleeping bags.  Giddiness over our most excellent adventure was soon replaced with yawns.  Saying goodnight to Buddy I rolled over to blow out the small candle beside me.  The only light now coming from the streetlight shining through chinks where the ice bricks met.  A few moments later I hesitantly admitted, “Buddy I’m not sure but I don’t think it was a very good idea to blow the candle out – that little candle was probably warming the place up.”

“Just light it back up then,” Buddy suggested.  “You brought your lighter…right?”  Now that was a bit of a problem.  You see even though I was a smoker I’d thoughtfully left cigarettes and lighter behind.  It didn’t seem appropriate to light up in such a confined space with a non-smoker.  Feeling extremely stupid the best I could come up with was a heartfelt “oops.”  

The temperature in the igloo quickly plummeted.  And outside the temperature was a -40 degrees with blizzard conditions.  It wasn’t long before we put parkas, boots, mitts and finally our hats back on.  It was too cold to think about sleep.  

            “I think my hot water bottle is freezing up,” Buddy said which made me laugh until I cried.  When I admitted my hair hurt from wearing a hat in bed more giggling for me turned into wheezing.  Allergies to all things fur or feather meant the bedding was making me gasp and my asthma inhaler was too cold to function properly.  The final straw however was our pressing need for indoor plumbing – necessitating the great igloo escape.

With machete firmly in hand I sliced through the grooves of the ice block – the only remaining obstacle between us and a warm bed.  Lying on my back in the tiny igloo I put both boots together and kicked hard.  The block barely moved.  After another kick and another until finally the block came free and we could wriggle our way out and across the street in hopes of sneaking into the house undetected.  Burrowing into my bed of lovely warm blankets a voice snickered faintly, “you just keep that cold butt on your own side of the bed.”  

I’d swear in court that Buddy and I stayed in the igloo until at least 5 a.m. which was important because we had made a twenty dollar bet we’d last all night. My husband says he’s sure we only lasted until about 3:00 or so.  All these years later it doesn’t really matter. It’s a great tale I’ve added to my repertoire.  The one about how my mother-in-law and I spent a week in an igloo one night.    


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On August 10th I said a teary goodbye to Helen & Neil visiting from the UK.  Arriving as guests but leaving as friends – they stayed with us before and after 2 separate kayaking trips.  And did they ever have an incredible tale to tell after their second trip !!  While relaxing at the base camp one evening one of the kayakers told the guide she thought she’d just seen a cougar.  The guide asked the woman, Neil & Helen not to alarm the rest of the group and 2 guides went off to search the area armed with pepper spray.  While the guides were gone Helen asked Neil, “I wonder if it really was a cougar the woman saw?”  Neil replied, “Yes, it was.”  Helen was curious and asked him, “how do you know.”  Neil said, “Because it just passed behind you.”  Can you imagine???  The cougar sauntered nonchalantly behind Helen and Neil knew if he said something to her she’d turn around and be eye to eye with the huge wild cat.  Now that was a close encounter.  Most people can spend their whole lives on Vancouver Island and never see one.  I don’t mind being part of that group.

Here are a few more photos from Chris’s time on the Naiad a few weeks ago.  Two eagles, orcas in a postcard setting, a family of orcas, and just a few more orcas.   I’m determined to get out on the Naiad before whale watching ends this season for a few photos of my own.  For now I’ll settle for pictures taken from here like this one of  a flock of Canadian Geese drifting by.   The geese are a reminder that summer is half over.   We’ve had a great summer so far with a few adventures just around the corner I’m sure.

Blessings from the beach…Karen

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Every summer Chris takes 2 weeks vacation and spends the time helping crew on the whale watching vessel Naiad for our friends the Mackay family.  Here are just a few of the incredible pictures he took last week of orca , dolphins and more orca.  Every day Chris comes home windburnt, sunburnt and tired…but so happy !!

Saturday and Sunday there were no whale watching trips with the Mackay family because their son Tyson got married.  What a special day it was !!  The weather cooperated allowing an outdoor ceremony – near the marina with the Naiad in view.  Tyson & Megan’s 2-month-old daugher Kaia came down the aisle in her mother’s arms.   That evening about 200 guests witnessed 4 First Nations chiefs, dancers and drummers honour Tyson and Megan with a celebration dance, love song and blessings.  Dinner included bbq’d salmon and we enjoyed a jazz band during dinner and then a celtic band later for dancing.  Here Tyson & Megan get ready to cut the wedding cake.  This has been a busy year for Tyson starting his own security company, getting engaged, he and Megan welcoming baby Kaia and getting married.  We wish this beautiful young couple much love and laughter.

Last Thursday Megan called us from Blind Channel Resort with amazing news.  She had just seen Oprah Winfrey !!!  Megan wasn’t able to get close enough to speak to her but said she was wearing a visor and blue track suit.  Oprah was traveling onboard Nova Spirit a 150 foot yacht owned by Jimmy Pattison one of the richest British Columbians  http://www.flickr.com/photos/54953549@N00/995293014/ After leaving Blind Channel Nova Spirit docked in Telegraph Cove for the night and then traveled to Alert Bay the next day to watch First Nations dancing at the Big House.  Such big excitement for our small communities.

The summer is speeding by so quickly.  Already the days are getting shorter and the nights are cooler.  The black bears are still enjoying their berries & crab but will soon be including salmon in their diet.  Cindy from Louisiana sat on the beach with her binoculars just before 6 this morning and was happy to spot the bears at Hoy Bay.  Add it to the list of things we’ve seen in the last week including river otters, seals & dozens of eagles.  

Blessings from the beach…Karen

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