Last night the Northern Lights danced in the sky, so I heard.
They were in my dreams.
Mine was a vision of sunset colours overlapping the dark night sky.
Leaping kilometres in a bound, as gracefully and purposefully as a fish swims.
I used to play this game that, wherever I was, I would try to convince myself that ‘I could be anywhere in the world.’ (Use your bed, or a strangers couch for full effect.)
New Zealand was a hamlet in the Rocky Mountains.
Mexico City was in a suburb in Florida.
The heat of Australia became familiar.
I’ve woken up in my bedroom, thinking I was in Uganda.
Whenever I woke up in my tent, I could be in Georgia, Newfoundland, or the Grand Canyon.
At the end of every car ride, I could have ended up in a place called home.
This is the kind of place that leaves an impression.
The job fell into my lap. It was a perfect right-place-right-time Winnipeg fairy tale. After a couple of phone interviews, I had convinced myself the whole deal was too good to be true several times before I boarded the train to bring me to Churchill Manitoba.
Everything I’ve done until now seems to have prepared me for this, yet I had never done anything like this before.
I am guiding beluga whale tours in the province that I grew up in.
How is this even possible??
Summer in the tundra means my commute to work has wildflowers everywhere. I cannot believe how much purple there is up here! The summer blooming season is so short that every few days I see a new flower I haven’t seen before. It’s hard to keep up.
This year’s weather has been insane. I had never thought Hudson Bay could ever be so calm as it was the first few weeks I was here. Although we joke that “if we only ran tours in good weather, we’d only run 2 tours a year,” we only cancelled one tour in July, & every day was better than the last.
I get a lot of questions about what to expect during the tours: Will we see whales? Will we see bears? How cold is the water? At least once a day someone tells me “You must love your job.”
Playing coy in these circumstances is tough. I would try to say something about the ol’ 9-to-5 grind, & how finding the whales or hauling kayaks isn’t that easy.
(an example of the 9-to-5 grind. Running shuttles across the Churchill River.)
There hasn’t been a single day I’ve been here that I haven’t seen a whale. I’ve seen feeding frenzies over a kilometer long. I’ve seen 7 polar bears in the wild in one day. I’ve seen polar bears eating a whale carcass, & I’ve even seen them mating! (Seeing bears at all at this time of year isn’t even an absolute!)
One of my favourite things in the world is paddling with the belugas. They’ll swim alongside you & race you, while you pretend you even have a chance. They’ll play with you & when you stop, they’ll blow bubbles underneath you & nudge you, as if to say “why’d you stop? Why aren’t you swimming?”
I’d haul all the kayaks just to do it again tomorrow.
Not to mention:
– working outside all day
– the amazing cast of characters that make up the rest of our team
– tapping into wilderness lore on the water
– living next to a national heritage site & picking the brains of Parks Canada staff
– this community of oddballs that all seem to fit in
– how delicious is caribou!?!
– all the undiscovered places: trails, beaches, shipwrecks & beyond….
After 51 straight days of working, all I can do is give a big grin & say “It’s not bad.”
My reaction is becoming more genuine every day.
For the past few years I’ve realized that I need solace. I have taken about 2 months of ‘alone time’ a year to reassess myself & what’s going on.
When I’m here, my to-do list is blank.
My job is to deliver lifelong dreams to people from all over the world.
Getting out of bed has never been so easy.
My time here counts – at least on my eternal hourglass, it does.
The North has a way of seeping in. It touches the roots of the most primal emotions.
Experiencing these wonders gives people a joy they had forgotten they have.
The stark landscape gives people a reminder of the brutal reality in the strength of untouched nature & the beauty found in isolation.
Churchill demands presence.
It gives a sense of place.
It gives me peace.