Saturday, October 2, 2010

No Mans Land

There is a small mountain, or perhaps it would be better classified as a very large hill, that provides a fantastic veiw from my bedroom and living room windows. Since the very first day we arrived I had been saying, "when I have a day off, I'm climbing that thing." I heard that if you climb over the hill and through the graveyard you'll end up at the Apex trail, or as Ellen calls it, the path to no mans land.

After hearing all the stories we've heard, I should probably take better care not to venture out on my own but Matt and I have yet to have a day off of work together. Because of this I have taken it upon myself to be my own company. I am not in Canada's arctic to stay inside and watch TV. The cable has been out anyway, which helps to keep me motivated to be out exploring.

I got out of bed, had a good breakfast, climbed the very large hill, and descended down the other side. This is where I found the Iqaluit graveyard. The yard is incredibly small in comparison to the ones we see down South. I sat and admired it for some time, wondering how this could be all of Iqaluit's dead. Some people have told me stories of other graveyards but no one seems to know where they are and some have told me stories of elders, placing themselves on ice rafts and floating away when they knew the time was coming... I have yet to decide which are just stories. In the past they placed their deceased in wooden boxes, modest caskets if you will. The boxes would be left above ground because most of the ground cover here is made up of rock and the rest is frozen for a large part of the year. In more recent times they would simply place the bodies on the earth and bury them with rocks. I am told that now, no doubt because of modern machinery, they actually dig graves that are three or four feet deep. They dig them where the earth is soft enough to dig out. The Iqaluit graveyard is located just off of the Koojesse inlet shore line. When the tide is out, the water is probably a couple hundred feet from the yard but when the tide is in it is only about forty feet away. From this angle the water is off to the left.

The land beside the graveyard is fairly barren and as I walked over it I stumbled upon all kinds of bones, large and small. Ive been told they could be anything, arctic fox, seal, dog or cat. The ravens here will actually attempt to swoop down and pick up a small dog or a cat and have been known to kill and eat them. Still, somehow, the locals seem to be proud of them. Raven lunatics.

Just past the graveyard I found the Apex trail that Ellen had told me about, it was cute and had been built up with rocks edging it. The trail led over a newly built bridge and up to a look out point.

Beyond the trail was a softly beaten path. The same path that the locals would take hundreds of years ago and that the military used when they built their air base here. It used to be that the military used Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay back then) and the people lived in Apex, which some refer to as "the old Iqaluit." The economical opportunities brought the locals into Iqaluit and each and everyday they would walk the length of this apex trail.

It is without hesitation that I say, I am my mothers daughter. I inherited her thirst for adventure and the kind of wild spirit that will take you into no mans land alone. I walked and walked enjoying every second of the view and the cold crisp air. It got so quiet and the sun sparkled through the cloud cover just enough to let me catch glimpses of the snow that covered the mountains across the water. I sent up a prayer of thanks for the moments that I had found myself loving.

As much as I loved where I was, I had to turn around, firstly because I had no method of self defense should I have come across something larger or scarier than myself, secondly because in Nunavut there is nothing to hide behind, only short rocks, and thirdly because the ravens started circling my head like I was some sort of easy target for lunch. Mostly, I turned back because of the ravens. These creatures make sounds that send chills down your back and you can hear the wind under their wings from twenty feet away. It doesn't help that before I came up here, my girlfriends and I were reading a series of novels that expanded upon Cherokee legends and beliefs, ravens being one of them. In the novels, the ravens embodied evil and were half man half raven. When I'm alone in no mans land with nothing but giant ravens, I get a little antsy.

Ive been told that if I had walked just a little further, I would have found a grouping of Inukshuks... I cursed the ravens and swore I would go back.

Today is my day off and to my delight I have a full weekend. Saturday and Sunday with a late start on Monday. Tonight Matt and I have tickets for our very first social outing! I cant even explain to you the overwhelming excitement I feel.

This morning Matt ran into the apartment just after leaving for work and told me to look out the window. I opened the curtains to a snow covered ground. October second. If the snow holds off tomorrow then I will make it my mission to find the Inukshuks. Hopefully Matt will join me. It will be our first day off together since we arrived so I hope to make the most of it. Perhaps a breakfast buffet up at the Frobisher Inn (for $40 a head) and then a good hike. 

Cheers to the weekend and to my oldest cousin Paul who is marrying his beautiful fiancee Melissa today. I'm sorry I'm missing it. My heart, love and all my best wishes are there with you.

With love from a snow covered Iqaluit

1 comment:

lisa said...

I love you Melissa, your writing makes me so proud, and you are captivating a larger audience than you realize. I get daily praise about your writing. Mom