Seasons and Silence

I’ve been sick all week – like pneumonia and say nice things at my funeral or else, sick. Sasha (aged 10ish and with a trick elbow), Spud (aged 11 and fattest husky in the world) and Oni (aged 12 and just a strange little dog) are quite happy simply having quick potty breaks out back and then back on the couch until next time. And then there is Bella – aged: puppy. For being so young and rambunctious at times, she really does take a lazy day quite well. A day. On the second day she is looking for mischief and is adept at finding it.

So this week I have bundled up like Peter Billingsley’s (no relation) “Ralphie” in “A Christmas Story” and hopped on the ATV so that Bella could get her 4 or 5 mile run in. The fresh air has been good for me, as has moving around. Laying around allows the lungs to continue to fill with fluid, so a little exercising them helps them heal.

Yesterday as I putt-putted along and watched the dogs I was reminded again of much much joy I get from just being outside. There is something about taking deep breaths in the cold that brings a flash of a memory.

One breath and I am here again, running dogs in the Canadian Arctic (photo by my friend James).

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Next breath and this memory comes rushing back – living in a tent during our wonderfully adventurous and funny Homeless in Alaska period.

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Inhale and I remember that these days are coming very soon!

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It’s been snowing for a good part of the day and there is a certain silence that descends on the land with that first blanket of the white stuff. I rode into a little piece of woods right beside the river, turned the ATV off and just sat. Even the dogs took a break and we were still and silent.

It is quite profound what can be heard when you “just be.” The snow falling on my jacket. A sudden, sharp crack as the ice on the river splits. Chattering and chastisement from a miffed red squirrel who clearly reminds dogs and human that the midden under that spruce tree is his. The drumming of wings from an unseen grouse in the grass across the water. Abundant life that is easily missed.

My eye caught evidence of busy beavers. Three birch trees patiently chewed on until they fell.

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It is beautiful to see the river change from day to day. Here it is yesterday:

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And 24 hrs later, the same river:

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There is a certain sacredness to the changing of the seasons. Oh, I know the science of it all but the sacred is found in legend. Here is a Mi’kmaq story about the seasons. It is one of my favorites.


Long ago a mighty race of Indians lived near the sunrise, and they called themselves Wawaniki—Children of Light. Glooskap was their master. He was kind to his people and did many great deeds for them.

Once in Glooskap’s day it grew extremely cold. Snow and ice covered everything. Fires would not give enough warmth. The corn would not grow. His people were perishing from cold and famine.

Glooskap set forth for the far north where all was ice. Here in a wigwam he found the great giant Winter. It was Winter’s icy breath that had frozen the land.

Glooskap entered the wigwam and sat down. Winter gave him a pipe, and as they smoked the giant told tales of olden times when he reigned everywhere and all the land was silent, white, and beautiful. His frost charm fell upon Glooskap and as the giant talked on, Glooskap fell asleep. For six months he slept like a bear, then the charm left him. He was too strong for it and awoke.

Soon now Glooskap’s talebearer, the Loon, a wild bird who lived on the lakeshores, brought him strange news. He described a country far to the south where it was always warm. There lived the all-powerful Summer who could easily overcome the giant Winter. To save his people from cold and famine and death, Glooskap decided to find her.

Far off to the southern seashores he went. He sang the magic song which whales obey and up came an old friend—a whale who served as his carrier when he wished to go out to sea.

This whale had a law for travelers. She always said: “You must shut your eyes while I carry you. If you do not, I am sure to go aground on a reef or sand-bar and be unable to get off. You could be drowned.”

Glooskap got on the whale’s back and for many days they traveled together. Each day the water grew warmer and the air softer and sweeter, for it came from spicy shores. The odors were no longer those of salt, but of fruits and flowers.

Soon they found themselves in shallow water. Down in the sand clams were singing a song of warning: “Keep out to sea, for the water here is shallow.”

The whale asked Glooskap, who understood the lan- guage of all creatures: “What do they say?”

Glooskap, wishing to land at once, only replied: “They tell you to hurry, for a storm is coming.”

The whale hurried on accordingly until she was close to land. Now Glooskap did the forbidden; he opened his left eye, to peep. At once the whale stuck hard on to the beach so that Glooskap, leaping from her head, was able to walk ashore on dry land.

Thinking she could never get away, the whale became angry. But Glooskap put one end of his strong bow against the whale’s jaw and, taking the other end in his hands, placed his feet against the high bank. With a mighty push, he sent her out into the deep water.

Far inland strode Glooskap and found it warmer at every step. In the forest he came upon a beautiful woman, dancing in the center of a group of young girls. Her long brown hair was crowned with flowers and her arms filled with blossoms. She was Summer.

Glooskap knew that here at last was the one who by her charms could melt old Winter’s heart. He leaped to catch her and would not let her go. Together they journeyed the long way back to the lodge of old Winter.

Winter welcomed Glooskap but he planned to freeze him to sleep again. This time, however, Glooskap did the talking. His charm proved the stronger one and soon sweat began to run down Winter’s face. He knew that his power was gone and the charm of Frost broken. His icy tent melted away.

Summer now used her own special power and everything awoke. The grass grew green and the snow ran down the rivers, carrying away the dead leaves. Old Winter wept to see his power taken away.

But Summer said, “Now that I have proved I am more powerful than you, I give you all the country to the far north for your own, and there I shall never disturb you. Six months of every year you may return to Glooskap’s country and reign as before, but you are to be less severe with your power. During the other six months, I will come back from the South and rule the land.”

Old Winter could do nothing but accept this. So it is that he appears in Glooskap’s country each year to reign for six months, but with a softer rule. When he comes, Summer runs home to her warm south land. When at the end of six months she returns to drive old Winter away, she awakens the north and gives it the joys that only she can bestow. (from http://www.native-languages.org)

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Seasons and Silence

  1. MARY DEVER says:

    I absolutely enjoy reading about your adventures and especially Native culture. You have a real gift, Peg in using words to convey the emotion and insights of living life your way in Alaska.

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