Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saxifrage and sunsets

From Big Sky and Big Water to tiny blossoms, this is the harsh wind blown land of north. The saxifrage is in bloom and the willows have gone to seed. The fire poker, stubbornly, slowly rises up through the hard ground. Slowly the season advances. The days are so long now it is difficult to tell sunset from sunrise. Too many times I awaken at an absurd hour in a panic that I have missed the start of the work day. In truth it may be 3 or 4 am and I settle back under the blankets for the alarm.

The above photo was taken moments ago at 9pm. The sunlight seems to skip and dance across the ice and snowy hilltops and off into the distance.

I did have to go to work this morning and was surprised to see that the snow that fell last night had actually stayed! But I was relieved to see the sunshine had its way with the snow and it was gone by the time work had ended.

As we were walking along the hillside a fragrant aroma reached up...underfoot was a generous patch of Labrador Tea, fragrant twigs resembling tiny spruce fragments. The entire plant can be brewed into a tea, I have heard it can be difficult on ones tummy but will try when the plant is best chosen during its season. Update to come!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Down on my tummy...

Today we walked the hillside and the difference in the foliage in that short time was remarkable.
I found the common name of the wee tubular flower; Bearberry. The Bearberry photo (on top) shows three stages of the flower. The berry is edible and both leaf and fruit has traditionally been used as flavouring or medicinally.

The Arctic Willow shown below grows twig like branches that spread across the ground instead of vertically.

My neighbour is very knowledgeable in the many types of moss and flora that prospers here and is helping me learn the various types and their bloom periods. She has cautioned me that the difference in one day can mean missing the bloom.

The most remarkable of the mosses is Jewel moss; it's bright orange patches dress up the rocks. Today she told me that August here is autumn for the plants and in that month the hill will be deeply red with autumn colour.

Of course Caesar is happy with each outing and soon resumes his comatose state once inside for the night. The rough terrain will help prepare his feet for the coming cold season. I hope he doesn't suffer again like he did this year. Ever enthusiastic to be outside but not sure which of his feet should be off the ground or by the look on his face how he could possibly get all four feet off the cold simultaneously.

I have still not been able to capture a good picture of the snow bunting, but I hope to this season. One of the guys at work told me about the various types of mammals on the green belt tundra up the hill. I hope for a less windy day so that I may make the trip up the hill and of course a hike out to Apex along the shoreline. The summer is short everywhere but more noticeably here, missing out on a fine day would be a lost opportunity. This summer I also hope to get out to Sylvie Grinnell park, perhaps camp but definitely fish the char from the river. Thankfully the days are long and the desperation to head out and back before dark just doesn't enter my mind.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

the birds and the beez

This morning while walking the dog, I heard an unearthly racket, a clucking and chortling even some cawing. Sure enough over there, a single raven. He (I assume) was quite busy arranging and re arranging an old small caribou or seal bone on the hillside. Once he was satisfied, he (cover your ears kids) mounted it! The purring and clucking resumed. Time and again he would rearrange his props and settle into place. He was so absorbed in his task that he didn't even notice the big dog. Lonely Raven just lookin' for some lovin'. In contrast, down near the shoreline the pretty little snow buntings were cheerfully singing for their mates and dancing through the air.

For the gardeners in the group the tiniest flowers are beginning to bloom. I am amazed at how quickly they sprout up and produce their wee blossoms. A loonie is in the picture to present the perspective on it's size. My neighbour can identify many of the arctic blooms and we are planning on photographing many of them as they come into season.
Also on our walk tonight we spotted some quartz, seen here with loonie. Maybe quartz isn't so exciting (I was never able to find any in my backyard) but my daughter, like me, likes shiny things so I've added the photo!

Friday, May 16, 2008

random stuff

This photo of the graveyard is brightly lit by the early evening sun. It looks desolate and lonely, the still frozen sea shore, puddles very simple grave markers but somehow the way the sun hits it makes it an even lonelier place of rest.

I tried to get a picture of them before they departed but my voice distracted Caesar and he wouldn't move. So I slowly backed up into the apartment until Caesar understood he was not to wait around for me. Finally Alan and he were able to head off down the slope.

Sun dog with jet.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Walkies

Today was a beautiful, mild day so Caesar and I went down to the edge of the beach. Not too beachy yet; the ice is cracking and the continuing flow of melt water beneath the snow feeds the thawing ice surface. It's tricky walking since one doesn't know how deep the snow is and does know how soft it is. A couple of times Caesar sank up to his belly in the snow and I up to my knees. The other unknown is what lies beneath the surface, often water flow, I lucked out once or twice and found terra firma beneath the slush! I was soaked! Once we got to the shore, we negotiated our way over and around the big rocks and boulders (at least they were dry!)

My walk today took me down beside the hill (upper picture to the seashore).
As we wound our way around the rocks and ice we could hear the excited sound of the dog team as they got ready for their run out onto the ice.
This photo of the dogs appears small, if you click on it to open in another window the perspective of the ice is clear. Quite by chance I was able to get the old way of dog team and the new way with snowmobile! You can see how hard the dogs are working since the snow is slushy underfoot.

Much to my surprise I came across a small group of wee black flies! I mean it's only been above zero for less than a week! Wow those are some sturdy flies!

After returning home I pulled out the camp chairs and sat on the walkway at my front door. Just a perfect afternoon for mellowing out under the arctic sky.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I strolled downtown with my camera at the ready. In a stark reality of the mud and gray skies, Iqaluit showed off it's nasty messy side. Everywhere garbage is tossed; washing machines, mattresses, wrappers cans, bottles, paint cans..the list goes on.
I took this picture of the bins near a new construction site on route to the museum. The other photos were taken inside the museum. The exhibit was rich and varied.
This is a whale head skull, which I didn't dare touch. Downstairs they had a beautifully carved whale bone. Both sides were carved with images depicting Inuit lore and lifestyle.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

the ice the ice

This short blog is about my experience on the ice in the spring with my new ride! I was able to purchase a great machine for a great price. With my limited arctic experiences and little other experience snowmobiling; I decided to test the newly acquired tread on the ice. Great idea, weather warm, sunny, no wind (the wind is everything here..that's why I always mention it.) Mike points me to a good launch area and off I go. Over the bumps, through the slush, over the puddles, finally out on the flat ice. Well as soon as I hit the flat sea ice, I opened the throttle. Oh yah, I knew it was a good decision. The machine purred and rode nicely under my seat!

Returning to the launch area was a bit tricky. Since I didn't bother to note any landmarks and got distracted by a returning hunt team, I went too far west along the shore. Hmm, I stop, survey the shoreline and start inching my way east. Trouble was ahead, the busted up ice made for a tricky weaving drive until I got dead ended about 20 feet from the road. Mired in the slush, a kind gentleman helped me turn the machine around (me feeling a little sheepish). Zooming off I go, only to find deep cracks in the ice. Can I make it? Should I just gun it and pray for the best?

Meanwhile Mike and his girls are coming in off the ice and I walk out to greet them. Naturally I let Mike have the honour of retrieving my sled ( girly embarrassment now) and he takes her out for a rip across the ice.
It seems I was out longer than he had expected and so his eldest daughter says to me; "we thought you were dead"!
Not exactly a vote of confidence but then I hadn't earned it much. Like an undying Toronto Maple Leafs fan I say; There is always next season!
See you on the ice boys!


Here is Fidel, he is the neighbourhood dog. Friend to many dogs, except of course Caesar has to challenge him and not make a new friend. Fidel is often perched atop a snowmobile seeming ready to navigate as he looks down on the town below.

Remember when I said, the winter melt will yield more surprises? This is not really what I had in mind. I had this romantic idea that the with the snow buntings return, the arctic hare takes it's summer colours, that moss and indigenous flowers would blossom.
Okay so lots of you will be grossed out, be glad you don't have to see it quite so 3D. Oh and you can be happy that I didn't take a picture of the hoofed leg I came across in the winter. Such is the case where "country foods" are so widely eaten. As an eater of caribou, I understand that somewhere, a caribou died so we could enjoy it's lean meat in a stew! Yum! I just didn't expect to see it's leftover head on the road!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Today I went out to take some pictures of the quickly thawing town. Many people were walking about enjoying the sunshine.

The forecast; 1C, winds 22kph, wind chill -3.3 (point three?) and visibility 48 km. Yes, forty eight, 4 8 kilometres. Can I even see for 48 km? After a lifetime in the south, the best visibility I recall being posted is somewhere around...lemme see 16km. That's a clear sunny day across a flat landscape!

So, since it's sunny, since it's spring, since my apartment overlooks the bay, since the posted visibility is 48 km I figure - today is window cleaning day! What's the point in having an ocean view and dirty windows? Voila! Now crystal clear glass (for the season of dust is yet to arrive), an optimistic forecast and a cup of tea. I'm ready for anything the bay has to offer!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

the signs are all around

The signs of spring continue to emerge. This is a picture of dirt! Yes, dirt. It is not a picture of snow, ice, or ice, snow. Those images can be beautiful, but I don't recall being quite so thrilled to see dirt!

Gardening in Ontario, running fingers through warm topsoil, the cool dampness of recently turned soil; it is these things I enjoy about gardening. So now it is time to celebrate the arctic soil.

While walking Caesar today I became aware for the first time of the sound of running stream. The stream was created by the fast thaw and runoff into a spontaneous ditch. Immediately I was reminded of the throat singers and their song celebrating the return of the river. In a somewhat haunting way the sounds of the song capture the first slow sounds of a thaw and increasing tempo brings you to the fast flowing sound of moving water.

I included this image of the road simply because it came as a complete surprise to me, having walked this route to work for three months, to discover these huge boulders. They are in place as a guard rail of sorts. The melt will continue to reveal winters secrets I am sure!

AHA something green! Look up close..yes it is green, yes it is grass! Yes!

This is my first attempt at uploading a video, which features a cameo by Caesar. I included the video so my faithful readers could share in this sure sound of spring. No lawnmowers here, no leaf blowers required, just the sweet sounds of the grader smoothing out the carnival ride of potholes and the trickle of spring runoff!