Reflections on the North

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Just another sunset, never boring.

My time in Northwestern Ontario is drawing to a close. Well at least for the summer months. Today marks the last day of school and in the next 72 hours we’re I’m making the long journey back to Southern Ontario. There is not much left to do here but to reflect on it all, the last six months in the wilderness, living in a isolated fly-in community of about 700-800 people. Living and teaching up here has been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve meet some fantastic people and I’m looking forward to what the next school year has in-store but at the same time I’m a little hesitant, the next time I return I’ll be here for the whole year. A year is a long time…

Above are a few select shots of where I’m living, it’s quaint and secluded to say the least. The roads are raw and bumpy, cars kick up a great deal of dust which can lead to some fantastic pictures in the late afternoon light. With the changing seasons, I’ve seen a whole new side to the North, coming up in the middle of the deep freeze of January, it was all ice and snow, but now it’s a lush green forest the engulfs all. With the melt came one thing that I did not expect, a loss of freedom. When the lakes were frozen and the ice road was open, I could wonder almost freely over the frozen expanses. But since then, the forest has come back to life it has swallowed trails, leaving me with limited paths to trample. Even in the vast emptiness of the northern boreal forest, one can feel constrained, the nature of the land will do that. The thick brush, steep rugged topography of the Canadian Shield and the ever dominant Severn River watershed make it easy to get lost. And I do not want to be lost, not up here, not with the wolves and the bears that seem to be just a short jaunt away in either direction.

The spring as anywhere else has brought colour and live back, replacing the monotones of the winter with a furry of colours. But for where the winter brings along snow-squalls and ice, the spring brings along ravenous hordes of blackflies. There are by far the worst blackflies I’ve ever encountered in my life, they’re the harbingers of misery and despair. Relentless and unwavering in their thrust, they haunt both man and beast. I’ve resorted to going for all my excursions fully clothes regardless of the weather, just trying to stay the inevitable scourge of the blackflies. Spring of course brings more then just pretty flowers and blackflies, the community is currently also infested with puppies. And I mean infested, they’re all over the place. For spring is truly, puppy season in the north.

It’s interesting to look back on ones life and try to figure out who you got to be where you are. I’m obviously living up here due to my work, that should be a simple answer. But as recently as just a few weeks before I arrived here, I never thought I’d ever be in a place this remote and removed. Now looking back, I can’t think of a place I need to be more then right here right now. The job has been challenging but rewarding, the scenery just the same. Today is a bag of mixed emotions, the students are here for a half-day and then it’ll be time to clean up the classroom. Once all of that is done it will be a whirlwind of packing, repacking and the general panic that comes with that sort of thing. Life will once again get uprooted and moved, but only for 10 weeks before the process is repeated again and we’re due to return. I can’t quiet tell if life will be returning to ‘normality’ once I return to Toronto, or if this is now my ‘normality’ and the return to the city will be the disruption to it. Only time will tell.

 

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