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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

A winter worthy of its name

BY Sonny Orr Mar 15, 2019

Wow… what a winter! My shovel is my best friend these days and like most of our best friends, it’s there when I need it. These past few months brings back old memories of weather like this. However, I didn’t drive a few thousand kilometres to get around, we just hung around town because there was basically nowhere to go. Today, the world is only hours away by plane or by vehicle and the sunny warm south beckons those who are foolhardy to think that winter has been beaten into submission and sunshine reigns. Nope, winter is everywhere this year, even in Hawaii.

The snowfall this year was great for snowmobilers and many racers are showing off their snow-flying skills. Even the rare ptarmigan is peeping out now, after many months of being on strike and rebelling against hunters everywhere. The caribou, although restricted to traditional harvesting only, are hanging in there and hopefully will be around for many generations of hunters to come.

Of course, winter has left its mark on the snow-removal companies, with many truck drivers fed up with getting rid of the white stuff every day, but the pay is good and on the other side, a drain on public budgets everywhere. This brings to mind, the actual need for two sets of tires – one for dry pavement and warm days, and another set with built-in claws and snowshoes for the winter. This doesn’t help with the overall environmental footprint, as this doubles the need for petroleum-based products. One day, they will invent a set of tires that actually will work year-round, but who wants that? Only the garages and tire dealers revel in their bi-annual bounty gained from the lousy weather of the north.

Driving safely is one way to get around and even the wealthy few who are lucky enough to fly around are getting stranded on occasion this year. Hotels and hospitals are literally packed with people who can’t travel anywhere, either by road or by air. Yep, might as well take it all in stride and make snow angels and hope that the weather answers our prayers for some sunshine. As I write this, I’m a lucky traveler who plans his trips around the weather patterns. Why fight Mother Nature when you can win without arguing with the weather and snuggle up to some good movies and enjoy the pleasures of not being able to make it to work or to school.

Speaking of snowshoes, it’s enlightening to know that some of our young Elders are still making traditional snowshoes. “These shoes were made for snow-walking” as Nancy Sinatra might have sung if she were a northern Canadian. Yes, using the snowshoe is about the best workout if you are into sweating and icicles hanging from your snout.

Another form of winter travel was seen in Chisasibi, when our Inuit brethren gathered with dog teams preparing for a really long race. Now that’s a workout worthy of Jane Fonda ­– she was a real fitness buff and pioneered the exercise video to physical perfection. Today, everyone who wants to work out goes to the local gym and grinds to a different beat, fuelled by protein mixtures designed to bring out the muscle in everyone except those who have extremely high metabolic rate, like me. Which is why I can lose weight just by thinking about it.

These days, with all these cold temperatures, I’m hanging onto my winter fat lining for another few months, just to be sure. No use getting a beach-bum body when there’s still ice floes with lounging seals on them, floating close to the shores of our non-existent beaches. Oh well, I guess April isn’t too far off, I’m hoping that March doesn’t have more weather woes in store for us. Brrrr…

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.