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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Heat stroking

BY Sonny Orr Jul 19, 2023

I look at the tiny patch of yellowing grass I call a backyard, then look up at a yellowish haze full of horse flies buzzing about the smoky skies. The sun’s heat is in the high 20s, as the ashy dust cakes your skin. Aaahhh, the summer weather this year. 

The weather is the least of anyone’s worries. It’s the urge to splurge on downtime, holidays and hopefully forgetting about life for a while to enjoy it. As for summer events in the communities, there’s a long list of them and it looks like it’s going to be a festive season. As usual, there are fishing contests, berry picking, log splitting and other great outdoor stuff (which we used to call daily living) to keep our spirits alive with tradition. Plus, the annual gatherings and summer weddings, so people can lighten up and have a good time before returning to the workplace in the fall. 

However, any trip out of the community calls for intensive planning and backup plans, just in case the unexpected happens, like a flat tire in the middle of nowhere or the only time it rains like hell during the entire summer. I even remembered to carry some spare Covid-era masks to fend off pesky ashes and smoke. I admit that using a mask again was a lot easier because I didn’t have to taste the acrid smoke on my tongue.

Indoors is a safe haven. But as many know, leaving their homes is a concern. Luckily, most of the communities were spared in this early summer fire season from any major damage aside from out-of-community camps. Slowly communities are coming together to assess any losses and prepare for a hot summer. Yes, summer is just starting with 90 days of swelter or shelter in the forecast.

Now, if I were an ice cream vendor, I’d go bankrupt just paying the electric bill to keep it frozen long enough to serve to my sweaty customers. I’d probably make a bundle selling water sprinklers and anti-mosquito sprays. Heck, I bought a fly swapper that gives a satisfying jolt of electricity and a tiny wisp of smoke when it encounters my deadly forearm swing. Think of it as a game of tennis where if you don’t hit the ball, the ball stings you. So, building up muscle mass in that forearm will come naturally with this new hi-tech bug zapper.

This summer may just be a way to sit back and relax with some good TV. Lately, my better half and my daughter binge watched a great First Nations television series. At some point, I heard a guy speaking Cree in the background and ask, “Hey, is that guy a Cree?” 

Then I’m told it’s one of my childhood buddies from back on the island, someone I know very well. I’m proud of him and his crew as they broadcast childhood memories of those who are now adults or have passed on. I’m very proud that this series is broadcast everywhere, plus you can stream it online anywhere with decent enough broadband. 

Thankfully, the North is catching up with that dream too. One day, just about everyone will be like me, working hard while hardly working, from home.

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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.