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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Keeping body and mind healthy

BY Xavier Kataquapit Feb 12, 2021

I haven’t been out and about much this winter. It’s been almost a year since I last visited a restaurant or even a fast-food joint. Before the pandemic, I would take walks to the local coffee shop or restaurant during the winter. This winter, I’ve been to some local retail stores but only for quick visits. I do curbside pickup for my groceries, but there are times when I do venture inside for specific items. These are quick and stressful visits wearing a mask and latex gloves while using hand sanitization and washing as a follow-up. It’s been a huge change in lifestyle, and, frankly, I am getting a little fed up with it.

I live with my partner who has compromising lung health issues so we stay safe and avoid any situation where we might meet or mix with people, even outdoors. Our anxieties have increased with the news of new variants of the Covid-19 virus that are more infectious. 

I spend a lot of time in front of my computer or our large-screen television. Over the past month or two, the monotony has been wearing on me and I find that I am starting to become more lethargic in everything I do. Every day seems to be the same with the never-ending drone of the talk about the pandemic, negative or depressing political news and constant conflict between different groups of people on social media. I have to shut off all my devices down every now and then to keep myself grounded. 

Despite the lethargy that comes with sitting still all the time, I’ve been doing my best to keep up my physical health. I do a bit of an exercise routine in the basement with a weight set and an exercise bench. I’ve also set up a treadmill in front of my living room TV so that I can go for a walk and get my entertainment at the same time. 

Recently, I’ve also started doing some basic tai chi with Don Fiore on YouTube every morning to help keep my aging frame and aching joints in working order. Tai chi is an ancient form of martial arts, but its modern form is simplified to allow practitioners to maintain and enhance posture, balance, flexibility and strength. The slow methodical movements and required concentration is also a form of meditation and relaxation. Tai chi is not too intensive, and I find that the unique and unusual movements force me to move my limbs in ways I don’t normally do during my day.

Happily, I have also discovered that listening to some favourite tunes and dancing really helps with exercise and staying positive and joyful. Some of the music I listen to on Spotify includes Robbie Robertson originally from Six Nations, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Derek Miller, Lawrence Martin and Adrian Sutherland. 

As a writer, my life now is in stark contrast to the one I led over 20 years ago with my parents in the North. Back then, I spent most winters outdoors constantly working at maintaining our contracting business in the community, transporting goods up and down the James Bay winter road, hauling wood to heat our home and enduring regular trips up and down the coast to maintain hunting camps in preparation for the spring hunt. My free time was filled with skating and playing hockey at a local outdoor rink in the community. 

I can remember my dad Marius commenting that his life had become more sedentary in a modern world. When he was a young Cree hunter and trapper, there was no motorized transportation, and everything worked on the strength of an individual and his dog team. By the time he was in his 50s, he had difficulty walking a kilometre, yet as a young man, he covered hundreds of kilometres on dog sled and snowshoes every winter. Often, we would stop at a lonely wilderness trail to take a break on our snowmobiles, and he would remind us that he and many others had travelled there before on snowshoes and sled. 

We all need to remember how lucky we are to be here in Canada and in our safe communities with vaccines on the way. Things will get better in the long run but in the meantime try some tai chi and put your dancing shoes on. 

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Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.