I can’t quite place when my fascination with Nunavut began. What I do know is that in sixth grade, my class was assigned to draw a picture of our best friend ‘living their dream’. I drew mine playing on an Olympic basketball team; she drew me riding a polar bear in Nunavut. Fast forward to 2015 and the dream had become a reality. Not the riding a polar part, that is – I mean the living in Nunavut part.
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Discovering a new home in Nunavut
At a glance Nunavut was as barren as I’d expected, not a single tree for hundreds of kilometres. But upon closer look, the tundra was bursting with an abundance of life. Dwarf Fireweed, arctic cotton, lichen and moss all brought colour and vitality to a seemingly lifeless environment.
As anticipated, the midnight sun disrupted my circadian rhythm. It also brought energy to the night. Children played at all times of day in the arctic summer. Even at 3 am I could hear them playing soccer on the street outside my window. On the occasional Saturday night I’d leave the Storehouse bar past midnight, my eyes nearly blinded by the contrast from dark pool hall to glaring sunshine.
I fell in love with the complexity of ice and ocean. As the tides moved in and out, so the sea ice moved with it. Like a gigantic breathing chest, it rose 10 m with inhale, and fell 10 m with exhale.
I met wonderful people. There’s something about living in isolation that brings people closer. You couldn’t drive to the next town or take a weekend away. Once you were in the community, you were in the community. My friends caught meals of arctic char, my manager brought me Canadian goose and beluga. We drank Whisky flown in from a hundred miles away while a blizzard engulfed the town in the middle of June. We camped and told stories under a sky that never quite got dark.
I had believed a trip to Nunavut would be a once in a lifetime experience. And although my specific experience in 2015 was unique and I am unlikely to spend four months in the territory again, I learned that Nunavut itself doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime destination. In 2019 I returned for a week long vacation. Most Canadians do not realize that Nunavut is far more accessible than it seems.
I shouldn’t call myself a northern girl – I grew up in Southwestern Ontario. I don’t like when the days get short and the nights get long and my toes get cold. But I couldn’t predict Nunavut would leave a mark on me the way it did.
I also can’t say I fell into madly passionate love with Nunavut. I haven’t moved there (yet – though this is a thought I regularly entertain). But I have to admit that I think about the territory far more often than I should. The arctic has a magic to it. A magic I hope more people can experience in their lifetime. I hope others can develop an appreciation for a world so distant and foreign such that we might take climate change more seriously. This environment – a world of midnight sun and treeless tundra – is one worth caring about. I’ve fallen for it, and I hope others can too.