Ice Crystals and Diamond Dust

Sun Dog

Sun Dog

Ice Halo or

Ice Halo or

Andy called me from his shop this morning.

“Go look at the sun,” he said. “There are rainbows around it.”

I moved to an east-facing window and glanced at the sun, but saw nothing but a yellow glow.

“Get dressed. I’m picking you up in five minutes.”

I had planned a lazy morning with absolutely no computer time or work.

“If you don’t see this, you will regret it,” he told me.

I quickly dressed and we drove to a clearing to see the expanse of the phenomenon. It felt so cold, -45, by my estimates. The air was shimmering crystals in the bright light. I photographed the double rainbow around the sun, but my hands were freezing and it was so bright … The photos were taken just before 10:00 a.m. Andy’s Cree students said they’ve never seen this before.

I posted some pictures and a few friends responded that they were sun dogs. A google search indicated “ice halos” and the even prettier moniker, “ice diamonds”. Whatever this is called, it was the first time I’ve ever witnessed it and I was awestruck.

I will always remember where I was the day I saw rainbow ice crystals around the sun.


If I should become sick, I want it to be here, in Mistissini

I needed to go to the clinic and dreaded the thought of hours of wait time. I set out for the seven minute walk after lunch.

When I arrived, the receptionist took my name. I settled down in the spacious, bright clinic to sit it out. A few mothers with children, families and single men were also waiting; adults speaking softly on their cells, children milling about or playing with their iPads.

A fresh magazine kept me occupied. An hour later my name was called. A smiling nurse introduced herself, shook my hand, and addressed me by my family name.

I was escorted into a pristine room with state of the art equipment. Sarah performed the standard tests (OK, OK, so I have a bit of high blood pressure). I asked her if she was a nurse-practitioner. A medical doctor friend who flies into northern communities had told us that nurses have much more responsibility in isolated communities, and they can order tests and perform simple procedures.

“No,” Sarah said. “I am a regular nurse, but underwent six weeks of training to come up north. It was very intense.”

Sarah left the room to consult with the Doctor. A few moments later, there is a knock on the door, and not one, but two doctors come in with Sarah. Some discussion followed and a quick examination. It was agreed that I would come in the next morning for blood tests and a meeting would follow in a week, which would take about an hour.

The next morning, I walked to the clinic, where the receptionist greeted me by name. Less than fifteen minutes later, I was on my way home not ever having removed a medical card or insurance card from my wallet.

I watched as smiling administrators, nurses and doctors moved about the clinic, consulting, discussing with easy grace.

What a world it would be for doctors, nurses, healers to practice in such an environment. 


I can hear my tires sing!


Frosted Daughter

Frosted Daughter

How cold was it during the cold snap? At St-Félicien Zoo, on January 2nd, an attendant explained that the zoo was semi-operational due to the cold, but we could walk through anyways. She said that -50 was reported at nearby Roberval, and it was currently -45 at the zoo. The monkeys were kept indoors, but the tigers had climbed to the highest elevation possible and were soaking up the thin sunlight. The camels and horses from Mongolia seemed happy munching away on hay strewn on the snow.

It was so cold that:

1.  I could hear my tires sing on our drive to the Saguenay, a low-frequency hum – frozen rubber rubbing against frozen pavement.

2.  Jessie’s eyelashes froze when we walked across the lake to see what was on the other side (camps and lots of trails, outhouses, etc.)

  • 3.  Jamie’s imitation leather jacket froze when we walked from the hotel to a local pub at St-Félicien. When he moved his arms, the jacket cracked – loudly. He had to walk with his arms straight to keep his jacket from disintegrating.

4.  I found myself curtailing fluid intake, taking into consideration the length of time it would take to unpeel layers of clothes for fluid output.

5.  I finally made use of all those fruit-scented moisturizing creams I received as gifts over the years to soothe cracked, peeling, chafing skin …

Camels from Mongolia

Camels from Mongolia

Even the polar bear looked cold!
Even the polar bear looked cold!

Tigers on a hill absorbing sunlight

Tigers on a hill absorbing sunlight

Christmas in January

Daughter, son and mother - Belated Christmas in Mistissini

Daughter, son and mother – Belated Christmas in Mistissini

We celebrated a belated Merry Mistissini Christmas in January.

My daughter, Jessica, flew in from Edmonton to visit family over the holidays and drove back north with us to spend New Years.

Unfortunately everything was closed; Murray’s Lodge, the Friendship Centre, and the Cree Cultural Centre. We planned to attend the New Year’s feast at the arena, but arrived too late. The games had started and dinner was over. Tables were laden with prizes and children played on the ice rink floor, which was covered with thick cushiony mats for the evening. We observed for a while, but were hungry and decided to head back home with the lovely woman who minded Mikou, our cat, while we were in Montreal. We quickly heated up a couple of meat pies and nibbled on delicious cheeses that Jessie had brought up with her and chatted away by the lit tree and fireplace. Our guest had spent time at Whapmagoostui / Kuujjuarapik and had interesting stories to tell.

The day after, Jessie and I drove to the Saguenay to pick up my son. Jamie drove up with my brother, who planned to stay in the Saguenay a couple of days to visit friends – Montreal ex-pats. He would join us in Mistissini afterwards. Meanwhile, we took advantage of being there and visited the St. Felicien zoo, which is open in the winter.

Once we were all together at Mistissini, we re-enacted Christmas with a turkey, my thyme-based stuffing and all that goes with it.

Together for a belated Christmas

Together for a belated Christmas

They’ve all left now and I miss them so much …