Mistissini. MISS-ti-SINI. The word stretches and flows silkily, bringing me a year back to a scene, coming out of a winding curve on my sole drive to Pacific Rim Park. Before me, an evergreen forest on a mountainside emerged out of the morning fog … A forest floating in the mist.
I search Google Maps and find Mistissini at the tip of a long tongue of land spilling into Lac Mistassini. There are no visible signs of a road, until zooming in farther. A thin line, which I approximate to be about sixteen kilometres, connects the town to a thicker line, leading to Chibougamau. Zooming out, Lac Mistassini, and its neighbouring lake, Lac Albanel, appear as three bold, blue brush strokes on a furrowed landscape filled with countless lakes.
Back to the beginning: Last June, a job listing appeared in the Montreal Gazette, winking out at me somewhere between penciling in the daily Sudoku and Today’s Crossword Puzzle during my morning commute. I ripped out the ad and folded it carefully into my bag to show Andy that evening.
“Look,” I said, pulling out the ad, “A teaching position for an accredited Cabinetmaker with the Cree School Board.”
Andy had taught cabinetmaking and finishing at Merlin Wood, a woodworking school in Hudson, as well as lessons out of a small shop attached to our home. This was a perfect opportunity for us, as recent empty nesters, to jump-start a new life in Canada’s North.
After the initial application process, thick envelopes of credentials, references, and documentation were forwarded to the Cree School Board.
Summer passed. We still had not had a response.
A surprize phone call came in September to request an interview.
“I feel good about it,” Andy said, having met me at an Irish pub for lunch after meeting with the director at the Montreal office of Cree School Board.
Encouraged enough to begin the planning process of our potential move, we made lists of equipment and dry goods to transport, things to be finalized. I had even begun compiling lists of caribou and moose recipes (several good glugs of wine, apparently, take away the gameness of the meat, also providing the cook with good cheer).
The leaves had turned and had started to fall.
Still, no confirmation of employment from the school board, until the phone call at the beginning of November.
“Can you be here in two weeks?”
Panic. We were drifting into the busy Advent and Christmas seasons of family dinners, visiting and related festivities. Our house still had to be sold. Selling our turn of the century home of heritage interest, with roof tiles slipping, eaves troughs dipping, was proving to be a challenge. After two real estate agents and four offers, which fell through, we were now lowering the price significantly enough to hopefully attract a new market.
No … we weren’t ready. But we were. Were we?