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Location: Eastern Townships, Quebec, Canada

I'm a father, a seakayaker, a guitarist, a writer, a geocacher and a lover of all things arctic. I try to dream big, journey far, kayak well, and above all, cherish my family and friends. I believe in self-sponsorship, Team Zero and being as carbon neutral as I can.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ilatsiak - 75 - Uyaraluk

Kudluk finished and slipped out of the tent. David listened as he heard his kamiks crunch over the gravel beach until he reached the snow and went silent. It had been Kudluk who had been with his brother when he had fallen and slid into the river. He had alerted them with his cries. He had seen everything, yet was now silent. It was as if by not saying anything, it would stop it from happening and things would be back the way they were. Yet it had happened. As the two were watching the water rushing past in the stream, the ice shelf they were on had suddenly given way. Kudluk’s watched his brother slide into the water and before he could react, Tulugak was swept away in the current. Within seconds he had moved beyond reach and then without even a chance to turn and scream, he’s been sucked under the ice lower downstream and disappeared. It was all over so suddenly.
Without looking up David began, “We’ll move back down to Uyaraluk’s camp tomorrow. I want to hunt with him for a while. He knows where the caribou go in the Fall. Maybe we’ll hunt seals together this winter.”
Qajaq said nothing. She raised her eyebrows slightly in acknowledgement, that was all. It would do them both to move away from these memories. It would be good to follow Uyaraluk for a while. To go to a new place, perhaps further west. Uyaraluk had mentioned once that he had never heard about people going hungry until he began to fish with the Ukti’miut. In his opinion this river they were on was a place of troubles and the sea where it ended was worse. People were always dying there, fighting and behaving in ways which were bad for people. It would be good to go to his land for a while, if only to see what it was really like.
Ilatisak picked up the bowl of fish remains and the sealskin used as a cutting surface, crawled out of the tent and walked down the slope to the river. He slowly began to wash out the bowl. It was made of copper sheet, sheeting taken from the wreck of the Erebus. His mind slowly formed a picture of the man who had taught him how to shape this soft metal into useful objects like the bowl in his hand. He saw the older man’s knarled hands, his kindly bearded face, the much dented, wooded bench he had worked on all that winter in the candle lit confines of the ship. David had not thought of this man for a long time and it surprised him how clearly he could picture the scene. He tried to think of the man’s name, but it would not come to him. David swirled some river water in the bowl to give it a final rinse, then suddenly stopped. The swirling water was too vivid, even for him. He pictured once again his son in the water of the river, too far to reach, moving down into the rapids, being swirled to his death in the fury of the falls below. How had that happened so fast? Again, as they had been doing since the accident, his eyes filled with tears and he raised his hand to rub them off his face. His eldest son was gone. The river had taken him. That was all. Life must go on as it always did. Life was hard, it gave and it took away. One must move with it, not fight back, not change what would happen. David took the copper bowl and threw it out into the current. It’s lip caught a bit of water, but then landed upright and sailed with the current into the first of the foaming rapid where it disappeared for good.
He finished washing the sealskin with some loose snow then dropped it outside the tent to dry in the sunshine and went to look for Kudluk. He would tell him about moving to Uyaraluk’s. It wasn’t good to be alone for long in troubled times like these.



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