Mount Thor
Sometimes the Arctic sun never goes down, never rises. Today though, in the middle of the Akshayuk Pass, I wake up just before the sunrays reach the thin layer of ice on my tent. It is early, dark, and cold. The wind is tirelessly beating against everything that comes in its way. I reluctantly leave my tiny shelter and hit the trail.
Boohm. Booohm. One heavy step at a time. Boohm. Booohm. Pushing against the raging wind, I am barely moving forward. Chssssssssshh is the only sound I can hear. Louder than my breath. Louder than my heartbeat. Louder than my thoughts.
I finally find a moment of respite behind a giant rock. I take a deep breath and look around. Everything appears big, loud, far away, and absolutely fearless. I’m surrounded by majestic mountains, melting glaciers, floating icebergs, moonlike landscapes, colourful moss and, of course, wild blueberries.
Far in the distance the sun rises over Mount Thor and I feel small, insignificant—yet overflowing with joy.
The Aurora Borealis
A thick sheet of green light emerges across the black sky. Sparkling. Swirling. Sliding.
My friends whistle quietly. Simple, improvised melodies create an eerie choral piece coming in and out of the sound of the wind. I know that the Aurora is listening. Dancing. Painting swirls onto the dark starry canvas. My friends say it is the spirits of their ancestors playing soccer with a walrus skull. If you whistle too long, the ghostly sound might draw the spirits closer . . . and closer . . . and closer . . . until they swoop all of us up to the sky. My imagination runs wild. I swear I can see the skull with its giant tusks, unevenly bouncing back and forth. The freezing air brings my adventurous mind back to the ground, and I convince my shivering body to stay for a few more minutes. After a while, the sky is still and the colours become silent. I hear nothing but the distant rumble of the vast treeless land. We all know it is time to stand up and seek shelter.
As we walk home, I look up, hoping to catch one last glance of the green swirl.
There it is.
Iqaluit Music Camp
It's the third week of August in Iqaluit and everyone knows it’s the week of the music camp.
Squiuiee tatata-ahh, I hear from the back of the hallway as I take a walk around Nakasuk Elementary School. Sounds of accordion, xylophone, and guitar classes merge into one enthusiastic cacophony. I hear the fiddle class working on their tuiieliieeeups, the bucket-drumming class on their dhum-ka-ka-kas and my beginners recorder class on their . . . squeeks?
I turn right and come across the drum dance class. The frame drum sways up and down with the beat. Dhummm . . . Dhummm . . . Dhummm. The movement is mesmerizing.
I keep walking. I pass wall hangings of polar bears, walruses, narwhals, kids in parkas, whale hunters, seal skins. Did I mention there are no windows in the school? It is designed to look like a block of ice that is inside out.
Far in the distance, I can tune into soft singing voices. Ah yaaa ya Ah yaaa ya. I follow the angelic sound in the midst of the squeeks and bongs. In the middle of the library, right besides the polar-bear skin, a small group of choir singers rehearse their song: “Inusiriyavu qitungatinu Tunilaulavut Qauyimaniamata. Ah yaay ya Ah yaa ya A . . . “
The last notes are cut off by the sharp sound of the school bell. It’s break time!
The hallway immediately fills up with 150 kids laughing, squealing, jumping, running. Two five-year-old girls pass me by, hand in hand, throat singing the Mosquito song. Low, rumbling sound, heavy on the inhale, pulsing back and forth in the intertwined canon-like melody. I look back and they disappear into the wall of intense sound that echoes through the school.
PHOTO: Mount Thor in Auyuittuq National park in the Qikiqtaaluk region (Baffin island), Nunavut. Photo by Bea Labikova.
AUDIO: Akshayuk Pass composed and performed by Bea Labikova (fujara, electronics).