Not sure where to begin. Except…a huge THANK YOU is in order for the massive love and support this little project of mine has attracted. It gives me hope that people see value in a project like this one. I sure do. This is the most important work I’ve ever done. At last…I’ve taken on something worthy of feeling pride about. But that’s a conversation for later. When I am finished with this project…I will certainly write a book. There is so much to convey. I’ll try to pass on JUST enough here.
The first day or two were a blur of settling into my new normal. That passed fairly quickly. I got into a rhythm of paddling, finding water, studying the weather and currents and keeping an eye out for camp spots. Camp time was a mix of self care, messing with gear and keeping an eye out for bears.
After the initial adjustments…life became a blur of simply doing what I must, and remaining open to fresh information. I would set off on my day with a plan…and that plan was rarely accurate. The Arctic is different than anyplace I have ever navigated. Of course there are similarities. We are working with the same elements. But the place is fundamentally different. On every level.
I learned very quickly that my own goals were unimportant. Trivial even. The Arctic is indifferent. Powerful beyond measure. Evocative. Expansive. Relentless. You get the feeling always of being on edge. Balanced between life and death, past and future, calm and chaotic, scarcity and abundance. There’s a tension that demands an inner peace to exist there. I found myself in a mental place of suspension. I’ve never felt so exposed in all my life. I loved it dearly.
For me, this project is about learning. It’s about diving as deep as possible into the notion that globally, humans are losing their ability to connect deeply with nature, and navigate in the old ways…and my own desire to connect with nature in that way. I have realized that there are multiple threads to this project that make it a worthy one. Some of these aspects demand more time than I have this summer.
I’ve spent the last few days in Paulatuk. I’ve met some of the most kind, thoughtful and knowledgeable people I’ve ever known there. I sat and had coffee for hours at Joe Illasiak’s home. We talked about hunting and fishing. We talked about navigating. Harvesting Beluga. Prevailing winds. Ocean currents. Good places to stop on the next leg. Travel over tundra. Conservation. Best ways to dry caribou meat. It was heaven.
My goals for this transit through the Northwest Passage have shifted. For a lot of really good reasons. Similarly to how I learned that my daily goals were trivial against the magnificent power of nature I was dancing with…I realized that what I really desire is the TIME to soak in the lessons. The TIME to sit out bad weather and explore a place….the TIME to sit and have coffee with Joe and his friends and family…to learn. It is unimportant to do this in a single season. That would utterly miss the point of the project.
As such. I have decided to space this project out over the next couple of years. Slow down. Spend the time. I have stored my board in Paulatuk, and will return next summer to paddle from Paulatuk to Kugluktuk. Slowly. The next year, perhaps pass through Cambridge Bay and end up in Gjoa Haven…and so on.
For me…to blast through here…would be to utterly miss the point of why I’m even doing this. It took coming up here and beginning…to learn that. I’m a little slow sometimes I guess. I would rather chew my food thoroughly it seems.
This is getting long. I’ll stop. Loads to think about. More committed than ever to finish this thing. It just needs to be on Arctic time. For reasons.