North Pole Blog: Day Two, Part One – Resolute

BY Parvati

(continued from Day One, Part Two)

Day Two: Friday, September 24, 2010
I open my eyes and notice that the bed sheets don’t feel like my own. I am not at home. I am in Resolute Bay, Nunavut. I am on my way to the North Pole to sing and offer healing to help raise awareness of the melting polar ice caps.
I start to peel myself from the warmth of the bed, when I am overwhelmed with tears. What is this heaviness? Sitting myself up on the edge of the mattress, I allow myself to be present with the feelings. I feel grief, an overwhelming feeling of grief. My chest is heavy and my breathing tight. I feel puzzled. These emotions feel so deep, so burdened. Where are they coming from? What are they telling me? What am I grieving? Positioning myself into a cross-legged position, I allow my morning meditation practice to begin here, on this bed in a hotel in Resolute Bay with these raw, available feelings. The grief grips the edges of my lungs. My ribs feel tight. It is hard to breathe for the tears that have congested my head and throat. With my eyes closed and my mind inward listening, my awareness gently rides along the layers of emotion to hear more fully what they are saying. An image flashes before me. I see the land. I see the people on it. I see the division between people, the culture, the land, our mother. I feel a split, like two lovers broken, longing. This grief speaks of the tragic disconnect between our world today and the land, between the proud ignorance of modern culture and the wisdom of our ancient planet. The feeling of grief moves from my chest to my whole body. I am this planet. I am the people here. Inside my heart and soul I feel the seeds of a baby Inuit growing, restless to be born.
I remain present with this for some time, until my rumbling stomach begins to pull me out of the expanded vision and signals that my morning meditation practice is coming to a close. I am hungry, so I get myself washed and dressed to go downstairs for breakfast. Meghan is there to welcome me. As I sit down to eat, I share with her the grief I am feeling. I ask her if there is a lot of sadness here. She looks at me surprised, as if I had revealed a secret. She said last night there was the conclusion of a messy and tragic rape trial. A family is grieving the loss of unity. A father is no longer allowed to see his children. I hear her and feel the part that this story plays in what I am feeling. I also know that what I am feeling goes much deeper than the grief of one family. This is the grief of the Earth for her children.
As I look out the eating room window framed by frosted condensation, the grey sky seems to merge with the freezing ocean about 50 meters away from the inn. The gravel ground that extends in all directions is both beige and dark grey, depending on the way the sun shines upon it, adding some subtle variety to the colours of the land. Icebergs float in the bay in the distance, like ghostly visitors at port. Sled dogs are small dots of dusty grey, tied by chains and huddle at the shore for warmth against the Arctic winds that travel across the icy water.
Meghan tells me that there was a polar bear in the village this morning. They are hungry and coming into town more and more these days. The bears are restless and want food. I feel a rush of excitement flow inside me sensing that I would like to see one. Then I remember that these bears are fierce and dangerous so I think twice about what I wish for.
Sunanda comes to the breakfast room already with news about our lost luggage, gear for my North Pole performance. She reports that Air Canada says it is scheduled to be on the plane to Iqaluit today. This is great, but unfortunately there are no planes today from Iqaluit to Resolute. At least it will get to Iqaluit. We will need to check tomorrow about its delivery to Resolute.
Soon Rishi and Satish join us for food. Satish is full of energy as I know him to be, like the Energizer bunny, seemingly always ready to go. He tells us that he has been up since dawn, when he dashed past the polar bears to “take a bath” in the ocean. We all look at him, shocked. Polar bears? Ocean? It is dangerous to be out alone at dawn and the water is icy cold. My imagination immediately goes to an image of his skinny little arms and legs turning blue as his jaw chatters until it clenches, frozen shut in this ritual bathing. He encourages us all to try bathing this way, saying it is sacred to greet the water when one arrives in a new location. I fully agree with this outlook and have been feeling the inner calling to do so, but my idea was to touch the water and give reverential thanks for being here, not to swim in it. I prefer to save swimming for warmer days. We all share a good laugh and are happy to be together.
Over a breakfast of hash browns, oatmeal and toast, Rishi tries to open up last night’s topic about Satish coming with us to the North Pole. It seems the time is not right for Satish to reopen the discussion, as he quickly says “Not now.” It seems his hash brown sandwich has fully captivated his attention. He very much needs to refuel after his icy dip.
The four of us and Meghan begin to make plans for the day, in particular, how to showcase and film Satish’s fabric on the Arctic ocean and then at the local school. After planning to drive out towards the airport so we can walk on the icebergs, the four of us move back upstairs to our rooms to get ready, while Meghan prepares the van.
The drive is bumpy and brittle. The roads are uneven gravel and the cold makes the metal van crack and shift as it waddles and jerks along. None of this bothers me. I feel so grateful to be safe and warm with people I love.
During the drive, Meghan shares how Resolute Bay came into being. Named after one of the ships that was sent there to search for the Franklin Expedition, Resolute was first a weather station and air force base after World War II.
In efforts to assert sovereignty during the Cold War, in 1953 the Canadian government forced a group of Inuit of North Quebec to relocate here, promising homes and game to hunt. But when the people arrived, they discovered no buildings, very little familiar wildlife and an extremely different climate. When the promise to return home in a year was withdrawn, the Inuit were forced to stay. They survived by adapting to beluga whale and polar bear hunting. Inner conflict arose between the Inuit who knew how to hunt and those who did not. Evangelists uprooted the Inuit culture even more deeply by attempting to covert the Inuit from their historic, shamanic traditions to Christianity.
As Meghan speaks, I start to understand more fully the grief I felt so palpably this morning. We experience all over the world the consequences of a problematic and profound disconnect from ourselves, from each other and from the planet. As I listen inwardly, I hear that this disconnect is the source of our problems of greed, short-sightedness, global warming. These people here are living the result of greed and fear imposed by the modern world. It seems that at least in part, the grief here is a reflection of that disconnect. Yet their ancestral culture is Earth-wise. They are listeners, often alone in a formidable landscape, needing to respect and communicate subtly with nature for their very survival. In the Inuit, I sense there are answers to the current ecological crisis and alternatives to the ignorant choices driven by modern culture. I feel a growing respect for the quiet, humble richness of these people.
Once at the Arctic Ocean shore, we walk past the fresh carcass of a beluga whale, caught by local hunters for its meat and skin. Just the bones lie there with streaks of blood where there once was flesh. All but the bones in this animal’s body have been used. The red stained carcass stands out boldly in contrast with the light grey rocks on the shore. I do not feel sadness in seeing this dead animal, but respect for the cycles of life. I also respect the way the Inuit hunters so carefully extracted all they could from this one life to feed many more. It feels resonant with the energy that is calling me North. There is an ancient knowing here. There is a balance in this death that gives life. This whale reminds me of Nature’s immense generosity, which we in the modern, ‘civilized’ world, take for granted and exploit, but that this hunter intelligently relies upon.
To be continued…