Sunday, June 24, 2007

Night Walking in Pangnirtung

During the first week in Pangnirtung, my daughter, Lili, and I walked each night in the endless light of the Arctic summer. Photo credit for "Night Walking in Pangnirtung": Lili Holzer-Glier

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First Stop, Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

Iqaluit can best be described as adolescent. It is energetic but without a plan and cocky and desperate all at once. The guests of the B and B include a Parisian businesswoman, an English architect and a financial consultant from Ireland, who is providing a “strategic growth plan” for a wealthy Inuit family. The Pub is patrolled by a task force of bouncers dressed in black shirts with “Security” printed on the chest. The town is growing quickly and the suburban model of living has reached the Arctic. Dirt “avenues” extend from the airport to homes arranged on dead-end “courts” and “lanes” spread out over bare rock and tundra. Since much of the shallow top soil has been blown away by construction, there is no yard culture in Arctic suburbia. Commercial shipping containers serve as practical replacements for garages and garden sheds. Litter is everywhere. The constant wind picks up everything that is not anchored and spreads plastic wrappers and aluminum siding across the town and tundra.

When I ignore the garbage, the land is remarkable. It's in the high 30's, the sea ice is still in Frobisher Bay, but much of the land is exposed. Pools of spring rain have collected on top of the sea ice and reflect aqua light which is weirdly like the blue of a shallow Caribbean sea. The plant life hugs the rugged topography, forming an extravagantly plush carpet underfoot. Bleak and brown at a distance, the vegetation is richly textured and subtly colored; sea green lichens, flowering purple saxifrage, tiny blue berries, white heath, red ground cover and asphalt-black patches of organic matter drowned and burned by water and wind are spread across thousands of miles. The familiar fuzzy catkins of the pussy willow are blooming , but unlike the southern version which reaches up and out, the Arctic Willow submits to the wind and shapes itself to the curves of rock. Sometimes deference is a good choice!

Photo credit for "First Stop, Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada" : Lili Holzer-Glier