The Shore (Qikqitarjuaq, Nunavut)
The shore is a place I can see from my window, only in the summer when the days are long. On this island of bare mountains, it hugs my home from all sides, caressing and stroking or fighting and hurting and it tries to break us and love us too.
The shore is a place where I jump from rock to rock in my rubber boots and wool sweaters on long summer days gathering neon orange jellyfish in a glass jar and tiny shrimp to be their friends. I sit them on my windowsill, with a view of their home, but after 2 days they always grow still and Mum says it is time to catch some more.
The shore is a place that is not always safe. Everyday is not for jellyfish because some days the shore has angry tantrums. One day it slammed its waves against Linda’s house all day and threw seaweed like long tangled wigs all over her windows. She collected it and ate it – she wasn’t even mad.
The shore is a place where treasures are found. One day there was a shark and all of us jumped on its dead body. We peered into its mouth at its long rows of teeth. We examined its strange eyes. It was from the deep water, they said. The shore was its grave and it was sad about that. My teacher Tyna said the hunters caught it by accident and now we don’t know what to do.
The shore is the place where we cut up the seal after hunting, where its insides spill open all soft and we sit around it and cut and eat and move around different parts until it is empty and we are full. We wipe our mouths and smile and say ‘mmmm’.
The shore is a place that can take you to danger. When the days grow long and the shore shakes free of the ice, it brings in moving ice floes that my friends jump and race on. The shore tries to keep them, but then so does the ice and sometimes they are too fast and sometimes a friend doesn’t return and the ice has them and we all cry for days and eat seal in the town gymnasium but it isn’t a feast. I stay away because I promised my mum but the kids play anyways.
The shore is a place where the boats come in, with fish or walrus or whales, or the Sea Lift Boat that has all our food for the year in a box it puts on our doorstep that is filled with so many little boxes I can’t count them all. The shore rises and falls and the boats move up and down and my mum says this is the ocean but I think it is a lake because I can see another shore not too far away, hugging another island. We saw a polar bear there once.
The shore is a place I can see from my window, it is magical and dangerous like this place we call home.
My high school friend Courtney has grown up to be an amazing artist. Like so many of us who grew up in the North, our homeland is her muse and our relationship with the land inspires her work. I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute to an amazing interactive project she exhibited in Scotland last year called (stolons).
Stolons are horizontal connections between organisms (whether a skeleton or a root), and from what I understand this exhibition traces the connections between the people of the North and the land they call home. I’ve not been lucky enough to see it, but its about to finally be exhibited in my hometown and I couldn’t be more proud to have been a part.
This news made me revisit my contribution, and I present it here. It is the shifting memory of my time as a child living in the remote Eastern Arctic, ages 4-7 and how I interacted with the defining feature of a small Island community: The Shore.