Monday, October 02, 2006

Reader's Diary #163- Robert Service: The Best Of (up to "The Mountain And The Lake")

When I was in Rankin Inlet I made an effort to read more Northern themed books. Then I moved back to Newfoundland and so, I upped my Newfoundland quota. Now I'm back in the North and well, you know the drill.

The thing is, Robert Service writes primarily about the Yukon. And comparing the Yukon to Nunavut is only slightly more reasonable than comparing Newfoundland to B.C.. Yukon has all the gold rush history, Nunavut has Northwest passage history. The Yukon has trees, Nunavut has inuksuit- and don't underestimate the cultural impact a tree has until you live in a place void of them. The differences are plenty.

Yet a stanza from one of Service's poems in particular resonated with me. From "The Ballad of The Black Fox Skin":

The bluffs uprear and grimly peer far over Dawson town;
They see its lights a blaze o' nights and harshly they look down;
They mock the plan and plot of man with grim, ironic frown.

If you've ever flown into a Nunavut town, especially in the winter, you know the feeling. They just seem so small and literally in the middle of nowhere that they don't have any business being there at all. It's an overwhelming feeling for sure. Trust me, nature is bigger here and it makes its presence known.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I can just imagine that feeling of insignificance and isolation. It's probably infinitely worse that flying into Calgary from Ontario (where are the trees?). Makes that experience seem pretty petty now actually.

John Mutford said...

It's one of those odd things- that feeling of insignificance seems general rather than specific. That is to say, when I fly in to these towns instead of feeling like say the people of Rankin are insignificant, I suddenly feel instead that we all are. As if the people of Nunavut have become a symbol for all of humanity. That might sound a bit much- but that's the overwhelming feeling I get.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

No no, I completely understand that. Being out in a whole bunch of nature will bring on that feeling.