Monday, May 5, 2003
The ice is starting to break up just at the south end of The Island. Huge chunks have started
piling up on top of each other in the middle of The River – where the current is strongest. The
pressure of the current keeps pushing the ice down stream while the pack at the mouth of The
River keeps the mess from going anywhere. As a channel forms in the middle of The River, theice along shore just breaks loose and flows away. Along my side of The Island there are pocketsof open water right up against the shore anyway. In other words, the ice where I am is just onebig floating island that’s too big to go anywhere. When the obstacles go, the ice island will go –and quickly. And no tears will be shed.
I went to the Metropolitan Opera’s web page and discovered that on October 11 they willpresent Tristan und Isolde that (Saturday) afternoon. That’s the performance that isbroadcasted worldwide. Now there is no way I’ll ever be able to get to that performance – or toany of the others. But I spent this weekend preparing.
I now can get streams from several broadcasters that carry the Opera. I also have laid insoftware that will record it all onto the hard disk. (And I have a hard disk that’s big enougheven for Tristan.) And, the software has a clock on it, so that I can set the timer in case Isuddenly get hit with a Saturday afternoon distraction.
During my search I also looked for a LAME plugin for the SLIMp Ethernet audio interfaceserver. Evidently there’s one out there – somewhere. I don’t know enough, yet, about thismachine (and code) to be able to cobble together one on my own. (I did find the source code.) Inow am faced with a summer project of either reading Schopenhauer or writing Perl. I don’tknow which will be tougher on my head. And I don’t honestly know if I’ll get to either.
For those in, near, or around New York, I envy you – for once. That production will have BenHepner and Janet Eaglen. In our lifetimes, they’re as good as it will ever get. But, while I maymiss the show, I’ll be listening – possibly/hopefully several times over.
Wednesday, May 7, 2003
At noon today The River was clear of ice in the channel (on the East Side of The Island) down
about to The Parish Hall. Tonight The River is clear in the channel past The Little Church
where I live. The ice is moving out fast. This morning the first taxis made the run to Moosonee
– from the landing near Raymond’s house; the docks at The Hospital are not in and floating
Sam Tomatuk came home from Kingston last week. He had been on dialysis for several years.
The treatment then began to fail. Sam wanted to come home. He was with us about a week andleft us late last night. We bury him on Friday.
Sam is like many who – for one reason or another – have had to leave The Island. When thetime comes, however, they want to come home. Usually that happens after they have died – butas in this case, not always. There are some who have forgone better medical treatment andhave chosen to stay here. The Island is still without dialysis machines at The Hospital. For thatkind of treatment one must go south. Some have elected to stay in The Community.
Thursday, May 8, 2003
Great new Word Processor for the MAC: MELLEL -- ( It’s what
WordPerfect (for the MAC) ought to be. Trouble with WordPerfect is that they got scared offyears ago – probably by Microsoft’s new OFFICE FOR THE MAC. Anyway, Corel quit supportingWordPerfect on the MAC, so us poor beleaguered MAC-freaks were reduced to AppleWorks andWORD. Mellel does a straight text document – and really nothing else. That makes Mellel lean(and cheap.) And what it does, it does very, very well. For those who type out their thoughts inHebrew – it does that, too.
Mellel does not do envelopes – easily, anyway. But SNAILMAIL ( does – andvery easily -- from your ADDRESS BOOK. Mellel is at its best for writing a good document –with the kind of formatting you need for a good document. It would be perfect for this document – if anyone else had the software to read it in Mellel. Of course, Mellel also saves in‘text’.
LetterWorks ( does simple letters and envelopes easily, quickly, andwell; it also uses the Address Book. Cost for all of that: Mellel - $28; LetterWorks - $46;SnailMail - $20 – I think, all in CAD.
Other survival strategies – ie radio: Most of my (NPR) news now comes from another island –Nantucket (WNAN, an affiliate of WGBH, Boston.) The station I listen to most for music/news mix is WPSU – Pennsylvania State University, somewhere in Pennsylvania. WCPE is allclassical music and comes from somewhere in North Carolina. (Both WPSU & WCPE carry theMET.) Also, there is a really good music stream that comes from (I think Geneva) calledMandjou. My choices reflect programming, of course, but also technical issues: choice ofprotocol, stability, and reliability. (Regarding programming: although the broadcasters carrynational and international news, they also carry local news. I do not get terribly excited aboutmid-Pennsylvania news and politics. When, however, the barge got stuck in the Cape CodCanal and leaked oil, I had the maps out.) The BBC is rebroadcast on WPSU and WNAN; or Ican go directly to the BBC page and stream or download. For the CBC I stream directly fromtheir page.
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Monica got in yesterday with Derek and her sister Mary. She was scheduled to be back on
Monday or Sunday but was at the mercy of the chopper (from Akimiski Island – her family’s
ancestral hunting ground -- to Attawapiskat.) And she had 33 geese. Derek got 30; she got 3. I
fired up the freezer in the Rectory so that they wouldn’t walk away; they had been thoroughly
smoked up at the camp, however. Two went straightaway to Beulah (an Elder.) I am being extra
special nice to anyone who has geese. Spring Geese, I am told, are the best.
And she had stories about Polar Bears wandering around The Island. Though she saw nonepersonally, they were around. Derek, age 14, spent a lot of time hanging out with his uncle(s?) I spent a few hours this morning in The Hospital – with a patient & family. Although theantiseptic precautions are extensive, if requested by the family, we can get in there now. TheHospital certainly tries to accommodate; but they just can’t let the SARS bug loose on TheIsland. Many patients and staff are still coming in from the south.
Friday, May 16, 2003
The Hospital Docks are in – as of a few days ago. The barge is not yet running. But traffic on
and off The Island is getting more regularized. On tonight’s train Marg Lewis and daughter,
Jessica, will arrive. They come from Wabun on Garden Island, Lake Temagami. These are
voices out of my past. Marg’s husband, Dick, and I were 14-15 year olds back in the old days.
Dick is now Managing Director of the Camp. One of our projects, when they get here, will be toentice Derek into a summer (and hopefully many more) of canoeing. In my exceptionallyhumble opinion, one does not know these woods, until one has mastered the canoe. With thecanoe you can go anywhere. When the choppers are down, you’re stuck. With a freighter, youcan go only as far as you can carry the thing. With a tripping canoe the rivers becomehighways, not obstacles. And in following the old routes, if you’re Derek, you walk in thefootprints of your ancestors and paddle in their memories and legends.
So this will be a busy weekend. The Island, being in the mouth of a large river adjacent to TheBay, is not a good place for small canoes. The winds and tides make the water right around us treacherous. The art of canoeing is all but lost here. The only people who know the canoe that Ihave talked with are my age or quite a bit older.
Friday, May 23, 2003
To catch up…. Another funeral last week. Then, on Friday, Marg and (daughter) Jessica
arrived on the train. Monica’s sister, Theresa, was in town. And we ended up at Monica’s for
supper. There were several other guests there, and our conversation centered generally on the
‘Ceremonies’ conducted each year at The Old Reserve. It turned out that the main
practitioner/teacher – Peter – was well known to Marg and Jess. He had been active around
Bear Island (another Reserve) in Lake Temagami.
On Saturday we went to The Bay. Moose Factory Island is in the mouth of The Moose River.
There are a few miles to go before one actually is out in The Bay. We went by freighter as far aswe could go. There is still ice at the mouth of The River. You can see chunks of it hanging outof the mud banks. And there still is a layer stuck on the bottom. When the water got tooshallow, because of the ice, we stopped at an island and walked about. The sky was cloudless.
There was a light breeze and no bugs (yet). The temperature reached 77 (Fahrenheit) that day.
It was absolutely gorgeous.
The Island is really a big sandbar. It’s absolutely flat. When we were there it was but inchesabove the water. It obviously gets flooded often. Nothing was growing on it this last weekend.
The birds, however, find sanctuary there. And, indeed, there’s an area closed off as asanctuary.
On our way back we hunted for fossils. They are everywhere. Even I found lots. Marg tells methey are of the same origin as the ones in Minnesota.
Sunday brought Church in the morning. In the afternoon my guests toured the elementaryschool. (They’re teachers.) I took the time to hang out in The Hospital with some folks there.
On Monday we packed up and went to The Old Reserve for a picnic. Monica and Theresa andJoe Tip (owner of the canoe) were our guides.
The Old Reserve lies at the junction of The French River with The Moose River – about 10 milesupstream from Moose Factory Island. This was the ancestral camping ground for The Cree in the area. That is, when families came to The Bay for the summer, they would generally campmore or less in one large space. During the winter extended families made their own campsback in the bush and basically hunkered down for the winter while the men hunted (mostlycaribou) and trapped. In the summer life was easier. Families would come to the shores of The Bay to fish, to get away from the bugs, and to enjoy the summer breezes. The Old Reserve isone of those summer campgrounds.
It was particularly during these summer encampments that families could mingle, trade, catchup on the gossip. And the younger folk could meet each other. The summer camps made itpossible for the families to intermarry with each other.
The village or community moved to Moose Factory Island because of the presence of theHudson Bay Company. At first families camped in an area near The Hospital and Parish Hall(south or upriver end of The Island). Then the Community here on The Island took shape. Thesite at The Old Reserve is much better for smaller (non-motorized) canoes. There is a wide expanse of open water -- the mighty Moose. There are several streams – including The French –where fishing is good. If bad weather comes in from The Bay, there’s always a place one canpaddle to for safety. Moose Factory Island is more convenient to maritime shipping – being onlya few miles from The Bay itself. It is generally good about bugs – because of the breeze. But thewinds and tides around The Island can be utterly treacherous without warning.
The Old Reserve is a flat expanse on a bluff overlooking The Moose just after The Frenchenters. The current from The French is strong and sweeps up close to the bluff. The campsite ison the east side of The Moose.
The campground presently is laid out in sections. At the extreme north end overlooking The River is where the ceremonies are held. None of us walked this day on that ground, and wedidn’t take pictures of it. The south end of the campground, overlooking The River, is wheretents are pitched. That’s where we had our picnic. Back in the bush – to the east – wereclearings where people went to fast – alone and for extended periods of time. Here and therethroughout the tenting area were sapling frames to hold sweat lodges.
With a little luck I’ll be back in a few weeks for at least a day when people are there.
We ended our day gathering more fossils.
Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Gwendolyn and I took our last walk together today.
I had packed last night, so she knew something was up – and registered her expectation thatshe be included, if you don’t mind. At six this morning we left the Rectory for a walk. All in theroutine – except that I had an overnight bag with me, and we walked further than usual. Onour walk there were the usual neighborhood dogs to encounter and dismiss. And another dog-person (with dog) was walking towards us. We stopped and talked (and growled.) The morningwas warm, clear; and there was no wind. The morning sun had risen over The River and overthe swale that separates the east side of The Island from the open water. As we neared the oldHBC post a Great Blue Heron rose from the swale and headed east out over The River.
We walked slowly. Gwendolyn must investigate. And she walks slowly now. And we have totake many rests.
We got to the docks by The Hospital (on the west side of The Island) in about 45 minutes. Alone taxi waited. There is no traffic at this time in the morning. That’s the way I wanted it –cross ahead of the morning traffic. We were alone in the canoe: Gwendolyn, the driver, and me.
The water was glass. Whales had come up into The River to fish. There was a dog on theMoosonee dock. And we said hi (and growled.) And we walked from the Moosonee docks to thetrain station – slowly, with many rests. There was plenty of time.
We had time to stall around before boarding the train. Here Gwendolyn got her Dramaminewith her favorite cheese – Velveeta – and a little bit of fresh baked bread. The first mosquitoesof the spring had just come out this morning, and we talked about THAT as we brushed themaside. And when it came time for her to lie down in the cage in the baggage car, she did notobject. She knows the drill, was used to it; and she was tuckered out from the walk.
The train ran on time – for once. Just after we crossed The Abitibi, a cow moose charged from anearby bog back off into the bush.
Andy’s had the truck waiting at the station in Cochrane – five hours and 186 miles later. Wetook another short walk around the train station in Cochrane. Gwendolyn stumbled and fell,but she recovered her dignity and wanted to go on. We lingered a moment, visited; I rubbed herears. Then into the car – I had to help her. Then: the seventy-mile drive to Timmins.
I had thought we might stop at one of the rest stops along the way. I had brought the breadand Velveeta – the all time best of the best of the treats. But I figured this would just make hermore aware of my own anxiety – she was nervous already -- and that would only make it worse.
We drove straight through to the Vet.
We were early. We did the paper work before and not after. There were a number of dogs – largeand small coming in and going out. Gwendolyn was as good as gold and lay at my feet thewhole time and licked my hand.
Our time came. I was asked if I wanted to leave now. No, I’d stay – right through to the end; wehad come this far. The first shot was while Gwendolyn was standing on the floor. She never felta thing. I sat down on the floor. She lay down beside me. In 20 minutes she couldn’t get up.
She was totally dazed.
The Vet’s assistant then lifted her and laid her on the table. I was too weak to even try to help.
Then came the hard stuff. A soft, deep whimper, and it was over. I tried to remove the collarand couldn’t. The guys had to do it for me.
It was all over now. There was nothing more to be done. There was no place I could take her.
Cremation was the last and only option. I left her lying there on the table.
Our journey together, for now, is over.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
It is Wednesday evening. I took the next train north this morning. Somehow the train made it
(barely) over a broken rail. Cochrane was 75 degrees and climbing this morning. Moose Factory
is 45 and cloudy. I am listening to Das Lied von der Erde (Fischer-Dieskau/Bernstein.) It fits. Ikeep expecting her to nudge me to tell me it’s time for bed – or that we’ll take one last walk, ifyou please. I know it’s over, but the memory lingers.


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