I've noticed time has been going by much quicker these past few weeks. September crawled, October has been flying by.
Two weeks ago was Goose Break as previously mentioned. My roommate and I mostly worked on our long range plans - wrapping my mind around the next year within a few days was difficult. We did however manage to get out a bit. A friend we've made offered to take us up to James Bay on a "Kash canoe" (motorized). Kashechewan sits just below the tree line, as we headed north east towards the Bay the trees became smaller and smaller, until nothing remained but the flat horizon. Can see a single large rock a mile away. A few had brought guns and took turns practicing their aim at small birds while I aimed my camera. (My camera cord is probably sitting idle at the post office in the Northern store... meanwhile, all of these photos are on loan from Olena.)
We were also invited last Saturday to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony. One of the spiritual leaders of the community invited us, so 4 teachers and 4 nurses and one reporter jumped into the back of a pickup with towels in hand. For those who aren't familiar, a sweat lodge (or, at least the one we used) is a small man made cove of sorts, a circular dome made of woven and entwined sticks, then covered with heavy black felt and dark blankets. The dome itself was in a small shack or cottage, protecting it from the elements so that it can be used in the winter. We helped clean out the shack, pulled fresh grasses to cover the floor with and watched as a large fire was built a dozen feet from the cottage door. Large rocks were placed in the middle of the fire, and as the fire died down the rocks were red hot, through and through. Our guide explained to us the significance of the prayers and stories and the origin of the sweat lodge ( I won't repeat here for fear of getting something wrong), then we stripped down to skirts and t-shirts, took off our rings and watches and crawled into the lodge. In the middle of the dome is a pit. The red rocks are placed in the middle, prayers and various ceremonial rituals take place, and then the felt is closed over the small opening that serves as a door.
I've never been in such darkness in my life. About 5 minutes into the ceremony I was forgetting whether my eyes were open or closed, and made myself blink to remember which. Every few minutes, a mixture of water and sweet grass "medicine water" was splashed onto the hot rocks in the center and the lodge would instantly fill with heat. Our leader told several stories and prayers in Cree, praying for the people (especially the children) of Kashechewan and also for us. Every so often sacred eagle feathers would be waved just above our heads - I kept jumping, thinking a bird had miraculously found its way into the dome and was dive bombing us. Usually a sweat lodge ceremony is broken down into four 15 minute periods, however we did two longer, "double" sessions. In between the door flap was opened and the steam escaped and we cooled down some. The second session was much hotter than the first, and I think I allowed myself to relax a little more and my eyes played tricks on me. While I don't think I experienced anything that might remotely resemble a vision, the beating drums, the songs and the heat defiantly put me into a zone I'd never been in before. We came out of the lodge feeling detoxed and relaxed - really neat, great experience I would have missed out on were I home for the holiday.
Any relaxation I experienced last weekend quickly disappeared come Monday. Just one week out of school and I'm back at the drawing board, reteaching routines and procedures, reminding students of what they were easing into so nicely before the break. Sigh. Students tired easily this week of work, meanwhile work has tired me out as well. I've heard that students typically bounce back more quickly in October than in September and I hope that is the case!
Some great news on the horizon: a high school teacher is going to be helping me out by bringing the students healthy breakfast in the mornings. I know that for atleast a half dozen of my kids this will be a great help (to me, too!) And of course, Scott comes in less than 2 weeks to visit!
It's begun to snow! We woke up 3 or 4 times this week to find a dusting of white covering the ground. I think Kashechewan will look great, all dressed up for winter, especially for sunsets and on clear nights when the starts are out.