What is the good life? We all of our own definition to that question. According to Kanye West’s song, the “Good Life“, it means:
Welcome to the good life
[…] And if they hate then let ’em hate
And watch the money pile up, the good life
For 10 days, my dad and I experienced the good life from an Inuk perspective. We were invited to join my host, his daughter and 3 other families on a canoe trip to Kuuttaak, a small camp about 5 to 6 hours ride north of Inukjuak. Our embarkations are modest relative to Poseidon’s power on the Hudson’s Bay. As we are propelled on the deep blue waters, my mind wanders along the waves, emptying itself. Behind me, my father is all smiles.
We arrive shortly before sunset. The camp is composed of 2 cabins and 3 canvas tents. Located at the junction of the Kuuttaak river and the Hudson’s Bay, the view is breathtaking. A blaze of colours lingering as if frozen. Vivid. Beer in hand, father and son enjoying the view. Behind us, the tundra for miles and miles, immense.
We hear the story of Kuuttaak. An inuk is being chased by a giant. After one of the giant’s blow, he plays dead. This fools the predator who carries him back to the cave. Once the colossus is deep asleep, the resourceful inuk picks up an axe and chops the giant’s head. This wakes his wife who starts chasing him and quickly gains ground. Bereft of options, the hero slams the ground with the giant’s axe and splits the earth open. Kuuttaak river is born. In a final attempt to catch up with her prey, the giant’s wife gulps up as much water as she can to dry up the stream. Luckily for our inuk, the behemoth explodes and the sky fills up with fog.
Over the next few days, we are treated to sunlight and mosquitoes. Swarms of them like I’ve never seen before. Clouds, quite literally. This does not stop us from spending our days outdoors. We hammer nail after nail to help with the finish of our cabin. During breaks, we go egg hunting on neighbouring islands where eider ducks are plentiful. On another day, we bath in the fresh river, scrubbing off layers of bug spray. We fish for hours. We throw our lines from the shore, patiently repeating the exercise despite our unfruitful attempts. The rocks below our feet display patterns that would make contemporary art collectors jealous. We do eventually catch some fish, which we proudly bring back to camp, cheerful to share it with the group. Raw arctic char, I’ve come to like it. Inuit have a saying that food tastes better when eating in a group.
One day, as I nail my thousandth nail through the wooden surface, Ricky distinguishes a swimming caribou. In less than 5 minutes, we are in the canoe. We drive up to the caribou, who, to my surprise, is an excellent swimmer. Ricky gives the 22 shotgun to my father and instructs him to aim for the neck. The noble beast is knocked out on the 3rd blast. The shades in the sky are simply stunning, offering a spectacle for the caribou’s last breaths. My father still can’t believe it: his first caribou! Killing a caribou is a rite of passage for Inuit hunters, kind of like a Bar Mitzvah haha.
The weather over the second half of the stay is less gentle. Initially, we are thankful for the wind gusts which give us respite from bugs. After 48 hours, the wind remains robust, preventing us from venturing out. Days get longer and nights colder as water filters into the cabin. A perfect time for reflection… if it weren’t for the dozen of kids running and screaming everywhere. At least when it’s sunny, you can throw them outside! Every day, I go out for long walks to take a break from the indoor tornadoes of youngsters. The weather delays our return by 3 days. My dad even misses his return flight to Montréal.
Our relation to nature is deeply altered out here. You can’t control it. Hence, you simply live and breath in the fresh air. For me, these 10 days gave me a glimpse of a good life, awash from the frills from the city. A life of simplicity, of harmony with nature, and of emotions. And to share that experience with my dad is the most wonderful of gifts