September 9: Inuksuit Abounding

Sudbury to Wawa

Just outside of Sudbury, I saw the Falconbridge nickel mine (at least I think it was the Falconbridge mine. I took a pic for the sake of my work as a Production Editor and Mining Analyst (of all things) at Metals Economics Group until I decided I didn’t like mining, nor capitalism all that much and quit to become a self-employed artist, but I will always be grateful to Michael Chender and “Metals” for helping me move from Boulder to Halifax.

I later learned from Kate, whom I stayed with in Winnipeg that the area around the mine for kilometers in either direction used to look like a moonscape, but as you can see they’ve cleaned up their act some. This man-made monument to capitalism certainly contrasted (and not well) with other human erections I saw later along the road.

I was deep into Northwestern Ontario, Superior Lake country. It was incredibly beautiful and calming – full of those kinds of lakes, trees and scenes that seem prototypically Canadian. Very few towns, but the land still felt populated and protected.

It took me a while, but I began to look beyond just the stratified nature of the roadside rocks to the tops of them, where I kept seeing what looked like intentionally piled rocks. Then I saw a pile that was unmistakably an Inukshuk. Then I kept seeing them on top of almost any flat space like Tibetan offerings to the dralas.

I found this definition from Wikipedia: An inuksuk (plural inuksuit) [1] (from the Inuktitut; alternatively inukshuk in English [2] or inukhuk in Inuinnaqtun [3]) is a stone landmark used as a milestone or directional marker by the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic. Inuksuit differ from some cairns in significance. The Arctic Circle, dominated by permafrost, has few natural landmarks and thus the inuksuk was central to navigation across the barren tundra. he word inuksuk means “something which acts for or performs the function of a person.” The word comes from the morphemes inuk (“person”) and -suk (“ersatz or substitute”). The Inuit make inuksuit in different forms and for different purposes: to show directions to travelers, to warn of impending danger, to mark a place of respect, or to act as helpers in the hunting of caribou. Similar stone figures were made all over the world in ancient times, but the Arctic is one of the few places where they still stand. An inukshuk can be small or large, a single rock, several rocks balanced on each other, round boulders or flat. Inuit tradition forbids the destruction of inuksuit. (from http://thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=ArchivedFeatures&Params=A29)

Of course I only now know about all this. I’d see the more classical type of inuksuk, that have two legs a layer of rocks as a body and a smaller rock as a head), but not in the diversity that these roadside ones exhibited themselves. They looked fairly newly erected and were fairly small in size, about 1 to two feet tall or so, always made of rock that could be found around where they were placed and mostly in the highest places, some of which would have taken some climbing to get to.

In Wawa, where I stayed at the Sportsman’s Motel (thought I’d join the hunter side after my cow experience). Here’s a pic of “big bird” Wawa style. It is, of course, a Canadian goose.

(Small digression: I heard a report on CBC as I was driving through Manitoba that a particular school was right in a staging area for the migration of Canadian Geese and having a big problem with “goose poop” in the school yard. One goose drops off 1 to 2 pounds of poop in a month (I think it is) and there are about 3,000 of them gathering in one spot. They had to get special permission from the schoolboard to get special dogs (and then from the city council) that are quite pricey, to hire to drive off the geese to another spot, and then they had to have permission from the feds because Canadian geese are a federal preserve (don’t ask me!). Meanwhile, the geese aren’t waiting for permission and the playground is getting covered with white slippery stuff, such that it looks like a white carpet were laid down.)

Back to the “plot”: I ran out of batteries for my camera right about then, so only got one. There were three or four others in spots through town, which, keep in mind, only has a population of about 5,000 who are definitely not necessarily located in one clump. Had a decent hamburger at the Viking restaurant near the motel. I figured it’d be two days to Winnipeg, where Kate Byman contacted me in respone to my plea for landing spots, with an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I’ll continue with a separate post for Ignace.