After my plane took off I found myself staring out the window for a long time, looking down at the grey rock which had become so familiar, but now spotted with vibrant greenery still strange and new to me, and bordered by the recently melted Hudson Bay.
I stare and I think I may never see this place again. That thought is quickly followed by I must see this place again. My eyes water up because I know that it's true: I am going to return.
Partly this scares me, because living and teaching in the north has been so challenging. Beyond challenging it's been downright hard. Hard in a way which writing an essay-- with its stress and self doubts-- never was. Hard in a way which planting trees --with sore muscles, cold rain and blackflies-- never was. Life in the north involves true heartbreak: rage at the inequality, tears from the pit of your gut, and existential anguish at the futility of fighting social forces much more powerful than you. But the heart is a muscle and to build muscle you need to tear it and then heal it and then tear it and then heal it.
My friend Kahn, who had been working at Innalik for nearly 20 years now once told me "Once you've lived in the north it'll never leave you", I agreed with him at the time, but it wasn't until I taking a cab from the airport in Montreal, telling myself "this is where you live now" that I realised how profoundly true it is.