Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Descending

I started trying to write one of my regular blogs this morning, but something made me stop.  The words weren't coming, the inspiration just not there.  After a couple of cups of coffee it hit me as to why. It was time to do another Wood Buffalo Update, time to gather up the dust bunnies of memory and share them before they are gone.

The final week of November proved that Winter has a mighty grip on us, dishing up temperatures that flirted with -30.  I was in Fort Chipewyan on Wednesday evening, an hour flight north of Fort McMurray, attending a community engagement event.  The municipality had chartered a plane to take a group of us up there as it is more cost effective than flying commercial.

I had a wonderful time connecting with old friends and making some new ones.  It was especially great to have a visit with Nadia's Auntie Rachel who I hadn't seen in a number of years.  An old-time country band warmed up the hall filled with about 200 residents and made the evening merry.

While we enjoyed the event, the pilots caught up on their emails and reading in the small airport terminal while the plane sat on the tarmac.

"It's going to be rather cold when we first get in the plane," the pilot warned as we prepared to head back home.  "We'll do our best to get it warmed up as fast as we can."

We sat in our seats, left for about four hours to absorb the bitter cold that had descended on Alberta's oldest continuously inhabited settlement, bundled up in our toques, mittens and parkas.  At that point, it was -34 with a windchill.  We shivered, our exhalations clearly visible in the cabin as the crew turned the ignition to begin the warming up process.

There is something romantic, in a northern adventure kind of way, of being able to experience this frontier-like mode of transportation.  I don't get up to Fort Chipewyan often, but when I do, it reminds me of the vastness of our region, and the importance of our rural communities.

It's not quite that cold this morning, only -20 according to the Weather Channel.  We had more snow last night, so it will mean another round of shoveling for me, which will make Ben enormously happy.  He's been building a fort at the end of our driveway, in the spot that always ends up being the biggest pile in the yard.

I came home from work one day and saw this beautiful tunnel burrowed out, thinking immediately that Heather had been out doing the work.  It turns out that the tunneling was all Ben, demonstrating an acuity passed down from his Uncle Keith.

In my new role (since the summer) of focusing on the arts at Keyano, we have ended up spending a lot more time attending  special events at the Theatre & Arts Centre.  Mom gifted us a couple of tickets to see Stuart McLean when he was in town in October.  We brought Neil, Susan, Dylan and Ben with us and enjoyed an amazing evening of stories and music.  Thanks Mom!

"We've been coming here a lot lately," said Dylan, as we crossed the snowy parking lot to go watch a short one-act play a few weeks ago.  "I like it."

Most recently, we all went to the opening night of Calendar Girls, a play about a group of Yorkshire women who decide to do a tastefully nude calendar to raise money to buy a new sofa for the cancer ward at their local hospital.  They chose to overcome significant body image issues and in so doing become global sensations.

Our local ladies became sensations of their own, doffing it all on stage, with strategically placed objects to hide their bits and pieces.  They were brilliant, and the audience response was stunning.

I did the pre-show speech for the final two performances, encouraging patrons to purchase one of the fundraising calendars that had been done featuring the ladies.  Some of you might find one under your tree come Christmas morning, so be prepared!

Dylan and Ben both came home with very positive report cards, Dylan crossing the finish line with an impressive 80 average for the first time.  We were both very proud of their efforts and Heather reported that all the teachers had lovely things to say.

Speaking of Heather, her health has been a little up and down in recent months, as she continues to work with a variety of practitioners to figure out what's happening.  She has radically adjusted her workload, listening very closely to what her body is telling her.   Some days she is full of vim and vigor, other days, less so.

We haven't been terribly specific about our Christmas plans, as we haven't firmed anything up yet.  At this point, we're thinking of maybe traveling down to Edmonton at some point.  We'll see what happens.  After the spate of accidents we've heard about this winter, the less time we spend on the roads, the better.

Have a great week.

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