Sunday, January 25, 2009

we hae meat, and we can eat

Yes, friends, the Bard of Scotland's reach knows no bounds. Even here in the almost-Ultima Thule of Canada the faithful Scots and wanna-be Scots gathered to celebrate Robbie Burns' birthday. It is his 250th. Robbie Burns, if you don't know, was a poet and a lyricist who travelled Scotland collecting and adapting traditional folk music and poems as well as well as his own. On his birthday, Scots celebrate with a Burns supper. The format of Burns suppers has not changed since Robert's death in 1796. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements followed with the Selkirk Grace (see the byline). After the grace comes the piping and cutting of the haggis, where Robert's famous Address to a Haggis read and the haggis is cut open. Don't know what haggis is? Please read about it here: Memories of the last Burns supper I attended (12 years ago in Glasgow while an exchange student) are a bit hazy, so I was looking forward to this one as a more sober celebration. So to speak.

The main attraction besides haggis: David Francey, Juno-award winner and folk musician. He had the stage for most of the night, though there was lots of fiddling and pipes to go around. True kudos go to a local Iqaluit musician who fiddled at the show most of the night despite expecting her first baby on Monday. I think, however, that one of the best moments of the night was when an elderly Inuit woman, clad in modern leather kamiks and a tartan skirt, went up to the buffet to get the last share of the leftover haggis, turnip, and Scotch eggs. It makes me wonder what Chinese New Year tomorrow will bring.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is There a Polar Bear?

I love to run outside. I am not a running fiend. I have never run a marathon and generally I eschew running outside in the winter like the plague. It's cold. And dark. And, well, cold!

Last night, I got home at the unheard-of early hour of 6 p.m. The idea of walking an hour to get to the gym was more daunting than braving the outdoors. The outdoors also cooperated. The temperature was about -10 to -15 in the evening (unusually warm), there was little to no wind, and I happened to know that it was going to be a lot colder the rest of the week. So, I made an educated guess at how many layers I needed and set out, hoping I would not get too cold.

The biggest challenge was getting used to the cold air. My nose got pretty cold. My lungs got a little sore as I ran uphill. What I imagined to be the greatest challenge, however, the slippery ground, didn't turn out to be at all. Trail runners and careful footing kept me on track.

At one point, I needed to stop and do some jumping jacks. I just wanted to warm up a bit without breathing too hard. A woman walking home saw me and thought something very different. I noticed her staring at me, so I stopped.

She asked, "is there a polar bear?"

I imagined what she must have seen from her point of view: a woman running from a side street, crossing the road, running a little, then stopping, turning and jumping up and down while waving her arms. Oops.

"No, no," I assured her, "I'm just exercising."

"Oh," she seemed relieved and took her daughter by the hand and kept going. I ran on, hoping that in fact there was no stray bear roaming town looking for delicious human running snacks.