Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Machine

In Nunavut, when someone refers to her (or his) "machine", she is usually talking about her skidoo, aka snow machine. As machines, they are fairly simple, though it's not the easiest thing to take one across mountains. At least for me. If you spent your life mountainbiking, skateboarding or building the myriad of skills that teach balance, hand-eye coordination and confidence in your ability to interact wioth rugged terrain, you will likely master the skiddoo in minutes. Unfortunately for me, however, I never really got much of that out of "British India--a historical survey" or Common Law Property. Nor is it something they've really covered in Self magazine--though perhaps I could find a new niche....

Ever defiant of obstacles, I decided that living in the Arctic meant I had to overcome my inadequate education and get myself into the skidoo racket. So I saved my pennies, and before Christmas I bought a nice, heavy, long track 55o Polaris. Because who would want a smaller machine? Or a lighter machine? Or even a used machine? If I was going to be Arctic Girl, I needed the Arctic Machine. I would ride the machine to work, take it out into the mountains... I even named it: Black Beauty.

Well, Arctic Girl's Arctic Machine got driven Gavin. In January, we took it out once, inspired by a visiting prosecutor to take a little spin. I trailed behind the pack of my colleagues as we headed out to the sea ice, like a kid who is riding her first bike without training wheels. Sled dogs could have beaten me across the Bay. It was so cold that I had to use my hand warmers to stop my fingers from going numb. After that, I vowed to ride the skidoo every weekend so that I would not feel so slow again.

Weeks passed and snow fell on my machine, much like David Guterson's cedars. Once in a while, I would brush the snow off hoping the neighbours would not notice how long it had been since I had taken it out. Also, I feared I may never be able to unlock it again when it was buried in all that snow. Friends would ask if I had put 10 miles on it yet. My boss kept asking me when I was going to drive it to work. I felt more like a kadlunat than the day I stepped off the plane.

This morning dawned as one calling for a girl to ride her skidoo. It was bright, sunny, warm (-21C) and calm. After briefly flirting with the idea of laying on my sofa basking in the sun and the Globe & Mail, we decided we would indeed go for a little spin. I donned all the gear I knew I would need to keep me warm: 2 pairs of long underwear, fleece, snow pants, two pairs of socks (wool), Canada Goose parka, gloves, windproof mitts, balaklava, wool hat, and last but not least goggles. All this so that I could ride down to the ice and take a trip to Tar Inlet, just across the hill from Apex. I think this daunting amount of clothing had held me back.

Gavin, good man, took the machine out to the ice for me and then let me drive it across the lovely, flat Bay. I managed to go a little faster than the usual safari. I stopped the machine in the middle of the inlet and we got off to walk around. I could hear the ocean moving, the pack ice moving around under my feet, and it was the eeriest feeling to know that beneath the 10 feet or so of ice was the ocean, cold and alive. Not letting me get away with just a lot of pansy sea ice safari, Gavin made me take the skidoo up to a lookout point, where I was rewarded with a view that really made me regret forgetting my camera--sorry folks.

I did, however, chicken out of driving home. As we sped along and I admired what I could see of the Arctic from under my hood and through my rose-coloured glasses, I wondered if I could in fact take it out every weekend...