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ARTS , CULTURE & EDUCATION Nowhere But North: I Tim Irvin, winner First Prize Great Northern Canada Writing Contest.


2 Locations in Yellowknife Airport • Downtown


A Case for Cornbread and Wolverines By Tim Irvin


t is worth travelling 40 days alone by canoe on the tundra, if only to taste fresh cornbread on day 32. This is what I am thinking the day I see the wolverine. Drifting mid-


river, savouring the fresh cornbread I baked that morning, I am deep in the throes of what my Dad calls a gastric orgasm. Some- where downstream a wolverine is nosing its way in my direction. But I don't know that yet.


Zigzagging across mainland Nunavut, I


have spent the preceding weeks paddling down one river,


struggling up a second,


then portaging four days to get here: the headwaters of the Western river. In about a week the river will spit me into Bathurst Inlet on the Arctic coast, where I will catch a floatplane back to Yellowknife. It is not the first summer I have spent on the tundra, but it is the first time I have gone alone. The big advantage of solo travel is the


ability to indulge in every whim, to follow my nose and explore anything that catches my fancy. Some days this means climbing up eskers, following caribou trails across the flowered dappled landscape. Other


times I sit in the canoe, drifting with the current while plucking my ukulele, or set off on foot to sneak up on musk oxen, watching the wind whip their shaggy coats around their ankles. One day I paddled into an ice-choked


bay and discovered pans of rotten ice that tinkled like a music box in my wake. On the shoreline I spotted grizzly tracks in the mud and caribou scat in clusters of mountain avens. I laughed out loud at this: flowers and shit, together at last. Grabbing my camera bag, I hiked out through fragrant clusters of Arctic lupines, taking pictures until the sun faded well after midnight. This morning I would have thought it


was raining if I didn’t know any better. Warm and snug inside my tent, the patter- ing on the fly might have even put me at peace. But this was not the sound of rain. It was scores of black flies pinging off the nylon, looking for a way inside... looking for me. If not for the pressure in my bladder I never would have ventured outside. Leaping from the tent cocooned in my


bug shirt, I walked briskly, simultaneously squirting my morning dew in spurts. The


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