Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo
5 a.m. We wake up at our hotel in Winnipeg.
6 a.m. We arrive at the airport, ready for our 7:30 departure to Churchill on Calm Air.
9 a.m. We arrive in Churchill after a calm flight on Calm Air (which has lived up to its name) excited for our class on sub-arctic wildflowers at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre.
1 p.m. As soon as lunch is over, we head out for some places alongside the road to look for wildflowers, along with our instructor, one of the learning vacation staff, and our bear guard (who knew there was such a job, but we’re glad there is, since polar bears are seen in the Churchill area at any time of year). While we look down for wildflowers, our bear guard looks out and around for any sign of bears. And we do look down—many of these flowers, even the familiar ones, are amazingly tiny, including teeny bog rosemary and the tiniest round-leaved orchid we have ever seen. We learn new flowers: velvet bells, purple rattle, flame-colored lousewort, Lapland lousewort, alpine milk-vetch, northern Hedysarum, long-stalked stitchwort, alpine bistort, bog asphodel, blunt-leaf orchid, and white mountain-avens. Along the tracks of the decommissioned tundra train we see huge swaths of artic wintergreen blooming (we know it as large-flowered pyrola). I take notes as fast as I can. Kelly snaps picture after picture.We end the afternoon tired but deliriously happy, filled up with flowers and having met our daily quota of at least one orchid, no matter how small. Orchids or not, this has been a spectacular wildflower day.Out the window of our room the view stretches across pines, lakes, and boggy places to where the waters of Hudson’s Bay begin. We are in territory I have dreamed about.And this is only the first day in Churchill.