July 10, 2018
Our last morning in Churchill, we awake to the endless light and our last views out the window of sun over tundra and lakes. We pack the bug shirts that have been essential to the trip, say our good-byes, head for the airport. Walking across the tarmac to the plane we both tear up.
Our plane takes us nearly 300 miles farther north to Rankin Inlet before heading toward Winnipeg. Out the plane window as we descend toward Rankin Inlet the water is patterned with patches of floating ice. Not a tree in sight—we are above the tree line now, the farthest north either of us has ever been. During the layover we start to walk to the nearby town (no bear guard needed) but are captivated by a gravelly bit of ground where we can’t stop ourselves from identifying white mountain-avens, northern hedysarum, broad-leaved fireweed, alpine milk-vetch, lacerate dandelion, bog asphodel, cotton-grass, dry-ground cranberry, long-stalked stitchwort, mouse-eared chickweed, dwarf Labrador tea, flame-coloured lousewort, and one flower new to us, a beautiful little ball of tiny pink blossoms which we figure out from our book is thrift. We feel as though we have passed a final in our wildflower class.
I’ve been thinking about this class for ten years. Learning about the loss of the tundra train to Churchill spurred me to come; we are worried about the future of a town with no access except plane and barge. And we are so glad we came. Churchill has changed us in ways we have yet to discover.
On the plane to Winnipeg we make a list of what we are grateful for:
Northern Studies Centre
Our amazing instructor Jackie, who endlessly pointed out flowers and answered our questions.
Our bear guard Evan, who kept us safe
Our program assistants Carrie and Beth
Everyone who makes the Centre work for researchers and learners like us
All the people who live and work in Churchill
What a gift.