Last night I found my ski pants. This morning I pull them over slacks, layer on a bunny hug, wind jacket, toque, and before I pull my mitts on, I have to fiddle with my back pack. I'm getting warm. My purse won't fit into the zipper pouch, so I have to pull it out and put it in sideways. I'm heating up. I zip up the backpack, but I've forgotten to add my lunch, so I unzip again. I'm boiling. I pour my coffee from the one-cup press, add a little cream and take off my toque. I put the cup down on the table, pull the backpack over one shoulder, then the other and snap it at my middle. Toque back on as well as woolen mitts, I pick up my coffee.
The morning air is my friend; but he's not cool enough, even some wind would be welcome. I'm carrying my mitts and toque in my hand by the time I pass the hospital. By the highway, I'm unzipping my wind jacket, sweating like I was in the house. Walking across the school yard I feel a dizzy. My pace is slow in the hallway.
"Get me out of these ski pants!" I say to anyone listening.
"Sheena," Judy says, "I could have jogged this morning in shorts."
"I need one of those thermometers. I didn't know it was so hot."
"It's zero," says Marci, "going up to eleven today."
Keitha comes to the school this morning. I boil water and find a box in my cupboard: Mexican Spice or Strawberry hot chocolate; Earl Grey, Constant Comment or old school tea. I've also found a package of Sun-Maid Raisins, and I'm not sure how long they've been in my desk, but we decide to risk it, giggling our way through the dry, dry fruit. Some of the staff knows Keitha, others I introduce as people come and go from the staff room.
I tell Keitha about being a flower girl when I was six and Mom kept feeding me raisins from the Sun-Maid boxes. Reminds me of years ago, talking to a tall, thin, boot wearing bronc-rider in a big black hat at the Regina bus depot, and through his missing teeth, big grin, bit of an accent, he told me I was a flower girl. I thought he was handsome, right off the range. I remember he carried my suitcase to the bus and stood there while I climbed up the stairs. It was a moment I'll always remember, how we saw through each other's stereotype; I tell Keitha I haven't thought of him for years.
"Do you remember a name?" Keitha says. "I used to know a lot of people in rodeo."
The name Blackbird is flying around my memory; she wonders if he was from a family she knew in Manitoba.
She tells me about her morning chores, getting boxes from Outreach ready for the Good Will pick up truck. She's planning to phone the Legion again today, choosing a date for our Christmas Dinner. We discuss the possibility of moving the Christmas event to the school. I complain of being dizzy and woozy, like I'm fighting something off. I've gone to bed early every night this week, last night by seven, and I'm never rested. At 10:45 Keitha remembers she was supposed to call Alice because she's dropping off soup for tomorrow's lunch.
In the afternoon I remember the handout Kelsey shared with me from her Law class. I dig it out, should likely read it, but I don't make it past the first page. "The Aboriginal Constitutional Process: An Historic Overview." Heavy. I wonder if I might find a poem, but my energy is waning.
I pack my suitcase, back pack, snow pants and put them in the back of the Envoy. Michael has Arwen and the little cousins for their art class. I drop in, give the kids a snuggle, then start home, carrying nothing but my camera and cell phone. It's nice to walk without baggage, but every step is laboured. I slow right down. The dizziness is back. The sun is round, glowing in a blue sky, with a few clouds, just for decoration. My arms ache. My legs ache. I'm walking past the hospital and my pace is cut in half again. I wave at over twenty people going for gas at the Treaty Four store or leaving the governance centre. Keitha's granddaughter, Miranda, waves and smiles. Warms my heart. I remember what a good writer she is and her dreams to travel, go to school and be true to herself.
Past the ski hill I see the jet stream from an airplane and the lines are breaking up into little infinity signs, lazy 8's, the Metis flag symbol. I take a picture, but I'm sure it won't turn out. I'm walking so slow now. I can't push at all. It's like climbing stairs.
When I get home I crash on the couch. Moira puts in a movie for me, Kingdom of Heaven. Stupid crusaders. Oh, it's got that guy from Cairo Time. Love him. I eat a couple chocolates, a small bag of chips from the kids' Halloween treats. What am I doing? I should be in bed.
Finally I crawl up the stairs. I've got the laptop on my knees, and I remember what Curtis said at the end of Jade's introduction to oppression unit in period one today. "Hot heads and cold hearts never solved anything." I look it up on google, and find that it's a Billy Graham quote. Funny.
I write for a while, then check my blog and facebook. Dennis Kasyon, a former student from Black Lake inboxes me. We chit, chat about the good old days. He tells me he was so surprised the last time that I visited. He thought he was seeing a ghost. I ask him if he'll be one of my readers, once I get my novel finished, because I know he'll be honest with me. I really want to get the culture right. I mention that a few of his classmates could be first readers, too. He tells me that they sometimes talk about me and tease each other for how they were back then. I tell him I talk about Black Lake all the time. He tells me that he keeps me and my family in his prayers, for our safety
I thank him for the gift of friendship. He tells me that I gave something too, hope... but his line keeps breaking up... another line says, "and spirit and guide." I tell him he's making me cry. He says, don't cry. I say, tears of happiness. He says, tears of hope and happiness. I say, I have great dreams for the people of Black Lake, great hope and success. He says, See. You are right here. With us. I say I feel I left part of my heart there. He says, "in the picture of our dream."
We laugh and tease and he says that I used to wave my hair around. I don't know what he's talking about. I tell him that Moira is laying down with me, and I was just telling her the other day that the first time I felt her kick was right after yelling at my grade nines, then I sat down at my desk, and she kicked, and I thought, ahhhh, I'm a mommy, and I was all happy, even though I'd just been so evil. Dennis says I wasn't that evil, just having a bad day, and they understand.
Dennis has to go eat with his mom. I tell him not to forget to do the dishes. He wonders how I know. I tell him, I'm your teacher. I know everything.
Moira wonders if I'm going to write everything, and how old is he. No, I'm not writing everything, and he's probably 30ish. Am I really that old?
Now Dennis is back from supper and we are chatting some more. I tell him that I'm writing about him on my blog and he's not sure what I'm talking about and I realize maybe he doesn't know about my blog. I just assumed he did. So I direct him to the site, and he gives me a great Dene complement. He writes, "Waf Way." Translation, "Wow."
"This is something worth exploring, you know. Wow. If somebody would stand up and act and speak about it," he says.
"Someone like you and me?" I say.
"I know a lot of Dene tradition and translation, too," he says.
"Someday, I want to learn more Dene. Someday," I say.
"I can teach you," he says.
It's dark outside; I'm not feeling great, but my heart is seven hundred miles north and flying high and playful like a big, old raven landing on a power pole, talking away to whomever might be listening.