Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Goodbye white boots.

I have been, it seems, a truly pathetic blogger. It has been more than a year since I last posted anything. It's not that I haven't been writing, I have. I just haven't been posting.

But, today, this evening, I am having a problem with these boots.

The real problem is that I am what polite society would call a pack rat. It could be said that I exhibit the tendencies that would make me ripe for becoming a hoarder. It might even be said that I have demonstrated issues with letting things go. Some might go so far as to say that I affix irrational sentiment to things. All of those things would be true.

Which bring us, or me, to these damn boots. The are not regular boots you see. They are Sorels. And, not just regular Sorels. They are the kind they don't make any more, for true Arctic conditions. They are white, and, unlike most Sorels, do not have that full rubber boot bottom with a fabric top. Instead, they are almost all fabric have a super-soft white rubber tread, with soft rubber cleats that, in extremely cold weather, remain pliable, and grippy. They are far to warm for these southern conditions, and they are no good in slush and wet snow. Indeed, I've replaced them with the fully insulated rubber boot style of winter boot, like fishermen wear. These new boots are perfect for PEI. My feet stay warm and dry, even in a foot of salty slush. The old boots wouldn't stand a chance in those conditions. But they weren't made for it.

What those old boots are, to me, is the embodiment of many, many good memories. They are stained with caribou blood from going on hunts with my friends back in Naujat (that's Repluse Bay on our maps). One has a small tear on one side from where I got it caught on a skidoo tread. The owner of that skidoo was the grandson of the first Hudson Bay company trader to man that station. He was also the best hunter in town, and proudly wore a full polar bear set of winter clothing when travelling or hunting.

I got lost for a short while when I borrowed my friend Richard's rifle and skidoo for my first solo trip. I found myself and got home safely after a bit of a scare. I used what they'd taught me. I learned to pay more attention.

When Paul, who teased me constantly, began to tease me about how kablunaq can't shoot straight, and how he'd been the one to actually shoot all the caribou, I asked him for his rifle and nailed a tiny exposed rock at 200 yards in one shot. He had a beautiful stainless bolt action rifle chambered in Winchester .270. His scope was sighted in perfectly. I remember with perfect clarity the exhale and the steadying pause... before I pulled the trigger. Paul didn't tease me again.

I lay on frozen lakes with ice five, and six, and seven feet thick, my face over a hole we'd chiselled into that ice, taking turns when we were winded. My breath blowing onto the water that had rushed to the top of that hole when we had broken through the bottom and my hood pulled over to keep that heat in, to keep the water from freezing. Of course, it would freeze over, quickly, so I'd pull my hand from my seal skin mittens, and skim of the ice, so that I could peer into that crystal clear water, and see my lure, and see the fish, and jerk the lure just the right moment, and pull up a fat Arctic char.

All of these things I did in these boots.

Their condition is such that I would not take them were I ever to return to the North. They are not saleable. They are meaningful only to me. And now it is time for them to go and there is a physical resistance, even pain, to considering their departure.

Have a transferred enough of those memories, from those boots to these pixels on a screen? I hope so.

The insulating layers inside are worn thin from walking across treeless tundras so silent it was deafening.

Goodbye white boots.