It has been very cold here in the Timmins area since the beginning of January. I prefer the clean, fresh nature of winter but I have to admit that this 30 below weather is not much fun anymore. I am not on the land much these days and I am at the computer working a lot so I am in the house most of the time.

I guess I have gotten away from really enjoying what winter has to offer us up here in northern Ontario. When I was a teenager back home in Attawapiskat I spent very little time in the house. I was out on the land all the time either making my way on a snowmobile with the family to faraway places on the James Bay or working 20 hours a day in the family contracting business.

Life was not easy up the coast for many reasons. I was in a real fog at that point in my life as I had not sobered up yet. Most of the time I felt confused, lost and desperate. Winter offered me the ability to escape from the community and all my troubles. Often I would head out at 30 and 40 below on my snowmobile on my own. I would race along on the white snow under the glow of a warm sun in the biting cold wind. I pushed that snow machine to the limit as I skimmed along the surface of the river and out over the frozen muskeg wilderness.

In the clean, white expanse I focused only on keeping myself alive while travelling at crazy speeds. My face was numb with the freezing cold, my hands stiff under the moose hide mitts and my heart raced as I pushed myself as far as I could out on to the limits in land, weather, machine and body. It was my way to meditate. Yes, it was dangerous but it worked. My mind had to focus so intently that I could not possibly be troubled with any worrying thoughts. There was simply no room in my brain for worry.

Out on the bay I might run into Wabusk (the polar bear) if I travelled far enough. I did not venture close to Wabusk even though I had a powerful sled under me. The polar bear can run at speeds up to 40 kms an hour and I was not about to take any chance that I could have an accident or mishap with Wabusk in the area. I would see the Kah-kah-koo (ravens) when I was close to land. They seemed to be happily teasing me as they flew in singles or sometimes in pairs over me.

When I tired myself out I would head back to town in the golden hue of a winter setting sun. On the far side of the bank facing Attawapiskat I would park my snowmobile and sit back to watch the last rays of light shimmer over town. It was so cold. It was also completely quiet. I bundled up in my snowsuit and just lay there in a quiet that you can only feel at minus 30 or 40 in the frozen northern wilderness. There was nothing on my mind but the sound of silence. Every once in a while Kah-kah-koo would come close to check up on me. They hollered out strange sounds that brought a smile to my face.

I stayed out on that bank as long as I could. As I lay back on the snowmobile seat I stared up at the northern sky as it turned from a pale blue to a very dark purple and then to black. Then, out popped the stars like a million diamonds in the sky. If I was lucky a layer of magical lights of the Aurora Borealis or Wawatay would appear to dance for me. They flowed like a river of green, blue and red over town.

Everything felt better. I was refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to face my life in my small, remote Cree community. I would return with hope and peace as my companions. Life would be better and when things got hard again I could always turn to the land and head out in search of serenity.