Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
Luui’s cabin blended into the dark Greenland landscape with a black bitumen roof, winter-bitten walls with a thin layer of flaky paint, and thick glass windows with shutters to keep bears out of the cabin when it was empty for long periods of time. The door handle was bear proof too, lifting upwards to open it, giving non-Greenlanders a moment’s pause when they instinctively tried to push the handle down. Of course, bears were no longer an issue as the climate warmed, forcing the bears onto land as the sea ice failed making seals harder to catch. Luui had lived further north, on a tower of containers abandoned by a mining company. But she preferred the cabin. It reminded her of her childhood home.
She had fixed the roof during the long lazy summer, when the endless days allowed for much procrastination. Luui spent hours on the roof – patching a hole here, catching an hour or two of rays there – moving from one position to another and praying for at least a light shower of rain to test the repairs she had made.
The rain never came.
The cottongrass grew long and fluffy.
And the Qamaarlutik travelled south from the High Arctic to the great bowl-like cirques of the Svartenhuk Mountains. Kalaagi and Naaluk arrived just as Luui had finished with the roof and had begun work on the windows. They watched her strip the old paint for three days. Naaluk whispered suggestions while Kalaagi shushed her, and they watched, quietly and somewhat patiently, while seeing to their own accommodation – a small but dry cave beneath a large granite boulder just behind Luui’s cabin. Kalaagi sent Naaluk inside to make it comfortable when her suggestions verged on criticism. He trusted the young Greenlandic woman to finish preparing the cabin before winter, even if his sister didn’t.
Luui for her part acknowledged the presence of the Qamaarlutik, leaving portions of food on a flat rock a few paces from the cabin, but letting them make the first move, as if they didn’t know each other and had to begin their friendship anew, no matter the shared history of events that brought them together in the first place. Some might call it quaint, but it was simply a form of Arctic politeness between humans and the little folk – respect from one kind to another.
The shaman’s daughter was one of the kindest humans Kalaagi had ever met, and while he did not need the period of civility to renew their bond, he respected it, and respected Luui even more for observing it.
“But she knows us, and we know her,” Naaluk had said, on more than one occasion. And on more than one occasion, Kalaagi had sent her into the cave to make it comfortable. To which, she replied, “That cave will soon be so comfortable you’ll never want to leave.” Which, in Kalaagi’s mind, was exactly what he had hoped. The cave should be comfortable enough to live in for as long as Luui Angakkuarneq lived in the cabin, for there was something about the young Greenlandic woman that drew Kalaagi to her, just as it did his sister.
“She needs us, Naaluk,” he whispered early one summer morning as Luui fiddled to fit a new pane of glass she had salvaged from an old mining truck. “She just doesn’t always know it.”
“She will, one day,” Naaluk said with an uncharacteristic pat of her brother’s arm. “Just wait and see.”
And they waited.
Until the pilot arrived, bumping her plane down on the shortest and most precarious of landing strips to be found tucked into the mountains of Greenland, and life at the cabin crackled with new energy and the twist of something exciting and remote that Aunix brought with her from the far north.
Naaluk liked Aunix.
She liked the way the Canadian breezed about the tiny cabin, with strands of hair flapping and snapping as if she was up in the clouds in an open cockpit. Aunix had long legs with equally long strides, sending Naaluk into fits of giggles each time Aunix brushed Kalaagi into a corner of the tiny cabin, scurrying for safety to avoid the pilot’s big boots.
Luui liked Aunix too. And the smile Aunix brought to her face was reason enough for Kalaagi to put up with the Canadian’s long legs and big boots, for anyone who made Luui smile was welcome, no matter how big and clumsy they might be.
“She shouldn’t be alone,” he muttered through the summer.
“She’s not alone, brother,” Naaluk said. “She’s got us.”
“But it’s not the same. She needs friends of her own kind, too, Naaluk.”
Aunix filled the role perfectly, and Luui relaxed around her.
They shared an equal passion for adventure, agreed on almost everything that was wrong with the world, and celebrated the same things – both large and small – that made the world right. So when Luui lamented the need to move further south as life in the far north became increasingly difficult, Aunix was the one to suggest they fly north once in a while to check on Sleeping Beauty – no longer asleep –and her cub which was fast becoming an adult.
Plans were made, and the first flight was scheduled in November, when the polar bear’s white fur would shine in the moonlight, stark against the black background of the Arctic barrens now pitifully devoid of snow as strong winds brushed the land clean.
“A quick recce,” Aunix had said. “I fly north. I refuel at the wind traps I set out in the summer, and bounce from strip to strip. And…”
“And what?” Luui said as they pored over maps and pencilled in likely locations where Sleeping Beauty and her cub might be wandering and hunting.
“You could come with me.”
But something happened to Luui during the long Arctic summer. The more she worked on the cabin, the more important it became, almost as if Luui could compensate for the rapidly changing climate with something permanent, a place she could stay for a long time, adapting it and improving it with time.
Time was the key factor, and for the first time in her life, Luui wanted to spend some of it finishing something.
“It’s important to you,” Aunix had said. “I understand.”
But Kalaagi wondered.
He struggled to recognise the new Luui who turned down the chance to fly north to search for her beloved parents. The new Luui was plagued by something, and Kalaagi simply couldn’t put his finger on it.
And then, once they agreed that Aunix would be quick – flying north and back within a week, before the worst of the winter storms arrived –Kalaagi watched a new melancholy seep through the walls of Luui’s cabin, until the homely refuge resembled a prison.
“She should have gone with her,” Kalaagi said as they followed Luui once more up the rise to scan the skies for signs of Aunix. “This isn’t like Luui.”
“You’re right, brother,” Naaluk whispered as they watched Luui fiddle with the binoculars hanging around her neck on a thick leather strap. “She’s lost her spark. We have to give it back to her. Make her reckless again.”
Naaluk shrugged, and said, “I meant adventurous, or brave, or something like that.”
“I know what you meant,” Kalaagi said. “But how do we give Luui her spark back?”
“I don’t know, brother,” Naaluk said as Luui turned to trudge back down the rise. A wisp of thin smoke leaked out of the chimney clamped to the side of the cabin as Luui chose a new path through the deepest drifts of snow towards it. “But this can’t go on,” she said.
“I agree,” he said.
To be continued on December 4
Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
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