May Hedge a gram

Happy May,

     Uilukkut!  That's how you say "Good day" in the Inuit language.   When I write my hedge a gram, I like to tell about what I've been doing in my life as an illustrator, because when I was little I only had a vague notion about what it was like.  Yes, I do make up a story, or retell a favorite, and draw picture to go with it, but there are lots of stops along the road!
     I've always thought polar bears would be a challenge to draw  They have such mighty grace.  I thought  if I took the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and set it about the Arctic circle, I would have the chance to explore not just polar bears, but the Inuit culture as well.  That is this year's project.  Of course I would need to go and see it all.
     My husband and I have just come back from Iqaluit which is the capital of the Nunavut Province of Canada.  We spent a week experiencing the tundra and the frozen Frobisher Bay.   This town is where all the expeditions to the North Pole leave from.  The next stop north is usually Ellesmore Island which is ever further north.  We loved the cold!  It was invigorating, and we brought out hats and mitts.  Our family dog was a beautiful red Siberian Husky, and I was eager to see the Baffin Island dog teams when we found out that our trip across the Frobisher Bay by dog team was really going to happen, I was worried that the dogs would be all business and not like pets.  I wondered if they would look like my mental picture of a real northern sled dog.  Not only were the dogs, Greenland Inuit dogs, glad to see us, they exploded with rascally fun and energy.  At the end we got to thank each one.  The lead dog's name was Amundsen, and he is going to go on an expedition to the North Pole later this summer.  The Greenland Inuit dogs looked like large huskies, and were very, very fluffy.   They look like they're smiling all the time.  We also saw an igloo that some of the people made for Toonic Days, the town's spring celebration.   Since in the midst of winter it is dark almost all day long, spring comes as a big change.  I was so glad I was able to go in their igloo.  If I hadn't, I might have drawn it incorrectly.  You step down into the igloo because the rows of snow blocks are taken from the inside of the circle.  The rows of snow blocks go in one continuous line, gently going up hill.  This makes the igloo more stable.   It's not good to have it too hot inside the igloo because the snow on the inside will melt, re-freeze and make ice.  Snow has better insulation properties than ice.   The snow blocked out the howling wind, and I could see how cozy it would be wrapped in warm covers inside.  The tradition oil lamp is very warm.  It looks like a row of candle wicks floating on oil in a black rock vessel.  The wicks are twists of plant material that soak up the oil which burns with a very clear flame, very hot.
     We were able to experience the Arctic cold when we went for a forty mile ride in a qamituk (sled) pulled by a snowmobile up to the Arctic Circle.  Our route followed a frozen fjord with very steep mountains on either side.  We almost got to the Arctic circle when Josavee, our guide said the snow was too deep to drive through in combination with slippery ice underneath.  We walked the last few miles to the Arctic circle marker and we felt we were on top of the world.  When we got back to the small town of Pangnirtung, we tried to soak in every minute.  With the majestic mountains and harsh cold as a backdrop, we were invited to an Inuit family's sod house, which is used like we would use a summer cottage.  The family can enjoy the traditional ways such as willow matts under the bedding, warm furs, and having tea made from tundra plats over a seal oil lamp.  Our hostess, wore a beautiful warm parka that she made and the children were happy to let me draw pictures for them.  Their grandmother told us stories in Inuktitut and never got tired of listening because it had such a nice sound.
     All these experiences will be in my mind as I create the igloo in my three bears story and the feelings that I experienced will certainly shape my telling as well.
        Bye for now, your friend,

                             Jan Brett