Today we have a sneak peek from the memoir by Alastair Henry: Awakening in the Northwest Territories.
“Awakening in the Northwest Territories” is a humorous, episodic and intriguing tale of one man’s search for fulfillment. Although the book spans sixty years, the core of the story takes place in a remote location in Canada’s far north with a small First Nations band, where Alastair Henry, disillusioned with the passivity of retirement, went in search of adventure and a greater meaning to life. Cultural differences and a challenging environment ignited fresh perspectives, inspired a new way of life and fueled his soul searching. The memoir takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of hilarious and frightening situations, which resulted in his “awakenings.”
Here is an excerpt from Awakening in the Northwest Territories…
On the fourth day, Lars said, “I don’t know how to tell you this Al, but you’ve been peeing in the honey bucket and it makes the bag too heavy to carry down the lane. You’ll have to go in the bushes from now on – same as me.”
What? Good God! What a pain in the ass it was to get up in the middle of the night, put on every piece of clothing I owned, and now he wanted me to stumble around in the bushes on the hill in the dark to take a leak. “That’s insane,” I replied. I knew, from previous conversations, that he was sensitive to the culture shock I was experiencing, and I could tell by the pained look on his face, when he made his request, that he felt bad for having to ask. As I didn’t want to touch, let alone lug, the “poo” bag anywhere, I willingly agreed to his request. I cut back on the amount of fluids I drank during the day and stopped drinking totally after supper to minimize nightly visits to the bush. But even so, there were times when I had to go.
It was horrible. Most nights were now in the minus twenty and thirty range. As soon as I opened the door, the cold blasted me in the face and penetrated my clothing. It was a race to see how quickly I could do my business versus how quickly the cold could bring down my body temperature, and the cold always won. And then I couldn’t go back to sleep for a long time – not until my body temperature warmed up to normal and I stopped shaking. What did help, however, was my imagining that my sleeping bag was a warm bed, the hard floor a firm mattress, the fleecy clothing around my chin, flannel sheets and the heavy load of clothing on top of me, a thick duvet. I was continuing to learn about the power of the mind and trying to use it to my advantage.
Once again, my ability to adjust to circumstances when needed amazed me. I had been in the community just five weeks and to my mind, I was taking everything in my stride and to be honest, I was proud of roughing it, of being a pioneer of sort. I was surprised and pleased with my resourcefulness and resilience, but my patience with Bob was ebbing fast by the day. In July, he said he’d be sure to have the house ready for me before he left the community in mid-September. This was important because we both knew there was no one else in the community who could take over. And based on that situation, I was approving vast amounts of overtime for him and his work crew.
“Now,” he said with a smile, “It looks like it might be October before it’s finished!” Was he purposely dragging his feet to piss me off?