Still Learning To See

Looking back

I’ve enjoyed digging back into my early digital archives to again see photographs I made on two trips to Iqaluit, Nunavut in the late fall of 2002 and 2003. The work was fascinating teaching folks to use thermal imaging on the very specialized types of building construction found there; they must be not only stand up to long, bitterly cold winters, insane wind, and very destructive moisture, but also cannot melt the permafrost they are built on.

It was also life altering to delve more deeply into the culture of the First People. Though I’d read a great deal, to be there in the reality of it made me realize how much more there was to see and learn and marvel at. We came across several inuksuks on our walks, important still-used symbols of that culture; these have been used for time immemorial as way finders or to help herd animals on drives. The terrain was utterly foreign to me. My mind could not recognize enough landmarks—no trees larger than a foot high—to allow me to venture more than a few miles onto the tundra. The vegetation was a riot of color and texture, an ancient tangle that was impossible to walk through easily.

Perspectives were also impossible for my mind to grasp. I thought I could quickly walk to the shoreline I could see clearly in the distance. An hour later it was obvious, without landmarks I could easily read and depend on, I had no idea how far away it still was but I knew I’d never walk it.
My friend, co-worker and photo buddy Rob showing the size of an inuksuk.

But my mind was absolutely blown wandering around the surrounding tundra, covered in glacial erratics which were themselves covered with brilliantly colored lichens.

Glacial erratics—rocks the size of cars dropped by the receding glaciers—are everywhere, simply an integral part of the landscape.

I spent much of my time looking down at what was right in front of me, both to keep my footing and to see the unbelievable patterns that were everywhere.

And then I’d look up across the immense—literally—tundra landscape, my mouth agape in wonder.

Returning again and again to the impossible colors and textures at my feet.

And the sand and ice along the rivers, my god, it was all just mind boggling.

At the end of my all too short times in Nunavut, I could see much more clearly how the culture of the First People was so rich and steeped in what we call mysticism—for them it was “simply” daily life.

This entry was published on March 12, 2023 at 5:08 pm. It’s filed under Ecosystem, Fall colors, John Snell, John Snell Photographer, Patterns, Photograph, Rocks, Snow, Stone and rocks, Winter, and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “Looking back

  1. Joyce Kahn on said:

    Gorgeous landscape with beautiful colors, John. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Linda on said:

    Stunningly beautiful and thank you for the story to go with it.

  3. Kate Conway on said:

    John, again and again you provide beautiful, time-traveling photos. Thank you.
    I would love to visit there.

  4. What a beautiful experience. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Amazing! Those reds & oranges!!

  6. ehwfram on said:

    Amazing! Those reds & oranges especially!

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