I had to pick up my luggage in Thunder Bay because the layover for my connecting flight was more than four hours.
I was picked up by a Bahá’í who was told of my layover less than 24 hours before the flight. She took me to a meeting of the Local Spiritual Assembly, where I was able to give a deepening and provide a program for the Holy Day (Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá). She dropped me back at the airport at 2:00 am, not knowing the airport was closed. We managed to attract the attention of a security guard who let me in anyway, since I had to check in at 4;30 am. I was so wired from the Holy Day (or was it all the Persian tea?!) that I could only sleep in 15 minute bursts and was wide awake in between.
I’d paid for excess baggage in Toronto, but when they weighted the luggage in Thunder Bay, I was also grossly overweight. I’d put aside $500 for overweight charges and my bargain with God was that if it was less, the balance would go to the Deputization Fund. I guess the Fund needed the money more than Air Canada, because the agent waved me through saying he couldn’t deal with the excess paperwork at 4:30 am!
I lived in Winnipeg from grade 1 to grade 10 and have many negative associations with it. Flying into the airport, I had a lot of flashbacks which were unexpected and unpleasant and I was able to dispel them fairly easily. I haven’t been back to Winnipeg since we left in 1975. My brother still lives there and another brother lives a few hours east, and I have been estranged from them for over 25 years. When I knew I was flying through Winnipeg, I contacted them to see if they would like to get together, but they both declined. I was in the airport for 4 hours waiting for my connecting flight and thought it would be Divine comedy if I was to meet my brother there in passing, but it didn’t happen!
The flight to Rankin Inlet was on a 731 with First Air Airlines, at 10:30 am, out of Winnipeg. We had a LOT more leg and elbow room, wider seats, free pillows, blankets and newspapers. The captain introduced himself and told us what to expect on the flight and the weather conditions in Rankin. In contrast, the other flight, which left Toronto at dinner time, I was shoulder to shoulder with the passenger beside me; there was one bathroom for the whole plane; and dinner was a cup of coffee (or pay for a sandwich). The captain didn’t talk to us at all.
When we reached cruising altitude, we were given a hot cloth to wash our faces and hands, then offered 3 choices for breakfast: quiche and sausages; fruit cup with yogurt; or cereal. I took the quiche, which was too hot to eat and the most delicious I’ve tasted in a long time. It was served with roasted veggies worthy of a 5-Star restaurant! They included red peppers, squash, zucchini, onions and potatoes. For dessert there was a slice of date loaf and mixed fruit (grapes and 3 kinds of melon). As we begin our descent, we’re offered dinner mints. I’d say First Air is First Class, all the way!
Thirty minutes from Rankin. We’re cruising at 3000 feet and all I can see is cloudless blue sky above and frozen tundra and sea ice below. The ice in Hudson’s Bay appears to be several feet thick in some places and very thin in others. There are cracks in the ice where open water shows through. Maybe the cracks and open water are because the Bay rises and falls with the tide?
I’m looking for polar bears but maybe this is the wrong time of year to see them! The Captain tells us the temperature in Rankin is minus 34 degrees Celsius.
As we descend, the song running through my head is something that was played at the Holy Day last night. It is an excerpt from a letter which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote to His followers in America:
Somehow it reminded me of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s greatest wish:
O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha” in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 40)
In the same Tablets, he talked about the importance of teaching the “Eskimo” (now called Inuit):
God willing, the call of the Kingdom may reach the ears of the Eskimos, the inhabitants of the Islands of Franklin in the north of Canada, as well as Greenland. Should the fire of the love of God be kindled in Greenland, all the ice of that country will be melted, and its cold weather become temperate — that is, if the hearts be touched with the heat of the love of God, that territory will become a divine rose garden and a heavenly paradise, and the souls, even as fruitful trees, will acquire the utmost freshness and beauty. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 27)
Effort, the utmost effort, is required. Should you display an effort, so that the fragrances of God may be diffused among the Eskimos, its effect will be very great and far-reaching. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 27)
These are my marching orders and I’m happy that the thoughts on my mind are my reason for being here! Please God, may I achieve it!
We’re now about 5 minutes away and I can see for miles but all I can see is bleak, stark land and sea. No sign of civilization anywhere. Maybe if we were landing in the dark I’d see the lights of the hamlet.
I’m glad the day is clear and sunny so I can get a birds-eye view of the tundra. I wonder how people found other communities without any landmarks or GPS in this polar desert, in the days when they travelled by dogsled.
Cold, harsh and unforgiving are the adjectives that come to mind.
We’re now on our final approach. The plane is making a sharp turn to the left. We’re getting awfully close to the Hudson’s Bay, and still no sign of the town!
It’s only once we land can I see houses and outbuildings.
Stay tuned for the next installment: Arrival!