Perhaps Sarah was the only one who knew how serious it was. She was an Inuk and a grandmother. She knew the ripple effect of youth suicides.
I brought her with me to Carleton once and she felt something very uncomfortable there that made her shiver. By November 24, 2003 I was shivering all the time. I couldn’t get warm even when I returned south every three weeks. She brought me country food, and sewed special slippers and mittens without thumbs so I could get warm at night.
I still cannot remember the chronology of even the most important events that occurred after I returned from the Pangnirtung cemetery in June 2002?
I remember spending hours on this layered image using a very old version of Photoshop that came for free with a scanner? My screen was of such poor quality I couldn’t really see what I was doing.
I had taken a series of photos while canoeing on Bell Lake. There was one series in particular that I am fond of. The light that day illuminated a small forest of algae below us as we paddled silently just skimming the surface in our 1930s cedar canoe. The light played with ripples that mirrored the deep greens of the Gatineau in the summer.
I tried to be philosophical about what was happening . . . Glass half empty, half full.
I played with reflections from every angle. Reflexivity the metaphor inverted, rotated, fire, water, snow.
I had painted Angels of Fire and Snow first as a sketch and then as a large acrylic canvas in the 1980s in Pointe-Noire, Congo but we left it behind along with most of our belongings. When we returned to Canada I painted it again. It took me at least two months to complete it.
Angels of Fire and Snow by Joany Lincoln 1970s from the album Reflections of a New World
Angels Oh, Angels
Angels of fire and snow
Oh, Angels Oh, Angels of fire and snow
Behold the moth as it circles the candle, clings to the flame and dies
Behold the candle as it shares its light, weeps away its life drop by drop.
You fly, you weep, you burn in your love
You fly, you weep, you die for your love,
You fly, you weep, you share of your love,
Were it not for the tears, you would burn in the fire of your love
Were it not for the fire, you would drown in your tears.
Joany Lincoln and her family lived a number of years in French-speaking Africa, Bangui, Central African Republic where we met them. She’s also traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo-Kinshasa (formerly Zaire).
Random reading on youth suicide in Nunavut:
Bell, Jim. 2003. “Tragedy takes toll among youth with suicides at an all-time high: Nunatsiaq News. November 7.
Depalma, Anthony. 1999. “In New Land Of Eskimos, A New Chief Offers Hope.” New York Times. April 4.
Health Canada’s First Nations & Inuit Health Branch, in partnership with Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami/National Inuit Youth Council published The National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy in 2006.