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Going Home

Sun sets behind bare trees in winter

Forest at sunset near km 455.

My dog looks up. Surprised, I wonder what he hears.
I call and he runs to me.
A moose is browsing on the far lake shore.
We watch silently while he turns,
moves back toward the trees.

At the end of this trail is the access road.
It leads to the highway connecting our towns.
Ready now, I start off towards the road.

I like the colour of today’s sky;
a blue that goes with white snow.
No clouds in that sky.
The trees are wearing jackets of snow.

This trail is overtaken by water in summertime,
but you can easily it walk now, layers of snow on top of ice.
Finally, we turn east, onto the road,
about 20 kilometers from here to Wemindji.

Later I stop by a snowbank and ready my gun.
My dog is running fast now, he got cold in the sled.
He finds a scent and wants me to follow.
Far ahead, he begins barking.

I take a deep breath and aim, fire again.
My dog brings the birds for me to clean, then picks up another scent.
When I’ve killed seven birds and cleaned them,
white feathers stick to my coat.

The sun is setting,
so it’s time to be going home.
My grandmother will be pleased.
A supper of her ptarmigan dumplings
if we get there soon.

Hands plucking white bird feathers on a snow bank

Ida Gilpin plucking the feathers of a willow ptarmigan in 2017.