On Sunday afternoon, Oliver and I packed our bags and boarded the first of three planes that would take us from Rigolet – our home-away-from-home for the past week – back to Guelph. Boo. All sorts of boo. I may have separation anxiety.
Or perhaps I’m just being dramatic. I do love Guelph. But I also love Rigolet. I’m clearly torn.
For those not in the know, the village of Rigolet (population 310) is located in Nunatsiavut, in Labrador, about a 50 minute flight from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. It is also accessible by ferry, or once the ice forms, by snowmobile. From various look out points along the 8km boardwalk that spans the shoreline from Rigolet, the village looks almost like something out of a movie. Remote, but not isolated; part of the Canadian north, but warm and welcoming; rugged, but incredibly comfortable. Rigolet the town is truly a gem in a seemingly endless wilderness. Rigolet the land carries with it the presence of an ancient soul – one who knows more than we possibly could; one waiting patiently for us to simply sit down and listen to its wisdom. It didn’t take long for it to feel like home.
Of course, the sense of home isn’t about the houses or the other physical structures; it’s about the people and the land. And I challenge you to find people as incredible as those that I met while I was in Rigolet, or land that is at once harsh and challenging, while also nurturing and alive.
Our introduction to the community began with Sandi and Karl – owners of the B&B that we called home for our 9 day adventure – and their son Daniel. Within moments of meeting them I felt that I was sitting with family. Their house was boisterous and filled with a swirl of activity; Sandi cooking and organizing our adventure to the cabin, Daniel pulling our attention to video games and trivia while also packing for the weekend, Karl finishing up a home renovation project while loading up the truck or prepping supplies for the boat. Someone was fishing out appropriate winter gear for someone else. Dishes were being packed. Food was being prepped and loaded. And during all of this, they somehow managed to organize our team of seven people; some of whom had been to Rigolet before, and some who were visiting for the first time. From the outside it might have seemed chaotic, but somehow Sandi and Karl kept us moving like a well oiled machine. I don’t know how they did it, but it remained this way for the rest of the week.
Beyond keeping us organized, Sandi and Karl stuffed us with the most amazing food, and spent a significant portion of their free time chatting with us, telling us about the land and about Rigolet, and basically making us feel at home. And while I get that we were staying at a B&B, they were so much more than B&B owners and operators. Yes they opened their doors to us, and yes they fed us, but they also invited us into their home and into their life. They made us feel as if we were truly visiting family. For this, I am incredibly grateful.
Of course, Sandi, Karl, and Daniel weren’t the only people in the community that we met. There was Inez – the rock star of our research team, and an amazingly talented artist. She kept both Oliver and I organized, taught us how to sew seal skin bracelets, and kept us laughing throughout the week (and she may or may not have allowed me to eat a large portion of the chocolates she kept in her office). Tom, the amazing school principal of Northern Lights Academy, opened not only his classes but also his home to us (p.s. – thanks for the wine). Pat and Marjorie invited both Oliver and I into their cozy home on a blustery Hallowe’en eve; and shared with us stories of his baking skills and how they met (I really want to try the redberry pie). Kevin and Marilyn – who have three amazing kids – welcomed us on several occasions (also – the magic tricks – seriously – mind blown). Chatting with both the former mayor and with Charlie left us with chills; both full of so many incredible ideas that Oliver and I could spend a career trying to help implement them. And Derrick – holy hell, what can I say about Derrick? This man blew my mind. An artist. A hunter. A man fighting to maintain his heritage and tradition – passionate and engaging, and unbelievably skilled – being in his presence I immediately knew that what he had to say was something I needed to know, and learn. And this list only scratches the surface of the community that welcomed us for 9 days.
To say the trip was incredible, or that it was a much-needed break from the regular routine would be an understatement. On paper this was a research trip; it was work. In reality, calling it work would be an insult. Rigolet was a privilege, and I can’t thank the people who welcomed us into their community and homes enough.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I am one lucky bastard.
Thank you Rigolet – I can’t wait to return.