Seasonal Wishes from Northern Quebec

Christmas, 1999 / No. 3

We are encased in snow.

I feel closer to Canadian poets, Al Purdy among them,

who have spent so much time describing this state,

the silence of the trees weighed down by mounds of white.

I’m glad to have the dog with me. We take long walks at night

surrounded by no sounds but our own.

There is no wind and we barely feel the cold.

She loves this weather, lying in the high drifts,

trying to catch snow that I throw her way.

She follows me around like, well, like a puppy.

We find comfort in each other’s company.

I’ve been reading the book you gave me.

Portuguese sailors found their way by the stars.

Adventure and passion set their journeys in motion

but it was mathematics, the science of the sky,

precise calculations from the deck of a ship,

that led them to their destination.

And these same instruments led Hudson

through the bay that now bears his name.

They thought of this continent as little more than a century old.

Fresh territory, full of the unknown.

But each motion forward, into endless land, water, trees,

meant home and safety were another step behind.

Their captain was leading them to almost certain death.

The men mutinied, set the officers adrift,

left them to die.

The light that they followed falls on me now

and will fall on you when reading this

(choose a clear night to step outside and

count as many stars as you can).

I’m not mathematically inclined.

Despite reading the definition a dozen times,

degrees and radii along a disk,

the working of a sextant alludes me.

But, I agree with Hudson’s men. This land does go on forever.

By measuring our distance from the heavens,

comparing angles and positions,

we’ll find that our surest and quickest route

is by the stars.

Kathleen Olmstead lives in Sussex-Ulster. She has made films. She has written books that can (hopefully) be found in the Young Adult section of your local bookstore. She has contributed to the magazine since 1999. Last updated summer, 2007.