Welcome to Wemindji
I feel like an old book, rife with dust, that hasn’t been cracked open in years. Stiff, stale and unused. I haven’t written for two weeks or been active on social media because my phone broke on my way up to Wemindji to visit my sister. It feels natural and freeing to get back to writing–one of my favourite forms of expression.
The Cree Nation of Wemindji is on the east coast of James Bay, in northern Quebec. The major city nearest to the native reserve is Montreal. It took my mum and I 20 hours to drive there, and 20 hours back. It was worth every single, long and seemingly-unending kilometer. Besides the time I took about an 18 hour road trip up to South Carolina with my friends a few years ago, I’ve never been in the car for this long. I decided not to view the car as a torture chamber that would surely never release me, but as a warm and somewhat comfortable vehicle that would–at some point–get me to a new and beautiful place.
The James Bay Highway is extremely long and lined with unique and colourful trees. Rocks and forestry hug the road. I found it hard not to get lulled into a deep sleep by the calm and patient lines on the pavement. My mum and I listened to a John Grisham novel on tape to keep ourselves alert and entertained. It worked. My sister was really welcoming and excited to see us when we pulled up her driveway. We spent the next day catching up on rest and getting acquainted with this small, but exceedingly beautiful town.
My sister, Aidan, is a teacher in Wemindji. She dropped everything and moved here a few years ago to get teaching experience and she seems to really enjoy it– I don’t blame her. I loved the calm pace of life there. It seemed to be a real community of people, lovingly embraced by the nature all around it. We went on a gorgeous hike one day, and my breath was taken away by the view, the never-ending rows of old and tall trees, the glass-like rivers in the distance, the rejuvenating fresh air. Of course, I couldn’t leave this massive rock without taken a yoga picture as a souvenir 😉
I was lucky enough to teach yoga to Aidan’s class one day, and three other classes. I had a blast!! As you can see pictured above, the kids took it (adorably) seriously and many said they felt relaxed and sleepy afterwards. It was amazing to see how many of the kids already knew about deep breathing and were ready to practice it. Even though kids can be antsy and inattentive, these students seemed to quiet down and be still when they were doing yoga with me–except for a few who preferred to “watch” from swiveling chairs. It reminded me of the ability yoga has to transform even the most resistant, fresh-faced individuals.
The Cree people were kind and quiet. I wish I’d spent more time there to get to know the community of strong and interesting people. What I did gather during my week in Wemindji was that people really pull together to make things work. Aidan and her co-workers labour over their jobs day after day, night after night trying to inspire young minds. I expected to feel a little isolated and disconnected, what–without a phone (first world problem) and apparently no way of reaching the outside world, but I didn’t. I felt safe, comfortable and peaceful.
Sometimes it just takes a change of view to shift our lives. We are capable of switching up our perspective whenever we chose, whether that be by viewing a situation differently in our minds, or by physically taking our bodies to a new place. Wemindji reminded me of the power of peace and quiet. When we take ourselves out of the daily grind and into a serene environment, we able to heal ourselves, shift our perspective and come back to our physical and spiritual homes renewed and refueled.