Flying a trio of university geologists from the Tree River camp on the Arctic Coast east of Kugluktuk, Nunavut. A three-day stint of short hops, hours of waiting, pails of rocks. Base camp a bastion of old-school fishing-camp ethos (meets modern barbless catch-and-release.) The arctic char are starting their annual run upriver, and the fishing lodge on Great Bear Lake is offering overnight fly-ins to the mouth of the Tree.
This morning in the kitchen shack
the camp man Shane watched me make my lunch:
store-bought bread, Kraft crunchy peanut butter,
some Swiss cheese and leftover breakfast perogies.
“Here Dave, grab a kiwi – these aren’t gonna last long
and we got no more guests ‘til Sunday.”
Graham, the geology prof from Edmonton,
quipped in his droll British accent
“One might marvel at the carbon footprint of those kiwis.”
Yes, one might. One does.
Still I took Shane’s point –
In three days these weary kiwis so far from home
would be in the garbage pit upriver.
I slipped one into my lunch bag.
Now 3 p.m., the plane’s floats pulled up on a polished slab
of a saltwater cove on Coronation Gulf. The Northwest Passage.
Snow still speckles the hilltops, but there is no sea ice in sight.
I reach into my knapsack and pull out my kiwi.
Growing up in Illinois, I never even knew what a kiwi was, except as a nickname
for New Zealand troops in the histories of World War Two I’d read.
Apples, yes, corn and tomatoes, squash of course,
and citrus fruit from Texas, by truck, in season.
But kiwis? mangoes? avocados? pomegranate? Nope. Not a chance.
And – we never missed them.
I am struck by this as my sharp knife slices the fuzzy kiwi
and the peelings drop into the Arctic Ocean.
Sometimes in life I wish I did not have so many doubts about it all.
I mean all of it: airplane, kiwis, flown-in fishermen, the Tim Horton’s drive-throughs…
I wish at times I could just relax and enjoy,
with a big dumb grin pasted to my face,
the sheer wonder of a kiwi east of Kugluktuk
on a sunny July afternoon.
I eat it all, looking out over the blue Arctic sea.
It tastes good, and utterly superfluous, and wrong.
And no, try as you might,
You won’t convince me otherwise.