In Search of Quiet Rainbows

A Good Canadian Never Whines.

One of my friends has a hand made piece of art, featuring this statement, and an oddly shaped maple leaf.  One of her long passed great uncles created it, and it hangs prominently in her home.  I’ve always loved it.  It makes me want to meet that man – what did he believe about such things, and where did he first hear that idea?  Is it true?  Was it true?

I don’t know if it applies to Canadians anymore, especially my generation and under, as I’ve noticed quite a difference in the attitudes to health and illness between those generations and the one of my grandparents, who really didn’t whine, or even ask for any help with anything, even at the end of their lives. But I do think it applies in general, to Yellowknifers.  One of the things I love about the folks in Yellowknife is the way they embrace everything that comes along.  This is not a town of complainers, this is a town of people who make the best of everything.  (If you did have a tendency to complain, you’d have such ample opportunity with the cold weather that you’d probably want to move in any case, so perhaps they are weeded out.)  It’s not simply a case of stoicism, it’s a general tendency not to take anything too seriously and to look on the bright side.

My friends were flying back from down south early this month (from a ski trip we’d taken together), when their plane was unable to land, and after several hours or rerouting and false starts, they eventually returned to the airport in Edmonton, to  overnight there.  Of course the plane was mainly full of locals returning home, except for one woman from Calgary, who was of course befriended en route. She was apparently initially under the impression that everyone else on the plane knew each other (some truth to that – we’d actually stayed, for free, at an amazing home at the ski hill of a friend of a friend, and it turns out that man, the homeowner, was actually on the flight) and had all been away together.  There were warm greetings at the airport lounge, and everyone was remarking on 1) how warm the weather had been, and 2) what good food they’d had to eat. At the end of that long day flying all over the country, they all made the best of things, and had a merry old time at the bar.  No one grumbled.

What living in a place like this means is that one develops an ability to appreciate the small things.  To rejoice in the little corners of life, love and wonder that are all around us.  I have noted this ability in myself, both during my time in Yellowknife, and on another occasion when I lived in a small cabin in the northern wilderness.  I am not sure what it is about these types of places – the simplicity, the solitude, the contemplative time – but it does seem naturally to lead to a quiet appreciation.  I had an experience while out walking before Christmas that illustrates what I mean.

We had an interesting December around Houseboat Bay.  The weather was much warmer and calmer than usual, resulting in soft fluffy snow and impressive rime, or hoarfrost, on everything.  On everything.  It was an entirely white world, punctuated only by rare spots of color.



Great Slave Lake, near high noon on the winter solstice.


Street view, Old Town

Street view, Old Town


But I did find some color, a rainbow of colors in fact. A rainbow of houseboats.



The Empress of Yellowknife - Orange

The Empress of Yellowknife – Orange










Violet(ish?)  Okay, not really…



I realized I haven’t written much or posted many photos of the cool and fun houseboat community.  These are just a few of them.  There are many more and I intend to tell you about them.

In the meantime, I wish you the gentle peace and subtle satisfaction of discovering your own quiet rainbows this winter. I’d love to hear about them!

Are you a quiet rainbow Kona?

Now how about that toque? Quite a rainbow there.

About Tandi

I love my morning coffee, reading, the wilderness, paddling, poetry, my Spanish husband, and being a doctor. I also love writing my blog, and reading yours.
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12 Responses to In Search of Quiet Rainbows

  1. shoreacres says:

    The photos are wonderful. All of those houseboats could look equally like a blooming garden, there in the snow. I’m not sure if I envy the snow or the hoarfrost more. They’re both so beautiful.

    The little motto is exactly on target. Would that more of the world lived by it. Down here in the land of “I’m entitled to everything, gosh darn it, and you’d better give it to me or I’ll throw a fit, or nag you to death,” a little less whining and complaining would be nice.

    I was sitting here thinking about the times and places that I’ve settled into without complaining. The first thing I thought about (perhaps because of your story) was the three days I got snowed in at the Frankfurt, Germany airport, and there was nothing to be done. Yes, benches are hard. Yes, airport food’s not the best (although, in Germany, there are those wurst!) But somehow I’ve learned to cope with what “is”, and I do think the natural world has helped me do so.

    As a matter of fact, I often think of my first night in Liberia. I landed at Roberts Field about 1 a.m. or so, and it was hot. 101F? Something like that, at least on the tarmac. When I got to my hostel, there was no electricity, no fan, no AC, no nothing. I did have a warm bottle of orange Fanta to drink. The woman who was helping me get settled said, “Here’s some advice, dearie. Don’t think about the heat. If you think about it, you’ll go crazy.” So I didn’t. It wasn’t pleasant, but I slept just fine. It occurs to me that, sometimes, “thinking about things” is nothing more than complaining to ourselves.

    • Tandi says:

      Linda I agree with you entirely. Sometimes difficult times call for us to out our head down and carry on. Nothing says this more to me than portaging a canoe. Its heavy and awkwardly uncomfortable to have one on your shoulders. The trick is not to think too much about it.

      I really appreciate your comments and your insights. Thanks so much for both. 🙂


    Dear Tandi and Martin , Lovely to hear your words and peek in on your breathlessly sublime quiet northern beauty! Bill and I and Molly are reading by the fire after a winter hike on fairly quiet ,fern-edged woodland trails on Sumas Mt. My moment of delight came after when I did my walk-about in the garden and there were a few lovely knots of snowdrops poking through the leave-mold. There is no such thing as stasis in life -it just feels like it occasionally! This is the second time I’ve thought of you today ,Tandi . The first time was when someone on the hike asked me how I discovered the Belvedere Hotel. Cheers and hugs to you both -I’m off to see if your Mom has sent me some scrabble words -Love Marilyn and Bill

    • Tandi says:

      Hello Marilyn! I just love those first signs of life after winter. Especially snowdrops. Even their name is perfectly delightful. Living in the north means missing out on most things garden related, so thank you for sharing yours with me. Its one of the things i miss most about living further south – all the little green things.

  3. I can’t think of an instant when complaining would actually have helped. I’ve been told that when I was four years old, standing on a stool washing dishes, a little friend asked if I hated doing them. Apparently I replied that if I had to do it I may as well get on with it. I have no recollection of the occasion, but I seem to hold that same opinion now.

    The rainbow houses are wonderful, and your final solitary photo is peaceful and heartwarming .

    • Tandi says:

      We tend to spend a great deal of time denying what is. Its actually very liberating to put that aside. As you knew at a young age. Great story! I love the image of you on a stool.

  4. rdipyaman says:

    The photos are really awesome.

  5. You are so right about the meditative power of simplicity.

  6. So beautiful! And the contrasts — the colours against the snow, the light, the shadows — are stunning.

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