Friday, 14 August 2015

The Lighthouse

I am Keelut Narsaq and I am writing to record the amazing thing that happened today so I can read it out to the elders at our next gathering.

This morning I woke late and poked my head out of our igloo to see if my wife Aulanerk was fishing by our ice-hole. She is very beautiful with clear eyes, a round face and brown skin (she was watching as I wrote that). However, this morning I saw only the icefield and a snowfox, and began to worry. She usually wakes before me as she likes to see the sun rise over the coast and the blue skies of the early morning, but we had an argument last night. Had she gone back to her terrifying mother Liakaaq in Slefiulk? To avoid thinking  about that I made some chai and soon, to my relief, she burst through the door, slammed a couple of fish down on the floor, put her hands on her hips and shouted

'You're awake, my lion!'

I was pleased by this and picked up a second chai mug for her

'You refer of course to my courage!'
'No, your snoring!'
'Well, at least I don't grind my teeth.'

She ground her teeth.

'You would, if you were married to you!'

The laughter made us warmer and I started to make her some hot chai, but she was excited and told me that one of the ancients' wheeled machines was rising slowly out of the icefield, one hour's walk north of us. This often happens because the ice drags them off the land and they resurface near to us, pushed up by rocks just below the surface. We have salvaged much metal this way.

She had found a small booklet inside the machine and had stuffed it into her ice boots. I helped her to remove them. The booklet was in the ancient script that we don't read well, and covered in ice, but it had survived inside a box, she said. She indicated a picture, looking closely at my face for my reaction. It showed  a coast like the one we could see to the east, but it was green and covered in plants like those I once saw growing in Arnakuagsak's greenhouse, and a dome stood there among some other buildings. What shocked me was that the dome looked very familiar.

'That looks like the lighthouse!'
I said, looking at Aulanerk's excited face.
'I'm glad you think so too', she replied in wonder.

The lighthouse is a dome on the coast two miles east of our igloo. We call it this because for miles around people can see it shining pale orange in the east, reflecting the evening sun. It is a comforting sight and we often use it to find our way home over the featureless ice field after the day's hunting, but we are forbidden by old Arnakuagsak to go near it, as, he says, it contains ancient poisons that kill slowly from the inside. Aulanerk took the picture off me.

'It's a picture from before the world was broken. Look, our icefield was open water!'
'The legends are true then, that the ancient world was warm?'
'We should show this to Arnakuagsak. He could interpret it.'
'There is smoke coming from those things near the lighthouse.'
'Maybe there was a fire in it that kept the world warm?'

Whether the ancients broke the world, or whether it broke itself, we are unlikely ever to know, but this Sunday evening as Nada directed we will extinguish our seal-oil lamp for awhile, to clean the air, huddle close for warmth (I do enjoy that) and recite the liturgy that he left us, so that the world may heal itself. There are signs that it will. My grandfather says that the water under the ice is warmer, and the ice is thinner than in his day. Oh. There were some letters next to the picture that I copy here:

'Sellafield reprocessing plant: built to survive an ice age.'