Letters to Self 16

Letters to Myself 16

216 Clydesdale Road


Nova Scotia B2G 2K9

March 29th, 2012


Dearest J-B,

I’ve written a book about myself, and about you. Or us, if that’s the right word to describe one identical person—gosh, what a funny idea. See what Mummy thinks. And don’t tell me you’ve stopped calling her Mummy now that you’re… how old now? Okay, eleven and three-quarters, about.

One thing for sure, each day lasts the same amount of time, but it sure doesn’t feel like it sometimes. You may feel some days at school drag on forever, but when you get to be my age (now there’s an old man talking!), days just whip by like… well, whippets. Vanished before you can say ‘hold on just a sec there’.

I’ve told you about a bit all the folk who live here whose ancestors came more than twelve thousand years ago, which makes us Brits and Dutch and Germans who first landed up here about 500 years ago seem like real newcomers. We call these ancient people First Nations (though I’m not sure how the scientists figured out how long they’ve been here—by finding at fossils, maybe. There’s a whole lot on the beaches around here). We call them Nations, because there were lots of different groups who came along at different times and settled in different parts of North America—actually a lot of them kept on trekking south to South America, too. Nowadays of course Asia and America are quite separate continents, but in those times there was a natural bridge of land running east to west between the two, with the Bering Sea on the south and the Arctic Ocean north. Scientists think they were all hunting the migrating herbs of moose and buffalo and so on, who went in that direction to look for food themselves.

Anyway, each group took a different name for its own nation, like Sioux and Apache and many more. Around here we have the Mi’kmaq Nation. As far as we know, though, they all took the same path to get from the east to the west, and they all have rather Asian looks. Got to go careful here or I’ll be saying all Asians look alike or something awful like that. Nowadays we call that racism, which is a bad thing. But I certainly don’t remember anyone talking about that when I was your age. It was all about “Cowboys and Indians”, and the Indians were always the bad guys. More racism—the worst kind—but that’s a chat for another time.

These First Nations think about time a bit differently than us. Have you got you first watch yet?—I can’t remember. Well, you and I are always watching the time, so you won’t be late for school at nine o’clock in the morning and I’m not late putting dinner on the table at nine o’clock in the evening (pretty late, I know). But clocks and watches have only been around for a few centuries—not too long compared with twelve thousand years. So what they’ve always done is watch the sun and the moon and the stars. And probably figured out a long time ago that all these stars, including our earth, were going around in a big circle. Many circles in orbit around each other, I think (I’m not too great at Astronomy). So they named all the stars they could see, including Earth and Sun and Moon. It turns out there are absolutely zillions, beyond counting, and scientists discover new ones every day as their telescopes get stronger and stronger).

But anyway, the things the first nations counted were cycles or revolutions of everything, and they’d say things like, ‘Many moons have passed since we last hunted caribou’, or ‘Time enough for hunting when you are grown to manhood, my son’. But actually they didn’t do too much counting at all. In your Greek classes you may have learned about learned the word, chronos, which means time like we think of it—passing from nine in the morning till nine at night. But these first nations mostly had a different idea about time, which the ancient Greeks later called chairos. A good example is ‘I’m having a really hard time with my homework’, or ‘Spike has the time of his life chasing the other dogs on Weston sands’.

All pretty confusing, and did I get into all this? Well, all I can say is thinking chairos time is much more fun than thinking chronos time all the time.

Lots of love, dear J-B,