Keeping Your Body And Mind Healthy | Under the Northern Sky

Under the Northern Sky

by Xavier Kataquapit

I haven’t been out and about much this past winter. It’s been almost a year since I last visited a restaurant or fast food place. I would in more normal times before the pandemic take walks to the local coffee shop or restaurant during the winter. This winter, I’ve been to a some local retail stores but only for quick visits. I do curbside pickup for my groceries mostly but there are times when I do venture inside for specific items. These are quick stressful visits when I wear a mask, latex gloves and use hand sanitization and washing as a followup. It’s been a huge change in lifestyle and I am getting a little fed up with it.

I live with my partner who has compromising lung health issues so we stay safe and avoid any situation where we might get together, meet or mix with people, even outdoors. Our anxieties are increased with the news of new variants of the Covid19 virus that are becoming ever more infectious.

I spend a lot of time in front of my computer or our large screen television. Over the past month or two, the monotony has been wearing on me and I find that I am starting to become more and more lethargic in everything I do. Every day seems to be the same with the never ending drone of the talk about the pandemic, negative or depressing political news and constant conflict between different groups of people on social media. I find I have shut all my devices down every now and then in order to keep myself grounded.

Since I have been feeling the lethargy of sitting still all the time, I’ve been doing my best to keep up my physical health. I do my best to keep up a bit of an exercise routine in the basement with a weight set and an exercise bench. I’ve also setup a treadmill in front of my living room big screen TV so that instead of sitting to watch an hour long show, I go for a walk and get my entertainment at the same time.

Recently, I’ve also motivated myself to start doing some basic Tai Chi with Don Fiore on Youtube every morning in order to keep moving my aging frame and aching joints. Tai Chi is an ancient form of martial arts but its modern form is simplified to allow practitioners to maintain and enhance posture, balance, flexibility and strength. The slow methodical movements and required concentration is also a form of meditation and relaxation. Tai Chi is not too intensive and I find that the unique and unusual movements force me to move my limbs in ways I don’t normally do during my day. Happily I have also discovered that listening to some favourite tunes and dancing really helps with exercise and staying positive and joyful. Some of the music I listen to on Spotify includes Robbie Robertson originally from Six Nations, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Derek Miller, Lawrence Martin and Adrian Sutherland.

As a writer, my life now is in stark contrast to the one I lead over 20 years ago with my parents in the north. Back then, I spent the majority of winters outdoors constantly working at maintaining our contracting business in the community, transporting goods up and down the James Bay winter road, hauling wood to heat our home and enduring regular trips up and down the coast to maintain hunting camps in preparation for the spring hunt. My free time was filled with skating and playing hockey at a local outdoor rink in the community.

I can remember my dad Marius commenting that his life had become more sedentary in a modern world. When he was a young Cree hunter and trapper, there was no motorized transportation and everything worked on the strength of an individual and his dog team. By the time he made it to his 50s, he had difficulty walking a kilometer, yet as a young man, he was capable of covering hundreds of kilometers in the snow on dog sled and snowshoes every winter. Often we would stop at the many distant lonely wilderness trails to take a break on our snowmachines and he would remind us that he and many others like him had been here before on snowshoes and sled to get to their destinations.

We all need to remember how lucky we are to be here in Canada and in our safe communities with vaccines on the way.

Things will get better in the long run but in the meantime try some Tai Chi and put your dancing shoes on.

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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.