“Morning, Cookiey.” The voice was gruff, but soft; his face weathered and lined, but shy and kind.
I became Cookiey a while ago. I love it. Even if it’s simply a variation of my position – “cook” – it’s a name. An acknowledgement. And he says it so nicely.
It brings me back to Mongolia, partly, where I was called Bakshh, or Bakshaa, by the kids in the ger district. Teacher, my teacher.
Joe doesn’t remember names too well so he doesn’t try hard much, in that department. He will, however, find something to call you – a nickname – if you manage to slip past the blur of faces at
mealtimes and weasel your way to the leathery man’s attention. The boys are “Rock John” and “Steinbach” (I’m not even FROM Steinbach! says Dan.) among a few other things, and we have a “Happy” and “Shore Lunch” too.
Becky, who has been here for six years, is the only one to have the honour of her real name.
“Did you see the Northern lights last night?” I sat with my oatmeal and addressed the guide, Joe, and Pat.
“Nope. Not cold enough…” Pat said.
“Emilia saw them this morning. 4:30. I missed them by 15 minutes!” I reported. The sky had been so clear.
He visibly cringed. “Oh no.” came the sigh.
“It’s gunna be an early winter then. The beavers are already all stockin’ up….”
“yeah?” I said.
I probably half smiled. I like beavers.
Amisk. My one Cree word. Beaver.
“Yeah. oh-hh-h…yeah…. seen ’em! Thickening up their lodges and stuff.” The hand wavel accompanied, to show the beavers steadily scurrying their paddling ways about the lake.
Words come slow at the guides table sometimes. Bursts of rapid laughter too. They’re funny guys. But mostly the words, they are slow. The “Ohhh is hard to capture. It’s not quick “Oh snap” kind of oh, or a drawn out and disappointed. It sounds sort of like an “oh, ya know….” oh, or a “my mouth is full and I want to tell you I’m about to say it but I can’t yet” kind of oh. It’s not just a space-taker, either. It can be quiet, but it’s not weak. It’s gracious.
It’s an word that teaches me to listen. Patience. And don’t interrupt. It is a signal that there more words to come; we just need to wait for them.
But Oh, enough about Ohs!
“Yup. Eaaarly winter.” Another sigh. Each word is like a prize. I like to hear their voices and to know they choose to allow me at the table and in the conversation.
I let it pause. I don’t have much to say.
“Hm.” I grunted a contribution and went back to eating my oatmeal.
The mornings are nippy.
And the beavers are busy.
It’s going to be an early winter.