Being Human

4 inuksuitI recently went to Alaska and brought home for my kids a pile of rocks. Yeah, rocks. Well, not exactly a pile of rocks, but it was a stack of stones. They were arranged in a certain configuration. They actually looked like Stone persons. Can you guess what I’m talking about..., a stack of stones from Alaska?

I bought them each an authentic inuksuk created by an indigenous artist.

I never heard of an inuksuk until I read John Irving‘s masterpiece the Last Night in Twisted River. In the book, Danny, the protagonist discovers an inuksuk when he is staying in a remote cabin north of Toronto. And he wonders what it’s doing in the middle of the woods. If you are a Rush fan, you may have seen an inuksuk on their album Test for Echo.

For my last birthday, a dear friend of mine gave me an inuksuk which is prominently displayed in my library. It’s a comforting stone piece and it calms me in many ways. I can’t put my finger on it, but I do believe it’s a talisman passed on from previous generations to us.

Inuksuks come from the Inuits. They can be stacks of stones formed like a triangle..., similar to a cairn on a hiking trail, or they can be a specific type which is called an inunnguaq; an arrangement of stones in the configuration of a human being.

No one knows for sure their entire cultural purpose. It is generally understood that they had practical purpose as trail markers for navigation, or markings of areas of danger or a stock of supplies. They may also have had a role in marking out the spiritual landscape or “Inummarit” of the Inuit. They seem  also have major cultural significance as some type of missive to the future saying someone has been here before. In the vastness of the north, I believe that must have been a comforting thought on occasion.

That’s the way I like to think of them.  That it’s somebody from the past who is leaving a message for us saying “follow me” or “this is the way” or maybe, my more wishful thinking reassures: “you’re on the right path.”

That’s the message I want to send to my kids…

You’re on the right path. Keep going!


What is an inuksuk?

Let them know we were here.

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